Journalism in India has evolved over time. While pre-independence era of print journalism was more focussed on instigating patriotism in people and spreading a united voice against colonial rule, post-independence journalism concentrated more on delivering truth via news to people. Modern day print media has diversified into business, sports and entertainment journalism leaving politics largely to local vernaculars. With the increased penetration of the internet, print journalism faces erosion in today’s world. Why Journalism?
Journalism’s evolution and the way it has changed made us keen on studying it as a profession. The fact that Journalists’ commitment and motivation have been researched very little was also an important factor. Today there is lack of quality journalists in India, since the profession does not entail money, comfort and luxury, which seem to be important for today’s youth. Thus, to get an insight into the reasons which drive journalists every day, we decided to interview print journalists and via the information, develop hypothesis on the reasons as to why journalists remain committed to their profession.
Q: Having had a keenness for journalism from a young age and having become a journalist now, could you mention three things you like most about this profession? A: Meeting a lot of interesting people from all respects of life – actors, doctors, farmers, administrative officers – is one thing I like about journalism. Another thing is that you get to learn a lot and continue doing so since you cover a diverse range of fields, explore new things and are open to people’s opinions. Another aspect is that I write and I get paid for it, which is pretty rare in any profession. So essentially, I learn and I get paid for it, I meet famous people and I get paid for it and I write and I get paid for it. Above all, the impact that my writing creates in the society is what drives me every day. Q: Do you mean journalism helps you to write and challenge the system and get the best out of it? A: All the names that I have mentioned, no one of us were challenging the system, we were part of the system and helping young India to grow. But when we joined journalism, during the period of Vietnam war, Calcutta colleges were the centre of students politics and there were many people who wanted to challenge the system. But those of us, whom I have just spoken about, were not interested in challenging the system but working the system.
We had faith and optimism in system. Like we see people fighting against corruption, they also don’t want to change the system but want to cleanse the system. Third thing that I like appreciate about journalism is that it is a profession of self-esteem. That’s why, in spite of low salary it was worth it. Actually at that time there were not many avenues of expenditure, it was not a consumer society. Earning a modest salary wasn’t such a horrible thing as it would be today. Q: At any point of time during your career, have you felt that you would have been better off, had you chosen some other profession? A: I will tell you, there were two such encounters with other professions in my life. One encounter came very early, around after 1.5 years of joining journalism. My father, being a government servant, wanted me to join a government job. So I wrote an exam for SBI job, which was a good paying prestigious job at that time and because of misfortune of mine, I got the job. I gave in to the family pressure, joined that job and left journalism. But after working for 6 years I left SBI and came back to journalism. Second encounter came at the prime of my career when I was a senior journalist.
I was a business journalist in the better part of my career and for the same reason I had a good exposure to banking and the corporate world. I got an offer of Chief of Corporate Communications in India from World Bank. I had very tough time deciding of taking the job or not. But now today I am very happy that I didn’t take that job. Today I am a retired journalist and for me the greatest pleasure of life come from writing the columns and getting back the feedback. Q: What are the factors that deter women from taking up journalism or what are the reasons due to which they quit halfway? A: Honestly speaking, journalism involves a lot of stress and pressure. We have no timings in fact. Breaking news can be at any time and we will have to report that as soon as possible. From the perspective of typical Indian women, all these prevent her from taking up journalism as a profession.
There are exactly 4 holidays in a year. It is highly demanding especially for married woman. Q: Do you believe that Gender discrimination is also an issue here? A: Yes there is gender discrimination. Women reporters have had to face it and are facing it. I can’t be explicit, but still organizations can be a bit more receptive to our demands like adjustable timings and holidays. Q: If you would like to change something about the profession (organization), what would it be? A: The compensation that we get in the print media is very less. It is not recognized, though we too work as much as people in other professions. There are not many HR policies in our media houses that take into account our ambitions and aspirations. None of our organizations have exclusive HR departments unlike most other business houses. Emergent themes:
The ability to reach and create an impact on a larger part of the society, the freedom to express their individual opinions and thoughts and the dynamics and variety that are inherent in the profession are the major motivating factors that ensure that the interviewees remain committed to the organization in spite of the demanding nature of the job (24*7 work hours, very few holidays in a year and the lack of HR policies oriented towards their needs). It is also understood that the nature of the profession by itself and the working conditions are not very conducive for women. Gender discrimination also seems to exist in different echelons of the organizations.