Internships – the 'Hamletian' dilemma

Posted: December 6, 2009 in internships, journalism, Mass Communication
Tags: , ,

I heard the other day that some students of an institute walked out of their internship, because they were not given a job that was more to their liking.
One of my favourite students (yup even a cynic like me has a few!) asked me how I would rate students of the institute she was studying in, and I told her. I think she was a bit taken aback. In her case, I know she is a bright kid, so that rating is redundant, but I can’t say the same for a lot of others. And we are not talking IQ here, just basic general knowledge. I think the answers given below are a pretty good indicator!
My former colleague and good friend Rema Nagarajan, who works with Times Insight in New Delhi, and is a Chevening and a Fulbright scholar, told me a few days ago that students of Mass Communication display poor GK because they don’t even read the pages they work on and don’t take their internships seriously.
Interns believe that since the company accepted their request, it is not for them to ask but for the company to give. Unfortunately, as we all know and have experienced, that in journalism nothing is ever served on a platter – not stories, not promotions, certainly not internships – and today, not even jobs. You have to grab, pester and demand. If you don’t, you lose. Neither the media house nor the mediaperson cares.
As trainees we had to plead to be allowed to accompany our seniors on reporting assignments. Even then, we were told “just observe don’t ask any questions.” Our seniors were smart enough to ask us to formulate the questions, but we could never directly ask them. We were told to soak in the newspaper environment, watch our seniors at work and see how they write or edit a story, before venturing out on our own. For months, my first boss Joe Pinto made me cut ticker copies – a job normally reserved for office boys – and then read them.
Today interns demand a byline the first time they do a story. That is, in a way, understandable because their course demands a certain number of bylines during their session. But should they walk out for any silly reason? Interns who walk out should remember that it’s a small world and journalists, as we all know, have fragile egos and don’t forget anything, however minor and however much they care to deny it!
Another good friend, babu kalyanpur,who is now Business Editor at Gulf daily News in Bahrain, says one can’t really teach journalism, because the only way to start is from scratch, learn and work your way up. This is why internships are the most important part of journalism. Learning in a live situation is the first step on the ladder and internships provide that.
He gave his own example. He dropped out of the Journalism course after doing a month’s internship in Indian Express, because the then editor of Indian Express Daryl DeMonte told him, referring to the journalism degree, “I don’t want to see that shit piece of paper.”
DeMonte told him to join the Indian Express right away. Babu took the advice and is still a journalist 30 years later and has a pretty successful career with Indian Express, Maharashtra Herald and GDN.
But here are some random gems from the answer papers of students from some of the institutes in the city:
• Pratibha Patil is the Prime Minister of India
• French President Nicholas Sarkozy was involved in the Bofors deal
• Emergency was declared in 1984 after India Gandhi feared a war
• Emergency was declared in 1975 by Rajiv Gandhi
• Ishrat Jahan was a male, Muslim political leader from Kashmir
• Ishrat Jahan was a male Muslim political leader from Gujarat who fought against Narendra Modi
• Ishrat Khan was raped and murdered during the Gujarat riots
and the best one…
• Sorry, but who is Ishrat Jahan?
Prime Minister Pratibha Patil? Rajiv Gandhi in 1975? Sarkozy and Bofors? Nicholas Sarkozy was probably smoking weed and bedding the women in Paris during the time the Bofors deal surfaced!

  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree sir…we are a pathetic lot…

  2. Mohan says:

    You're not pathetic anon, you're just not focused. Neither was I at your age! But when we studied and worked competition was never so fierce. So every day you add to your experience is a bonus that you encash later in life!

  3. Ful Crum says:

    There's been a subtle paradigm shift (maybe not so subtle, but it sneaked up on us)in the way people are measured. Most kids these days are measured by how much they get, rather than how much they give. The old give-and-take seems to have deteriorated to take-and-bitch. The longest lasting memories from my first newspaper job was the amount of fun we had at work. Giving was so much fun. Then the economics changed, and so did the metrics…And as the management guru said, you get what you measure…

  4. Alfred Parry says:

    Today young ones do not understand that there is no alternative to hard work. They want everything on the platter.

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