It’s not about the money, honey!

Posted: June 22, 2012 in journalism, Mass Communication

This is not just the perfect wtf moment. It’s the ‘jumping-off-a-bridge-moment. I should have read the warning signs, should have realised that the light at the end of the tunnel was in reality an oncoming train. To say that I am speechless is an understatement – stupefied is the more likely word.

During one of my lectures to media students, I had said that during an internship, if your seniors ask you to run down to the local tapri and order tea and samosas, don’t feel offended. It’s all part of your learning curve, and very often seniors do that to see whether you can be a team player. And I didn’t make that up on a whim. This had been told to me by a former student who interned at a well-known newspaper.

Then a few weeks ago while correcting answer sheets of some media students I came across a definition which said: The job of a trainee reporter is to get tea and samosas for the editor. I was horrified to see that all my efforts to stir up the passion for journalism had been wasted. The thought also occurred to me that if this is what people understood after my having spent so many man hours with them maybe, just maybe, I had failed and should call it quits. I should have read the signs, but, unfortunately, I didn’t.

If that wasn’t enough, just a while back I got to know that some of the students didn’t want to pursue journalism in the second year of their course because I had told them it was a crappy profession and that there was no future in it You could have knocked me down with a feather. I have NEVER said that in any of my classes. Had it been so, I would never have been it for over two decades.

I had also told them often enough that for me journalism was an obsession. That I am the kind who wakes up at 3 am in a cold sweat because even in my sleep I dream that I made a mistake in a headline. Didn’t you remember that fellows?

What I have also always said and will continue to say is that journalism is a profession like none other. It’s not an option for people who want to make a quick buck, because it entails long working hours, average working conditions and poor salaries – and where everything else in life takes a backseat. I have also said it’s a profession for those who have a fire in their bellies and not for the pen pushers. And I’m not going to lie about that. In return what you get is an exhilarating high – a high that can’t be described.

Nothing beats the feeling of seeing your name on the front page of a newspaper right at the top of the report. The glamour will follow but first there’s a lot of hard work. For that to happen, you need to be interested in the NEWS, to know what’s happening around you and react to it. And that interest can be nurtured and developed, if you have the passion for it.

Which is why I am appalled at the way students, to hide their own shortcomings and confused state of mind, have coolly pinned their refusal to continue in journalism or PR on me and other faculty. I am fine with the fact that students don’t want to do journalism for their own million reasons. Just don’t make me one of them. I refuse to live with that on my conscience. So for all the things I have said about journalism, NEVER have I said that it’s a bad profession.

And some of my young friends also broke the cardinal rule in journalism – never take anything at face value – even if it comes from me. I’ve also told them explore, dig deeper, before they draw any conclusions. Obviously, that never occurred to them.

Milinda Natu, another faculty had this to say when I told her about the latest incident – “I know artistes who tell newcomers to pick up a broom and sweep their studio clean every day for an entire month, and then see if they’re interested in art!” Now, how many of you want to take up AV?

So to all those impressionable kids who still believe they have the passion for journalism, I say, don’t give up so easily, always explore, find out the truth for yourself before jumping to conclusions. And if you’ve chickened out without exploring the options, just don’t end up feeling sorry for yourselves.

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward would never have investigated Watergate if they had accepted the fact that it was just a simple break-in. Or that it was quite normal for burglars to hire high-priced lawyers. Or worried about how much money they were making or how many hours they were putting in. Had they done that they might have launched an advertising agency and called it W&B!

Closer to home, Rajdeep Sardesai, Arnab Goswami and Barkha Dutt didn’t just become celebrity anchors overnight. Nothing in life comes easy, fellows. We’ve all had to work for it – sometimes 24X7. Why?

It is also a profession where you wont be certain of a pay-cheque just a week after you graduate. It’s a profession where you’ll have to intern at that coveted media house for months together to prove your mettle. And when you finally do make it through and read your first byline – the feeling will be unparalleled, indescribable. I guess you have to be in there to experience it – if you really want to.

It’s like falling in love!

And that day you can tell your junior to order the tea and samosas!

  1. Aprajita Sharma says:

    I am glad we mass communication students have you for this term as well.
    Had you not wanted atleast some of us to take up Journalism, you probably wouldn’t bother coming 10mins before every class over kilometers taking time off your office work schedule…
    For that we are grateful, thankyou Mohan Sir.

  2. Sanah Chauhan says:

    I agree with you sir, a by line is definitely worth a thousand trips to the tapri. Looking forward to another semester with you

  3. On the bright side, Journalism won’t have douchy people who give up because of something like low pay alone… long term you did do a fantastic job of ensuring quality! 😀 Even though I’m heading towards creative management, I know there’ll be a time when I will work as a photojournalist for AFP or something.

  4. Sunayan Bhattacharjee says:

    Brilliant!! Simply brilliant Sir. Has to be one of my favourite posts from your coffer. Was an exhilarating experience for me to read this post. Rock on!!

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