Archive for the ‘Mass Communication’ Category

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!


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!

Curiosity, as the old saying goes, killed a cat. While not wishing anything as extreme on any student of media studies today, I will say that a lot of them, who are looking to enter the world of media, are not curious enough about anything. So what stops students from finding out more?

When we started in journalism, and found a topic interesting enough we would pick up old newspaper files or magazines and read up on those, because that is all we had as our sources of information – good, bad, indifferent, true or false. We were hungry, always curious for more. The intention was to disseminate the information we had, take what we thought was useful and the discard the rest.

In the early days students interested in journalism did have the Pune University’s Department of Journalism at the Ranade Institute, but even they will admit that it didn’t really have anything as extensive and intensive as the Mass Communication courses run by journalism schools.

Today there is also the Internet, which is a fount of information and I sometimes wonder where we (as in journalists of my time) would have reached if we had the benefits of modern technology.

Again, it’s not the lack of knowledge that disturbs me inasmuch as their lack of interest. They are happy listening to me telling them about my experiences as a journalist or an incident, but once the lecture ends they would much rather be on googletalk, Facebook, Orkut or hi5. How many would be on the Internet, researching on the subject they’ve just heard about? There’s a difference between “having heard” about something and “knowing” about it. Many students don’t fall in either category. They are all very smart. So I don’t know why the complacency.

Is it because nowadays everything is handed down to them – notes, presentations, books? And the fact that they are so bogged down by the curriculum that by the time the day ended they were too tired to do anything but unwind by not reading anything except the menu at a pub!

Fortunately, there’s also the flip side. I’ve met quite a few students at the various journalism schools in the city, who have impressed me with their in-depth knowledge of a subject and their eagerness to know more. During a lecture, I even invited one of them to address the class on a topic, where my knowledge on the subject was limited. And she did a superb job.

I met another bunch who had me completely engrossed with their knowledge and the enthusiasm for debate. I also follow the blogs of a couple of my students and their command over the language is remarkable. These are the students who fill me with hope. May their tribe increase!

Why me?

Posted: January 28, 2009 in Corporate Communications, Mass Communication

Yes, I’m here too! Why ‘Been there done that’? Well I’ve led an interesting life – at least according to me! I’ve worked at various times in a library (as a schoolboy), a hotel (at the front office in my first real paying job!), with the print media (from copy editor to Chief Copy Editor, Assistant editor to News Editor) and now handling PR at a software firm (Director, Corporate Communications), along with my teaching engagements at some of the Mass Communication institutes and working on a book of a well known cricketer! Seen and met so many interesting people (as my late mother used to say “it takes all kinds to make the world”) – some good, some bad, some downright offensive and some to who I owe a lot, but know I can never repay – but always interesting . Any regrets? Some…but otherwise I’m ok.. More later…Cheers