Thursday, April 19, 2007

So why did you become a journalist?

I meet or interact with a lot of fascinating people, and am constantly meeting new people, and that I guess is one of the really nice things about the job. Of course, saying that you are a journalist doesn't carry as much credibility as say when my father said it in the late-80's or early-90's, I even get that cynical 'You media types!' look every once in a while and people deplore what the media has done to this country. Of course, I have no intentions to take up cudgels for the media and I end up, smiling and telling them that I don't work for a trashy daily or a news channel, but a semi-respectable periodical, where I guess I am doing fairly well for myself, even though a part of me wants to get out and get back to school, flabbergasted as I am with the unraveling social structure in this country (or as some of my friends say, 'I just know crazy people').
Anyway, to cut to the chase, yesterday I was talking with someone on the phone when this person suddenly asked me, "So why did you become a journalist?" And there was this pause, because the answer wasn't "Because it was there" or "I had nothing better to do" or "I have big tits". I didn't have a straight answer, I actually joined my first journalism job because I wanted some work-ex on my resume and actually joined as an Editorial Trainee, but then I began to enjoy myself. I have always worked across beats, doing all sorts of things. Actually short of sports coverage, I have done pretty much everything, even the stories that got me places were on the craziest topics.
But, that is just a progression, I am saying I enjoy journalism, but I have no answer for the first question. I figure I became a journalist to do something, I guess to write (something I still think I can do better than most) and report (because as a quizzer I always had a fascination with current events) to the best of my ability, and maybe because back then I wanted a 'PRESS' sticker too, because it meant something. This job I thought would be the best use of the abilities that 15 years of the Indian education system had given me. Either this or become a teacher, but I'm too temperamental for that, plus like many good old-school reporters I smoked too much! And I wanted an active job, something that allowed me to go everywhere not sit at a desk all the time, meet people who mattered. I got sold on journalism when my former RE sent me off to Germany for a week-long junket, four months after I joined. Within a year I had seen more parts of India than I had in my previous 21.
I don't know if I have done what I wanted to do, maybe I have worked to the best of my ability but have I always been as diligent with my reportage as I wanted to be, or have I at times treated this job as a joyride, an excuse to lead a good life - travel, drink, stay in good hotels? But, I figure while doing all of that, I also ended up seeing stuff I would not have ordinarily seen, travelled to places that no other job would have taken me, seen both extreme poverty and the gross excesses of capitalism. Experienced some of the most amazing engineering marvels of the world and seen the economic development of this country from a front-row seat ever since I was 21.
But anyway, this gives me an opportunity for me to ask you - Why did you become a journalist? I know one hell of a lot of journalists read this blog, most of them even know who I am. And also that most of them never leave a comment, but all of you guys young and old can and should answer this question. Be anonymous if you want, even though I think you should sign. Why did you become a journalist and why are you still a journalist? Introspection is a good thing sometimes!

15 comments:

Ravages/CC said...

I am a writer, not a journalist. I work in advertising (yes, one of those) and I became one for pretty much the same reasons - I wanted to write because I thought I did it better than most people I know. And that - where I was - this was the only job I could do fairly well and would be some kind of reflection on the things I did in school and college.

My reasons are not very different from yours. I just chose a different tangent of the same thing.

And, I am very surprised I am the only commenter, thus far. Hmmm....

Horn Please!! said...

I think for many it is the combo of power trip plus high on imagined glory. HOWEVER please also do spare a thought for those jousnalists who did not make it OR fell by the wayside.

I also think you need industry experience now, enough observing. No?

simran said...

don't think your question applies to lesser mortals in the ad world, but regardless... like you, some of the people i've met are genuinely unselfish, incredibly cultured, crazy and sensitive. these are people who believe that advertising isn't just about a deft turn of phrase or a visual pun, they do believe that writing for advertising can be a strong, direct exchange about things that touch millions of lives. i'd like to believe i work with such people. (and yes, the money's not bad either.)

Anonymous said...

Confessions of an ordinary working journalist


Good question! Why I became a journalist! Something that I keep asking myself everyday. Let me admit I made a big mistake. I did the mistake of being a regular reader of newspapers (including edit column) even when I was in class two. Initially, I started out reading newspapers due to Phantom and Mandrake. But as bad luck would have it, I began to take all that a bit too seriously. Bullshit like freedom of the press, "the fourth estate" etc. So when my engineer father heard that I wanted to become a journalist, he sort of, washed his hands off me when I ended up doing a journalism course instead of engineering. I joined a paper which is supposed to be known for it's "journalism of courage", only to realise that I had been conned. I learnt the hard way that appearances are always deceptive. There is not much journalism going on any longer. Very sad. But true. Nobody even seems to be interested in sticking his / her neck out. Journalism too has become simply another 9 to 5 job - which was not the case until the 1980s. We have become two-penny pen pushers who key in 500 words of assembly line bullshit which won't make any difference or question anything or benefit anyone. How I wish I had known that journalism would become so corporate-centric and mediocre. I would have done my engineering or MBA - even if I would have been far more ignorant about the world without my journalistic experience. Since ignorance is bliss, may be I too would have been much more happier I presume. I don't know how it is in the West. But here in India, "wisdom" and "truth" seem to mean nothing other than the fashionable ignorance of the majority. No wonder I am envious of so-called lesser mortals doing the regular 9 to 5 grind. At least, they don't have to know everything and yet keep quiet. Or worse - listen to your boss and key in the bullshit. So what if so-called lesser mortals anad laymen are blissful in their "ignorance". They are far more happier than I am. George Orwell was right - IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. It can also be blissful. Besides they don't have to put up with hypocrites, PRESStitudes, WHOREnalists and PR pimps for company. So why am I still a journalist? Well, man lives on hope, they say. Things have deteriorated to such an extent, that PROBABLY it can only improve. There is a new MTV generation entering the newsrooms. They don't and can't read / write. They know nothing about nothing at all and are even proud of it. They have got in a BPO culture to the newsroom. Things are bound to go downhill and someone will have to put the brakes and possibly stop the train from crashing into the shit creek. I am awaiting that day. Patiently. It may or may not occur. But man lives on hope. We still have a press which is technically free. Not that I am too much of an optimist. But may be things will improve. Who knows?

Anonymous said...

By the way

What is a fucking journalist?

And why is this sir worried about MTV kids?

They are smart but not sincere. So, don't worry....

There is no training here....they will have to learn it the hard way...if they are willing to...and to tell you the truth they aren't....the mentors are gone...the temple is in ruins...Angkor types....only suitable for tourism....Hampi?

Is it always about age and experience?

Anonymous said...

i dropped into this big bad world by accident. i think many of us are, too...

Anonymous said...

I became a journalist because I wanted to pay for my passage to the US to earn a Ph.D ... got fascinated, my bosses loved me, and I stayed in the profession for 10 years.
I quit because I got completely disillusioned by the intellectual corruption that I saw.
Three years since, and I am a much happier person than what I ever imagined I would be ... and have a much better quality of life.

More importantly, I get far better intellectual stimulation now than ever as a journalist.

- Bonatellis

Anonymous said...

I have entered this world on the business side couple of weeks back...and am overwhelmed from the stink that the rot in the profession has created. Happier to be ignorant and be selling soaps...at least there is no moral farce in doing that.

Vivek said...

I want out, but I love this profession. But OMG, what is happening to it?? why is it worsening by the minute?? why are only dumb people joining this profession?

I think it reflects where our country is heading... blame it on the "call-centre generation" ... the easy money, no matter if it's not a huge sum.. at least, there's something to spend.

I think the biggest 'breaking news' that we still don't realize is how shallow and dumb people here are killing this profession.

It's sad and I hope to be rescued from this sinking ship. All hope is lost now: let little girls and frustrated *ocksuckers go down all by themselves.

I became a journalist... but unbecoming of a journalist is carried out by so many these days.

Anonymous said...

Yehi toe.........

Anonymous said...

I am not a journalist , though in my teens that was my desired profession simply because I liked writing.
I went & studied to be a sales professional.After a long spell with Manufacturing Cos, I joined the print industry in the sales sector...my fascination for journalism had never ebbed.
I was in for major disappointment, most of them ...broadly those in the age bracket between 20-35 years were rather average with their output, however those above 40 yrs were in adifferent league..they had the patience,work ethic plus the hard work...needless to mention their stories were & are a delight to read. One common thread was all of them were proud of the work.

Horn Please!! said...

Look around. There are many who thought they would get into fourth estate because it would help with their real estate.

First Estate - from grandparents.
Second Estate - from parents.
Third Estate - from dowry.
Fourth Estate - from media

Anonymous said...

Mark my words... This call centre-MTV kids are going to finish this country once and for all...

Anonymous said...

I know this is not the right forum for this but since it attracts good number of those junkies who work and wants to know about the print media..there is another blog which u guys can check up once in a while mayb..

http://printpressure.blogspot.com/index.html

rachana said...

Why I wanted to be a journalist??? Well, let me be frank I never knew I wanted to be...it just happened to me. I always wanted to do MBA, become a manager and earn big bucks...but then I couldnt do MBA for various reasons and ultimately jounalism came to my bag. And then India Today was so much of an inspiration...infact when ever I read stories from this magazine I wanted to do a similar one . I wanted to give all those people a voice who needed it desperately. Especially, a story on 'Prostitution in Puri' was so touching that I decided on going for journalism rather than PR. But unfortunately I could never get a beat I wanted to work on and started up with a 'media and advertising' beat with a magazine.
But I still love the beat because I love being a journalist and I worship my work...