An IIPM Initiative
Sunday, November 18, 2018
 
 

She Tells Stories

 

Deadlines and headlines are a part of her life. She could be at the most high brow diplomatic do, or in a village where 30 people were butchered. She could be in Brussels or in Bhatinda. She could be in a war zone or at a rock concert. But she’s always telling you what’s going on. In a profession where men still hold most of the top jobs, get to know some women journalists that Media Watch thinks are the stars of tomorrow. They’ve been around for a while, they’ve unearthed scams, shaped news, and been the face of facts.
MW | New Delhi, November 18, 2011 17:10
Tags : print media | cover story | she tells stories | career | journalist | women | problems | challenges |
 

‘PRINT MEDIA HAS TO CHANGE TO SURVIVE’

Meenakshi Sharma, State Head, Punjab, Chandigarh, and Haryana, Dainik Jagran


In 1992 this scribe was one of the few women in Chandigarh who joined the profession. Some excerpts from an interview with her about her long and eventful journey:

When did you start your career as a journalist?


I started my career as a reporter in Haryana with Danik Jagran. At that time Dainik Jagran was published from only Delhi, not from Haryana and Punjab. This is the paper from where I started as a journalist and have been with it all through.


What challenges did you come across at the initial stage of your career?


When I joined there were only a few women journalists in this field. Moreover, in Chandigarh, there were already a group of senior journalists who had been covering Punjab and Haryana for a very long time.


It was, therefore, difficult to make my presence felt. It was also not as open an atmosphere at that time as it is today for women journalists. We were very conscious of ourselves when we met politicians and other sources.


Have you ever faced any discrimination for being a women journalist?


I didn’t face any discrimination within my organisation. Haryana was a backward state when I was reporting from there. In the field, it was a little difficult for women journalists to do their job at that time. But fortunately, I was based in Chandigarh, which was an advanced city. So there were no bitter experiences.


You have been working with the Jagran Group for over two decades. How has this journey been so far?


It has been quite a good journey. In the Jagran Group, we work like a family. People are very professional here; it’s like working for an MNC. They prefer to give in-house promotions and after that they give a chance to people from outside. I learnt a lot from them. I received a lot from them and I gave a lot to them. I am quite happy being here.


Do you see the electronic media pushing the print media to the edge in the near future?


The electronic media could not push the print media to the edge as it has its own limitations. Though it is spontaneous, it also has a very short shelf life. You cannot keep the same programme running for a long time, even after adding new updates.


I would say that it is not only television which poses a challenge to the print media. There are other media too, like the Internet, which has come to compete with  print. So the print media has to change in order to survive in this highly competitive atmosphere.


It is said that journalism has become organised gossip these days. What would you say?


When the media indulges in organised manipulation of issues relating to religion, society, politics, administration and culture, its reports look like organised gossip. So I would say that the media should avoid such manipulations just for the sake of increasing its TRPs. The media should focus on highlighting issues which really matter to society.

Surinderpal Sarao




‘In Kashmir women lack social acceptance’


Shahana Butt, Correspondent, Press TV

She has become a familiar name in Kashmir’s media fraternity after her diligent coverage of three consecutive summers of unrest in the Kashmir Valley from 2008 to 2010.

You started your professional career directly with an international television channel. How did that happen?


For me the time was propitious. I had applied to Press TV while I was studying. Shortly after obtaining my degree, there was unrest in the valley over the Amarnath Shrine Board land row. People in  Press TV contacted me then and asked me to work on stories for them.


What was your first assignment?


I did a story on how Kashmiris turned their ‘freedom’ movement from an armed struggle to a mass uprising.


Why are women journalists mostly successful in the electronic media, not in the print media?


There are many reasons; globally, the electronic media is becoming more woman friendly. Secondly, people prefer watching women on TV rather than men, even if they are veiled or not beautiful. People trust women more than men because women don’t lie.


But there are only a few women working journalists in Kashmir. Why is that?


The big hurdle is our society. In Kashmir, women lack social acceptance. Even parents stop their daughters from taking to professions which are commonly perceived to be meant only for men.


Do you also face social problems as a journalist?


Of course, I do. Whenever I am doing a shoot or interviewing people in the open, passersby look at me as if I am an alien.


Are you used to a veil or is it a compulsion because you work for a TV channel belonging to an Islamic country?


The fact is that before joining Press TV, you would have never seen me in a veil. But when I started working for Press TV, my superiors in office requested me to sport a scarf while facing the camera. Now I’m used to it.


Women journalists are often exploited by rogue elements in politics and bureaucracy. Do you agree?


There may be some truth in it. But let me tell you it is always the woman who has to decide whether she is ready to be exploited or not. If a woman journalist is over-ambitious and wants to become big overnight, she might allow herself to be used to get a big story.


Which was the worst day in your professional career?


It was a day in 2008 when I was covering Kashmir’s assembly elections. I went to a polling booth in Pulwama district. As I was talking to a group of policemen, a protesting mob attacked the polling booth. The police fired at the mob. I was in real trouble; a bullet could have hit me too. When I managed to escape from the spot, the mob caught hold of me. Agitated people started blaming me, saying I was on the side of the police. I tried to convince them that I am a professional journalist, but they refused to listen. I don’t remember how I managed to escape from the place, but that was really a dangerous day in my life.

Haroon Reshi





‘You have to be strong within’

Sravani Sarkar, Special Correspondent, HT Bhopal

A journalist by accident, Sarkar has been reporting for the last 17 years. She was just three days old in her first job when 114 people were killed in a stampede caused by a police lathicharge on Gowari tribals in Nagpur. “November 24, 1994, was my third day as a reporter. I was, amidst heart rendering scenes, at the place where the bodies were being handed over to relatives. The story was an eight column lead in Lokmat Times. It brought me many poignant reactions. It is a story I cannot forget,” Sarkar recalls.


 After completing her post graduation in Geology, Sarkar was preparing for the civil services examination. A friend suggested a reporting job in Lokmat Times, to tide over financial hardships. She got into it thinking it would just be a stop gap arrangement. But once she started writing human interest stories, the thought of an alternative career was swept aside. Two years later, she got the opportunity to work with The Indian Express, where, during her four year stint, many of her stories were published as Page 1 anchors.


 In 2000, she joined the Raipur edition of Hindustan Times. For two and a half years she reported on emerging social issues in the newly formed state of Chattisgarh. She recalls a story from those days. “One year the Shiv Sena vandalised a hotel on Valentine’s Day. Just a week before that the Shiv Sena state head had participated in a fashion show on an invite from the producers. The photographer had taken a picture wherein his head appeared between the legs of the models on the runway. I reported on the story with this picture and it created a lot of commotion in Raipur.” In 2003 she was transferred.


Except the Congress and the BJP, Sarkar has covered all political parties and worked on health, education and development beats. “I like reporting on social issues. My sustained reporting on malnutrition in the state has forced the government to make many policy changes,” she says.


Sarkar has never faced any discrimination while working for national mainstream media. But she says that she knows of biases against women journalists in the state media. “You have to be strong from within and actively seek work; only then will circumstances become favourable. But over the years, with the increasing presence of women in the electronic media, male journalists have also got used to working with them.”


Sarkar is single and spends her free time cooking, reading and listening to music.


Besides English, she is fluent in Bengali, Marathi, Urdu and Hindi.


She is the recipient of seven journalism awards that include the KP Narayan Award, Rajan Memorial Young Journalist Award, and the Arvind Babu Deshmukh Award.

Raju Kumar




‘ONCE A JOURNALIST, ALWAYS A JOURNALIST’


Shweta Rajpal Kohli, winner of the Seema Nazareth Award, looks back on her 13 years of journalsim

What brought you into journalism?


It was by accident that I joined journalism. I wanted to be a doctor, but couldn’t get into any good college. There was always this desire in me, however, to do something that was not run-off-the-mill. So in 1995 when Lady Shri Ram College began offering a bachelors in journalism, I decided to join it. And then there was no looking back.


Does gender play any role in journalism?


I think in the media industry you can break the glass-ceiling very easily as your work speaks for you. NDTV as an organisation has proven that as a woman you can reach the top if your work is excellent. Our channel is being led and managed by two women -- Barkha Dutt and Sonia Singh.

But there are disadvantages too. When you are on the field, you sometimes feel you could get conscious because you are a woman.


What are the major obstacles or challenges that you have faced?


One of my most exciting assignments was when I went to cover the oil crisis in Saudi Arabia, where, again, gender plays a role. You are given a burkha once you land there, and although you know of this practice, the reality can be quite unsettling. I do remember an incident where I had forgotten my hand mike at the main palace where some event was taking place. I just got off the bus and started running to get that hand mike, and before I knew it, three cops started running after me. I later realised that women there are not expected to behave that way.


Is it easy for a woman to be a print journalist or a broadcast journalist?


Despite the perception that looks and glamour play a part in the visual media, the Indian electronic media has clearly proved otherwise. There are some very successful male anchors who have made a mark. NDTV doesn’t give any preference to gender while selecting an anchor.


You have worked for both the print and electronic media. Which one was a more learning experience for you?


Both, I would say. There is more scope and time for doing research as well as in-depth analysis in the print media. But at the same time, the perception that TV is all about sound-bytes and hollow journalism is not true either.


Given the media’s erratic schedule, how difficult is it to balance work and family?


It is difficult, but when you have a passion for journalism, that passion takes over everything else.


How do you see your career in retrospect?


For me it’s “once a journalist, always a journalist.” When I look back at the 13 years of my journalism career, I think I have had one of the most exciting innings.


Any message for aspiring women journalists?


It’s a great profession, but very demanding. However, if you are prepared to work hard, it is a profession that will definitely recognise you.

Anando Bhakto, Rohit Manchanda




“Prejudices can be challenged by professional conduct”

Supriya Sharma, ToI, Chhattisgarh

Supriya Sharma has been reporting for The Times of India from Chhattisgarh since September 2010. In a short time, she has broken many stories, exposing corruption at high levels, whether it was the case of the government giving mining rights to a dubious one-lakh rupee firm, or the home minister’s son buying tribal land illegally for a power company. Sharma was earlier with NDTV 24x7 for seven years, where her work as a features correspondent took her from the metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Delhi to the rural hinterland of states like Bihar, leading to in-depth reports on a variety of social issues. She studied journalism at Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai, and has a Masters in Political Science. Excerpts from an interview with her:


Why did you choose journalism?


It was not a planned move. After graduation, I decided to take up a journalism course, since from the outside, journalism looked like an intersection of social engagement, research and a creative process. And that is what it did turn out to be.


As a woman journalist, did you face challenges?


All journalists face challenges, be they men or women. But yes, since they are relatively fewer women in public life, specially outside the big cities, a woman journalist has to be a little more careful while travelling, building contacts, meeting sources. This is perhaps truer of places like Patna and Raipur, than say Mumbai and Delhi, where women have begun to outnumber men, specially in TV newsrooms. Being a woman can be both an advantage and disadvantage,  depending on the situation. For instance, while travelling in Naxal conflict areas, it is perhaps easier for me to walk into a security camp and talk to the jawans. As a woman, they see me as less threatening. Some might talk more freely, but then others might withhold facts that they think a woman will not understand, for instance, on security matters.

  
In Chhattisgarh, what are the problems or issues the media has not worked on?


The rest of India associates Chhattisgarh with the Maoist conflict since the national media mostly reports when there is an incident of violence.

This pattern of reportage reduces a complex conflict to a casualty roll call. This is not fair to the people living in these regions, who are facing multiple problems of deprivation and violence. 


What were the challenges that you faced in reporting on the Maoist conflict?


The primary challenge is one of access. A journalist is largely dependent on the account of the police. To verify facts independently, and get a closer picture of things on the ground, one needs to travel through very difficult terrain, often with no roads and communication links. Both sides of the conflict ­-- the security forces as well as the Maoists -- often create barriers to free movement of people and information. Even if a journalist manages to reach the spot, the language barriers and the wariness of people towards outsiders makes it hard to get below the surface. 

Anil Dwivedi





‘You have to forget your off days’


Nidhi Razdan, Associate Editor, Foreign Affairs, NDTV 24x7

A household name now, Nidhi Razdan says television is less about glamour and more about hard work

Why did you think of becoming a journalist?


It was a natural choice, because my father is a journalist, and I grew up in a house that was obsessed with news and current affairs.


What are the challenges that you have faced as a woman journalist?


I haven’t looked at it from any gender prism because I work in an organisation that is dominated by women. But there are huge challenges in this profession.


Are there any advantages or disadvantages of being a woman journalist?


Again, I haven’t encountered any such advantage or disadvantage. I have done documentaries in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Tibet, Iran... Such reporting involved travelling alone in a car all night and sleeping on the road while covering sites of natural disasters. Doing this is difficult for any journalist, irrespective of gender.


How difficult is it to relate to the cultural ethos of countries like Afghanistan when you report from there?


You have to adjust to the sensitivities of the country. For example, when you are reporting from Iran you have to make sure that your head
 is covered.


How do you balance your hectic work schedule with your personal  life?


My family is very supportive because we are a family of journalists. They don’t even blink if I have to suddenly come to office at two in the morning.


Is it easier if you are the child of a journalist?


It’s more about feedback. In my case my dad is my harshest critic. In a sense it is constructive because I know I have someone who will tell me the truth.


Do you think it is easier for women to be print journalists?


I think the electronic media is much tougher for both men and women because it is physically more demanding and there are at times hourly and even half-hourly deadlines to meet.


What have been the high points of your career?


One of the early challenges of my career was covering the Gujarat earthquake. But reporting on Kashmir has always been the high point of my career.


My my most challenging assignment has been covering the nuclear deal between the US and India because I tracked it from the beginning to the end. It was a difficult story as it involved different countries and diplomatic sources, most of whom would not talk on record. I had to also explain to the viewers in simple language why the deal was very important.


What is your message to young journalists who are women?


Don’t come into this profession if you think it is glamorous, because it is not. If you want to be successful in this field, you will have to forget about your off days, you have to live and breathe this profession, and you have to travel to places where you don’t get to sleep or eat. You really have to get dirt under your finger nails. 

Rohit Manchanda, Anando Bhakto




‘In Journalism you are as good as your last story’


Gunjan Sharma, Senior Correspondent, The Week

Gunjan Sharma has been reporting extensively on health related issues and is well recognised in the sector. Excerpts from an interview:

Was journalism what you always wanted to do?


I always liked meeting people from different walks of life and felt very strongly about social issues. But I did not grow up dreaming of a career in journalism. After graduation, when I was looking at what my choices were, I came across a prospectus for a journalism course, which also listed what the attributes of a journalist should be. I thought I had all  of them and that’s what made me decide on
this profession. 


Recently your story on private medical colleges won you the International Press Institute (IPI) award. Tell us about it.


Most private colleges have become mere money-making enterprises. I wanted to expose the rot in them. When I began my research, I found the condition of these colleges was worse than I had expected: there was no faculty, no infrastructure and most of the students there just wanted a degree so that they could be called doctors.


Through my sources I got hold of some sensitive documents that proved the culpability of the MCI (Medical Council of India) in recognising these colleges. It was throwing all norms and procedures to the wind.


In fact, when some officials in the MCI got wind of what I was up to, they made threatening calls from their private numbers. But my organisation supported me all along, in every possible manner, and they also gave me the liberty to opt out of the story if I so desired.


How difficult is it to do investigative reporting?


At  The Week we don’t  believe in sting operations. Instead, we do investigative stories with solid documentary proof. I think it is more difficult to do such stories; you need to have contacts for this, and you have to put in a lot of leg work and research.


Has gender been an advantage or a disadvantage in your profession?


There are both advantages and disadvantages. Maybe, being a woman gives you easy access to some places. You can always mingle with people without attracting suspicion. But then, a woman journalist also needs to be more concerned about her security.


How difficult is it to balance work and family life, taking into account the erratic work hours and frequent travel that the profession requires?


I need to travel a lot, which becomes a problem at times as I have a five-year-old daughter to look after. But I have a journalist husband; he understands how it works and we both support each other. Besides, my editors have been pretty considerate.


How do you see your career in retrospect?


I am happy the way my career has shaped up so far. As a journalist, all that I have aspired for is the freedom to do stories that I want to do. And I want to do stories that make an impact; stories that make governments sit up and take note; that make a difference to people’s lives. I am happy that I have been able to do such stories. But in journalism you are as good as your last story. So, I just want to keep doing good stories.

Anando Bhakto




‘Journalism chose me’



Priyanka Joshi, Assistant Editor, Business Standard



Priyanka Joshi has been with Business Standard, Mumbai, for the last seven years, covering entertainment and technology. In a freewheeling interview she speaks about the areas she reports on, her experiences as a woman journalist, and what her future plans are. Excerpts:

Does gender play a role for you in journalism?


I think journalism is completely gender neutral. In the places that I have worked, I have not seen any discrimination based on gender.


 What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in journalism?


As for advantages, people have lower expectations from you, and when you excel, they are always pleasantly surprised. There are disadvantages to some extent when it comes to balancing personal and official duties.


I think your knowledge about the area you cover ultimately works towards your advantage or disadvantage.


What would you say are the high points in your career?


I should thank my seniors for having given me a larger role to play in the paper. And thanks to the areas that I cover -- entertainment and technology -- I have had faster promotions as compared to some of my other colleagues.


What are your future plans?


I would like to present a broad spectrum view of technology. This includes helping senior editors look at newer angles to technology.


What do you think is necessary for women to look out for in business journalism?


Women who want to be in business journalism should have a head for numbers. Otherwise it is a difficult task to break into financial journalism.


As far as my work is concerned, for me the biggest challenge is to keep pace with what is happening in the world. Especially when the subject is technology.


So, apart from meeting people who belong to the sector, I also have to do a lot of reading. I subscribe to several magazines, and try to keep pace with developments around the world.


Why did you choose journalism?


I didn’t choose journalism. Journalism chose me. I got through the Pune University journalism entrance examination by fluke, did the course, and then went on to join Maharashtra Herald. It is a local Pune paper run by the Sakal Group. Then I moved to Business Standard, where I have been working for the past seven years.


How do you maintain your work-life balance?


I try not to be erratic and following normal office hours, which is, from 10 am to 7 pm. After that, I try to disconnect from work.


What are your future plans as a journalist?


I do not expect myself to slow down in the coming years, and don’t expect my career to slowdown either.

Mona Mehta




‘Threats are a daily part of my life’


Vijayalakshmi Shibaroor, Investigative Reporter, Suvarna News 24X7


This fearless reporter, who has worked for both television and print, speaks about the risky world of investigative journalism and the thrill it gives her

Did you enter journalism by choice or chance?


By choice. I was brought up by my grandmother in a remote village in Karnataka. From thinking of joining the army, to going to Kannyakumari to become a sanyasini, I finally ended up studying journalism. This was against my parents’ wishes, and in the face of acute poverty. Through a campus interview I joined Janavaahini (a daily) as a sub-editor, and worked there for a year. I then came to Bangalore and joined another newspaper, Samyukta Karnataka, where I became the desk chief. Subsequently, I joined ETV in Hyderabad.


What were the challenges that you faced initially?


The profession was dominated by men. But I had no hesitation spending nights with cameramen and drivers when we went to  remote places for exclusive stories. I worked 24X7 even when I was nine months pregnant, and two months after delivery, I was back in the office. Subsequently, whenever I went on assignment to remote places, I would take my child along. Through all this juggling of responsibilities, I did go through a lot of stress and depression, but my passion for journalism didn’t diminish.


Unlike in print, the visual media seems to be a place where beauty is given more importance than merit when it comes to women journalists.

What do you think?


Initially, I felt my physical appearance was an obstacle to my career. But I figured that if my field reporting is good, I could do well. I used to be on live-chats under the burning sun, with sweat rolling down my face. Even now, I do not wear much make up when I appear on screen. Beauty doesn’t matter if you know your stuff. If you look good but don’t know your subject, don’t have presentation skills, or story ideas, people won’t respect you.


Before becoming an investigative journalist, you were reporting on politics. What is the difference?


Both are the same. Some think that political reporting means attending press conferences. That is not the case, I feel. When I was doing political reporting, I used to pick up scoops, run after scamsters, and investigate political blunders. So, in my opinion, both are the same. It depends on how you do the story. As far as I’m concerned, my life is about taking risks and attracting challenges.


 Do you think women are usually not given risky assignments?


Everyone scared me initially. Because of my reports, once our cameraman was attacked. Some rowdies threatened me as well. Sometimes, others stood for live-chats in my place, as I was facing death threats. Now threats have become a daily affair for me, and I have escaped several physical attacks. Recently I had gone to Bellary to do a story on Sriramulu. We were hiding in Hampi. It was very exciting. When I was in TV9, its chief, Mahendra Mishra, assigned me very risky stories, despite having efficient male investigative reporters. When I look back, I think good luck and God’s blessings have seen me through all these assignments. By and large, women do not take risks, especially when they are married. But if you are willing to take risks, opportunities galore.

 Sahana Attur



‘Interests of the common man interest me’


Prema Malini, Input Editor, TV9 (Telugu)

In her seven year journey as a visual media journalist, she has had its share of anger, excitement, tears, and fears. That’s what has made her job so very eventful and adventurous

What is the USP of Praja Paksham (for the people)?


It’s a people’s programme which reflects the pathetic condition of rural Andhra Pradesh. Issues concerning education, health, environment, child labour, human trafficking, water, land etc, are discussed in this programme. It is  a programme that is close to my heart and I was given Andhra Pradesh’s best TV documentary award twice for it, apart from a national  award. In fact, the government has often stepped in to do the needful after watching what
we air.


 How has your journey as a journalist been?


I have seen anger, excitement, tears and fears in my stint as a journalist. I have tried to highlight issues concerning the common man, and in the process, have gained enormous experience not only as a journalist, but also as a human being. But I will never forget that this has been possible because my parents, husband and colleagues have been around to support me.


Do you ever face any discrimination for being a woman journalist?


Not at all. I started as a trainee reporter and went on to become the input editor. This wouldn’t have been possible had there been any discrimination. I am one among the top six editorial members now.


How much priority does your channel give to women journalists?


Women have an edge in contemporary media because they have proven that they have the required potential for it. Sheetal, a woman, heads our  programming department. But I would say it is talent and not gender that matters. TV 9 has recruited women reporters in large numbers since its inception.


How do you balance home and office?


I am a level-headed woman. My husband is very cooperative and my parents take care of my child in my absence.


There is a perception that the electronic media is sensationalising petty issues and promoting superstition among its viewers for the sake of TRPs. What do you think?


We are against superstition. In fact, we conducted various live programmes to caution people. We don’t go after ratings; we present the issues in a unique way and that brings us TRPs automatically. TV9 always tries to maintain the difference by covering issues that concern the common man like banning of polythene bags, the need for environmental protection, water shortages etc. Personally, the interests of the common man
interest me.


Why do you think news channels are mushrooming in the Telugu media?


Viewers in Andhra Pradesh are politically very aware. They want news as well as views. Therefore, there is a lot of scope for news channels here.


What is your message to budding journalists?


Always strive to bridge the gap between the common man and the media. Be up to date and beat the clock. And try to work as a team.


What’s keeps you going?


To do good and to be good. I believe in Robert Frost’s quote: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, I have promises to keep. Miles to go before I sleep.”

Krishna Sairam




‘Women journalists are very capable’



M Bilina, Special Correspondent, Mathrubhumi

With 24 years of journalistic experience, M Bilina has done all kind of stories ranging from land transfers, to custodial deaths,  from illegal bottling of water, to issues related to forests and tribals


What are the advantages of being a women journalist?


I strongly believe that as a journalist women can get more acceptance compared to men from the society, especially when stories are being done on issues related to sexual harassment, desertion or harassment. The victims open up their  minds more readily to women journalists. This also gives encouragement to women journalists to question the evils of society.


And what are the disadvantages?


Since as reporters we are expected to work at least 12 hours a day, we get less time to play the roles of daughter, wife, mother, etc. Women journalists have to bother about their safety and security while they are out in the field to do a particular story. Night travel is another area of concern.


 What are your views about this profession?


With the kind of power that comes along with this profession, we should be the voice of the society. As a journalist, making efforts to solve the problems of society is an exciting experience. Journalists should try to protect women,   nature and, in particular, our forest resources from
encroachment.


Has journalism anything to do with gender? Are remunerations adequate?


Personally I have not faced any problem in my career as far as gender is concerned. I have always been treated at par with my male colleagues while being assigned stories.


Also, I feel women are as capable of doing field-reporting as men. As far as remuneration is concerned, women journalists do not face any discrimination. They are paid at par with their male colleagues.

T Satisan




‘Expect nothing from your job but a good story’


Nistula Hebbar, Senior Assistant Editor, The Financial Express

She started her career as a trainee with The Indian Express, went on to become a city reporter with The Times of India, and then did a stint as Deputy Political Editor with Business Standard. Despite her busy schedule, this Delhi journalist has also taken time out to pen her novel, which is being published by Penguin India. Excerpts from an interview with her:


Are you a journalist by choice or was it just one of the career options you had?


I grew up in a university campus (my father was a member of the faculty at Jawahar Lal Nehru University) and, therefore, I always had an interest in current affairs, political developments and the world of ideas. For me, academics and journalism were my obvious career options. 


 You have worked in both print and electronic media. Which one did you enjoy more?


The only TV experience I have had is a four month stint with a business channel, and I left before it was launched. So I cannot really say that I have worked in television. Apart from some appearances as a guest on news shows, my experience with TV has been limited. Having said that, I would say that the response to any appearance on TV is always amplified compared to even a page one story in a newspaper. So I do enjoy that. My entire career has been in print, which I find easier to deal with than the hurly burly of television. I love writing, and for me, therefore, there is really no debate as to what I would prefer. 


What do you have to say about editorial considerations being overtaken by commercial considerations?


The growth of the private sector and its stakes in the financial health of media organisations have grown from the economic reforms of 1991. A good fall out of that is the growth of employment in this sector and also the increase in salaries and remunerations. It is natural that any business would be sensitive to maximising its revenue model, and the clash between management and editorial has become acute in recent years. I would say that this is not an impossible relationship, but certainly a very difficult one. 

Is journalism losing its sheen? What is your message to young journalists?


 If one looks at the large number of media schools in the country which have come up in the last few years, journalism has not lost its sheen. It has become a little different from what it used to be, thanks to the different kinds of media involved. Young journalists desirous of entering the profession had better know two things for sure. This is still not a very structured profession. Promotions here can be rapid or you can stagnate, since the job is dependent on your own ability to motivate yourself. The rewards of being in this profession are different from other private or even government employment and could take the form of a banner headline, or screaming breaking news, or bringing to light stories which result in making a difference to someone’s life. Therefore, enter the profession expecting nothing except that a good story is its own reward.

Khurram Raza




‘Women make for better tv’


Ekta Batra,  Anchor and Research Analyst, CNBC-TV18

She has been with the channel since November 2008 and is of the view that financial journalism is a great good career choice for women

How has gender played a role for you in journalism?


Well I honestly think it’s a gender neutral profession. If you are good you do well and if you aren’t then irrespective of being a man or a woman you won’t succeed. But if you do look around these days there are more women on news channels but that’s probably because women just make for better TV.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in your profession and why?


The advantage is that women are more charming. No real disadvantage – it’s an equal-opportunity career.


What have been your major achievements?


I think the entire journey as a whole has been an achievement. The fact that I started as a junior analyst put my education to good use, and managed to create an identity for myself. Not to mention that I have made many great friends along the way.


What are your future plans?


I think it is too early in the day to decide that… I am currently enjoying my work. So I will cross the bridge when I come to it.


Do you think financial journalism is more suitable for women?


I don’t know how other fields of journalism work, but personally I think financial journalism is a very suitable option for women. Since you are dealing with the stock markets and companies, there are rare chances of anything untoward happening to you. You also get the opportunity to learn a lot.


Why did you choose journalism? Do you feel that journalism offers you whatever you wanted professionally?


Well I had always been interested in financial journalism and I had the opportunity to intern at CNBC TV18 while studying. After I completed my masters I decided to explore it further. And it worked for me. Once I started working I began enjoying it and learning more as well. Hence I stuck on. So yes, it’s been pretty fulfilling.


What is your take on erratic hours and compensation?


I think it’s a misconception in the field of journalism, in particular in financial journalism. It does not involve erratic work hours, nor is the compensation inadequate.


How do you maintain your work life balance?


Well, work life balance doesn’t seem to be an issue for me because I enjoy and like what I do. However, I ensure that I get some exercise everyday – a walk or a visit to the gym. I like to watch movies or hang out with friends.


What has been your biggest obstacle and how have you overcome that?


I wouldn’t call it an obstacle but something I took time to get used to was the medium of television itself. It’s intimidating at first, considering there are a million people who listen to you and you are responsible for what you say and do. But it taught me how to be meticulous.


How would you view the way your career graph has shaped up?


Like any career it has been a journey for me based on hard work and diligence. I started off as a research analyst and worked my way up the system. I was thankfully presented with many opportunities where I could and was able to prove myself successfully.

Mona Mehta




‘Editorial sanctity is in the ICU’


R Poornima, Assistant Editor, Mayura

Shaped and seasoned by movements, R Poornima has over three decades of experience in Kannada Journalism. She is a well-known development journalist who also writes on culture

What inspired you to be a journalism?


I joined journalism by chance. In 1973, I did my master’s degree in Kannada literature with two gold medals. The decade of 1970-1980 was filled with different democratic movements, including the JP Movement against the Emergency. Its cascading effect shook society. There were the Bandaya (rebel) Literary movement, Samudaya People’s Theatre movement, Democratic Women’s movement, Farmers’ movement etc in Karnataka. As a student and a young writer I identified with all of them. And one day, I applied for a job in Prajavani and became a journalist.


What was the actual condition of women journalists when you entered the field?


Women in Karnataka were attracted to journalism since as early as 1920. But the1950s and 1960s saw many women journalists starting there own monthly and weekly magazines. However, only a few women worked for weekly magazines published by big media houses. There were hardly any women working in newspaper offices.


What were the challenges you faced in the beginning of your career?


We had to prove we were doubly capable compared to the boys. This male dominated profession was watching us with a great deal of suspicion. But as a tough girl ‘shaped and seasoned’ by movements, I viewed all challenges as opportunities. I firmly believed that if we work with dedication and conviction, recognition (inside and outside) would naturally follow.


Do you think you have achieved what you had set out to do?


I have never lost faith in the power of journalism. But I have miles to go before I sleep!


What are the challenges that women journalists face?


Today, women in the media have a lot of opportunities. The challenge before them is to recognise these opportunities. Those who do will get recognition.


What are the high points in your career as a journalist?


To name a few, my writing on the problems in rural areas, female foeticide, health care, HIV, etc.


How do you contrast present day journalism with the journalism of yours initial days?


Passion and fashion -- today there is a remixing of the two. And there is also the addition of corruption.


Do you think that the explosion of visual media is threatening the growth of print media?


The explosion of visual media has forced the print media to set its priorities right. The real challenge before the print media is to groom its future generations of readers.


What do you think of editorial sanctity in the backdrop of increasing reports of paid news?


Paid news, trade interests, casteism, favouritism and corruption are the rapidly increasing types of cancers affecting the media. Barring very few media houses, the editorial sanctity is in the ICU.


Yours tips to budding journalists?


Be on the information highway in order to be on the right path.

N S Rakesh

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017