Death of a Jour­nal­ist

DQ Channels - - Channel pulse - RA­JNEESH DE/ ra­jneeshd@cy­ber­me­

The re­cent im­broglio in the IT ser­vices sec­tor where it is wit­ness­ing mass lay-offs has some­how ex­posed the qual­ity of en­gi­neers be­ing pro­duced today. One well known sur­vey has even con­cluded that 95% of the en­gi­neers grad­u­at­ing in the coun­try are un­em­ploy­able. There have been con­cerns raised, al­beit a lit­tle bit late in the day, on how to re­dress this sit­u­a­tion.

While the qual­ity of en­gi­neers or their lack­ing thereof has at­tracted all the at­ten­tion, an­other pro­fes­sion, with which I am in­trin­si­cally con­nected, has also wit­nessed mas­sive de­te­ri­o­ra­tion over the years. Yes, I am talk­ing about jour­nal­ism, the very ba­sis of con­tent cre­ation for the me­dia sec­tor an one which prom­ises to faith­fully chron­i­cle the hap­pen­ings of our time. Since in the pop­u­lar per­cep­tion, today’s jour­nal­ism has got re­stricted to some mean­ing­less slang­ing matches in the tele­vi­sion stu­dios, where noth­ing pro­duc­tive emerges ex­cept raised deci­bels, not many are com­pletely con­ver­sant with this de­te­ri­o­ra­tion. How­ever my ex­pe­ri­ence of nearly one and a half decade is glar­ingly bring­ing out this lack of qual­ity in jour­nal­ists with ev­ery pass­ing years.

So what are the rea­sons for this de­te­ri­o­ra­tion? First, like engi­neer­ing again, it is the pre­pon­der­ance of col­leges and in­sti­tutes of­fer­ing jour­nal­ism and mass me­dia cour­ses. What should be kept in mind is that hav­ing more num­ber of col­leges is not a guar­an­tee to en­sure more qual­ity. In fact, it is the con­trary that is of­ten true. More the col­leges, just like what hap­pened to engi­neer­ing, it is dif­fi­cult to mon­i­tor the stan­dard and as a re­sult, stu­dents with half-baked knowl­edge pass out and join the me­dia. And the re­sults are ob­vi­ous (I am feel­ing the pinch for years now).

In fact, I have an even more rad­i­cal view here. I don’t feel jour­nal­ism is a sub­ject that can be taught in col­leges. It is a pro­fes­sion where one should come in with cer­tain in­her­ent qual­i­ties and the rest should be on the job pick-ups. Ac­tu­ally, a stu­dent should ma­jor in cer­tain sub­jects and then depend­ing on his pas­sion should move to jour­nal­ism in ar­eas where his aca­demic ex­per­tise can be lever­aged.

This used to be the sce­nario even 15-20 years back. I re­mem­ber dur­ing our school days, we have met bril­liant jour­nal­ists who have not done any for­mal cour­ses. They will be aca­dem­i­cally bril­liant stu­dents with a pas­sion for me­dia who would choose this pro­fes­sion. It was these peo­ple who ig­nited the first inspiration in me that I should take up this ca­reer. Talk­ing about my­self, I opted for jour­nal­ism over an engi­neer­ing, a bi­o­log­i­cal and a math­e­mat­i­cal ca­reer. Today the one tak­ing up jour­nal­ism would have marks by which he/she would not get ad­mis­sion any­where else.

An­other im­por­tant as­pect for a good jour­nal­ist was be­sides his spe­cial­iza­tion to have a good solid knowl­edge of a va­ri­ety of sub­jects. You never know what knowl­edge will serve you when. I re­mem­ber dis­cussing long nights with my me­dia guru on all topics rang­ing from in­te­gral cal­cu­lus to Mughal minia­ture paint­ings to women fash­ion—one af­ter the other.

Alas, today the bril­liant stu­dents are no more choos­ing jour­nal­ism as a ca­reer op­tion. In­stead, it is the worse qual­ity of stu­dents who are good-for-noth­ing aca­dem­i­cally are mov­ing into this ca­reer. And there are umpteen num­ber of medi­ocre to poor jour­nal­ism col­leges that are will­ing to ab­sorb these stu­dents. The re­sult then is in­evitable: a pa­thetic qual­ity be­ing churned out. They will nei­ther have any news sense nor do they have sound knowl­edge on any sub­ject as they are fun­da­men­tally aca­dem­i­cally weak.

What two decades back was a pro­fes­sion pri­mar­ily for the in­tel­lec­tual bent of mind has now de­gen­er­ated into one for the aca­dem­i­cally low­est strata of stu­dents. No won­der , there­fore, that they lack the skills to pick up on the job learn­ings too. I re­mem­ber dur­ing my days as a cub reporter, my aim when­ever I would go out for some cov­er­age would be to wit­ness how se­nior jour­nal­ists would be­have and try to ab­sorb their strong points. Un­for­tu­nately, that too is not hap­pen­ing now—mainly be­cause to do this re­quires brains as well as strong ob­ser­va­tion power which these av­er­age to poor stu­dents se­ri­ously lack.

My ex­pe­ri­ence over the years in busi­ness me­dia (and that would be true in pol­i­tics, sports, fash­ion, fi­nance any­where) has taught me a good jour­nal­ist ideally should have all these or at least few of these good char­ac­ter­is­tics. He/she should be aca­dem­i­cally bril­liant/sound, needs to have lots of grey mat­ter in the up­per com­part­ment, have strong ob­ser­va­tion pow­ers, an­a­lyt­i­cal skills (this peo­ple of­ten call news sense), lan­guage skills (this can be im­proved by those who are in­clined to do so) and ideally choose a good men­tor in the pro­fes­sion from whom they can ab­sorb all the pos­i­tive qual­i­ties.

In the last seven years in my pro­fes­sion, the three best per­sons I have worked with have ei­ther been aca­dem­i­cally bril­liant, or have pos­sessed lots of in­tel­li­gence and strong ob­ser­va­tion and an­a­lyt­i­cal skills. In­ci­den­tally, none of them have gone through a trained jour­nal­ism course just like my­self. That as­serts my ear­lier ob­ser­va­tion that do­ing a jour­nal­ism course is re­dun­dant—rather train your­self to be­come ex­perts in cer­tain sub­jects. These jour­nal­ism col­leges any­way have fac­ul­ties who are failed jour­nal­ists and their cour­ses are also not in sync with rapidly de­vel­op­ing changes.

That brings me to the other point that jour­nal­ism today is not just print or elec­tronic but con­tent dis­sem­i­na­tion has un­der­gone a 360 de­gree trans­for­ma­tion with dig­i­tal and so­cial me­dia play­ing a crit­i­cal role. Not too many of these cour­ses can cap­ture this ex­pe­ri­ence (hardly any, I would say); in­stead, these col­leges try to teach a mish­mash of ev­ery­thing from video, film, PR to print, dig­i­tal and end up con­fus­ing the al­ready av­er­age stu­dents even fur­ther more.

An­other prob­lem, espe­cially among the girls, has been the as­pi­ra­tion to join the elec­tronic me­dia or the TV chan­nels. Not from any al­tru­is­tic sense or from the pas­sion to do great me­dia ex­po­sures. It’s just they want ex­po­sures for them­selves in front of the cam­eras. What they don’t re­al­ize is that the game doesn’t play out like that in TV Chan­nels. There are some vet­eran an­chors whom you may or may not like, but who have been aca­dem­i­cally bril­liant stu­dents and have built their own cult fol­low­ings over the years. Rest of the girls who come in front of cam­eras are se­lected pri­mar­ily on the ba­sis of their (good) looks and how much sexed up they can be­come.. Un­for­tu­nately ev­ery plain look­ing av­er­age Janes as­pire to be like them and end up un­der­paid do­ing pre- or post pro­duc­tion work in these chan­nels.


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