Hari Shanker R

Hari Shanker R

A Happiness Engineer at Automattic.

A Reporter’s Diary

For a while, Journalism was my dream career.

It all started with ‘We the people’ – the famous talk show from NDTV 24×7.  I started watching the show on my English teacher’s recommendation. Barkha had a lot in common with DP, or so felt my twelfth-grader-self. Like  every other hat-tip from the teacher, I took her words seriously. Soon, I was hooked into the show. The way Barkha interacted with the audience, the way she carried herself and the way she articulated… only a journalist could put herself across that way. I wanted to be like Barkha.

The adulation for Barkha had me worshipping Prannoy Roy himself. Without realizing the fact, I was gradually getting addicted to television journalism. From Anderson Cooper to Larry King, from Spencer Kelly to Rajiv Makhni, from Rajdeep Sardesai to Arnab Mukherji, from Nikesh Kumar to Venu; I knew (and respected) them all.

By the end of 2006, even as I deliberately fell prey to the booby-trap named ‘Engineering’, I yearned to be one among my idols. I wanted to be a a journalist.

Before I knew it, Engineering was over and I was as clueless (and jobless) as I were before joining Engineering. Even the CAT dream – which kept me alive for long, went awry. That was when the idea of journalism shone before me once again. A job offer from the fast-growing regional-web-portal beckoned me with both arms. The pay wasn’t great – even call center employee friends of mine made more. Not that I cared. Miniscule as it was, I wanted the pay. I had the occasional expense to take care of, and it was far more than what I needed.

Before I knew it, I’d  become a reporter.

As the proverbial cliche goes, I swept cleaner than the average-new-broom. I knew for one that it would take years to sculpt a Prannoy Roy. At least I was doing what I was passionate about; I was writing to my heart’s content. Google Analytics said that 20% of this web portal’s viewers were from America, Europe and the Gulf Countries. The world read what I wrote.

My first news story was about the absence of buses plying through a particular route in the city. I researched a lot for my first story. Reticent by nature, I struck up a conversation with as many people as I could, for ‘perspective’. From autodrivers minting money from the situation to schoolchildren directly affected by it, I spared no one in my quest for the ‘perfect story’. At the end of the day, I offered myself a smile as I noticed my story adorn the front page in the web portal.

I loved my job. My coworkers were the best I could ask for, fun-loving and friendly. Office politics was unheard-of. Everybody was friends with each other. We even had a ‘Chief Fun Officer’, who would be in charge of fun-activities, planning many a lighter moment. I adored fellow-members of my editorial. Our editor was a man with the heart of gold. They were like my siblings. We would even hang out after a long day’s work, discussing life, politics and literature over cups of tea.

We had the weekly editorial meeting where each of us discussed our stories. Our accolades were explained to us, and our mistakes were pointed out. It was a learning experience with a difference. The editor’s words evoked a feverish passion in us; it was his call for us to go that extra mile. Many of us followed suit, the others faced the music.  Each of us had our respective ‘beats’. We would write stories about the particular beat, on days assigned to us. Meeting deadlines was the key. Then there was number of stories — we had to write a certain number of stories a month. Explanation would be sought for, if the deadline was not kept. If you strive and set the bar high for your peers, good for you. You stand the chance of getting an appraisal. It was competitive world out there.

Quoting my editor, I was the quintessential ‘armchair journalist’ — a term I learned to loathe. I hated large public gatherings — I was always left solitary in the crowd. The lack of a vehicle proved an obstacle to travel to places far and wide, for reporting.  I found myself in a spot. Despite efforts from my part, I couldn’t arrange a vehicle every time, and that had me relying on buses. I learned the bitter lesson that a story ceases to remain a story, once it has passed its time. Journalism for me was a race against time. If there was a function or a meeting, I had to rush to the venue in a jiffy. I had to fish out my (dysfunctional) camera and click pictures (The portal trusted the photographic skills of us, poor reporters). I had to filter relevant points from truckloads of crap; I had to find points amid mindless rhetoric.

Who said Journalism was an easy job?

Each journalist carries a bulky-baggage of responsibilities and expectations. In these days of new media, anyone can be a journalist; you just need to have a solid eye and a strong pen. But the buck does not end there. The challenge lies in putting across what you see/hear to the masses. A journalist weaves the story for a reader. How/What the reader perceives depends on how the journalist puts it across – the responsibility is tremendous, I realized. Journalism is all about getting yourself noticed. If you didn’t have it, you lost it. What? The eyeballs.

All good things must come to an end. I’d had my share of journalism, and it was time to move on. As I walked out of my (erstwhile) office, collecting my last paycheck, I did feel that smack of pain — the pain of eventuality, the pain of leaving something you love…

I miss being a journalist.

But I’m a writer. NOT a journalist.

6 Comments

  1. Praveen

    Loved this one man…

    Well…I also had this particular dream of becoming a journalist..

    I should say..I still've a little left :P..

    But sadly, there are only a few media houses worthy of working for…

  2. ariyathe

    So I was searching for these song lyrics, saw a comment made by you and realized I hadn't visited in ages. I had missed your writing!

    And yes, writing novels >>> journalism. (You promised me the first copy!)

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