The fear of flying….

Posted: September 19, 2010 in journalism
Tags: ,

Just the other day I met a publisher who asked me to work on a 50-page English magazine for the youth – a serious magazine which would talk about positive thinking, career, and personality development but with a few ‘light’ features, without any stress on fashion, gossip, scandal or films. The gentleman also has a Hindi magazine on the same lines and suggested that articles could be transcribed from Hindi to English and reworked to suit an English readership.

It’s difficult to bring out a magazine today which doesn’t have anything on who’s sleeping with whom or who’s bitching about whom or who’s wearing (or not wearing) the latest in fashion! But I’m willing to give it a shot. But where do I find the students who will work with me on this venture?

Let me take you back a few years. In the midst of the pressures on the News Desk of various newspapers where I worked, whenever I wanted to show my irritation at some goof up by one of my juniors, I would stand in the middle of the copy desk and say in mock exasperation, “Who the hell hired you bunch of no-hopers?” And everyone at the copy desk would cheerfully shout back, “You did!”

It was said in fun, but I appreciated the hard work (though I hardly ever said it!) the people at the Desk put in. They were willing to work on any of the beats they were assigned. The guy working on the World desk would willingly swap places with the copy editor on the Nation desk. It was another matter that we had moved them to the respective desks after judging their strengths and weaknesses, so they were told to stay put. The point is they were willing.

It’s in marked contrast to what I’ve seen these past few years in the media schools that I have taught. A lot of kids don’t want to try something new. They have already decided they want to write ONLY on politics, fashion, lifestyle, or whatever subject, they find interesting, even before they fully comprehended the term ‘reporting and writing’ in its entirety. I’ve also had students who’ve come to me and said they would love to write but have no idea what they can write on. I tell them to jot down their interests and come back to me. I don’t know whether it’s the fees they’ve paid or the humongous curriculum that stops them for attempting something out of the ordinary. But I don’t hear from many of them after that. Is it that they don’t like the challenge and don’t want to think?

How anyone can become a ‘complete’ reporter if one doesn’t attempt to write on every subject, at least in their formative years, is a mystery to me. I wonder what will happen to them when sometime, somewhere their superiors tell them they just aren’t good enough at what they’re doing – and they realise they can’t do anything else, because they never tried to when they had the opportunity.

The college website and the newspaper published by students of an institute where I teach is probably an exception to this rule. Since its launch last year, the students have worked on both the portal and the newspaper with a passion and commitment that I don’t see in most kids today. Many of them have put aside their personal differences and egos and diligently worked on the magazine and they are now reaping the rewards. Seeing the advantages and the benefits, now even the undergraduate kids of the same institute are all set to launch their own portal and newspaper.

No one – and I mean no one – in all my years in journalism ever told me not to write on a particular subject. And nor did I feel that I could not or should not – at least not in the beginning of my career. With the help of a red ink pen, my seniors showed me the way and left it to me to decide how good or bad how I was! So, there was a lot of crappy and sloppy stuff that I wrote but it was a wonderful learning experience. But that did not deter me. It made me realise that there were certain subjects that I could not write on and should not attempt to. But that came later in my career.

So the publisher has now asked me to put together a team of eight to ten youngsters, who can write, transcribe and design the magazine. I am wondering who has the courage or the drive to take on that responsibility. The thought of forming and then leading a team, is just the ‘kick’ a student requires. Sadly, the answer I get most often is “I am not cut out for this.” Is it the fear of failure that stops them from taking up a challenge?

As Richard Bach said in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, “How much more there is now to living! Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there’s reason to life! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!

Is there anyone willing to prove me wrong?

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Comments
  1. S says:

    I agree sir. It’s perhaps our interests and priorities which stop us from experimenting with different beats. I remember the time I joined College, I just wanted to write on Politics. And that obsession with Politics was a reason I couldn’t really think or see anything else in the newspaper world. I think, it’s time I correct my mistake.

  2. Sana says:

    Yes.I am willing to prove you wrong. Whether i do or not is a different question.

  3. harsht says:

    I think the idea of students running a magazine under mentorship while at school is a great idea. Even better if they take up ad-sales, circulation, printing and other so called ‘peripheral’ functions than restrict them to writing.

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