Thursday, March 5, 2009

Trying Times

I have been in Media all through. Started with niche area and then joined a main stream media organization, but its only in last 1 year or so that I have actually understood what this profession is all about. Being an HR person, earlier I use to treat all people alike and for me they were employees… but now I can see a difference, they are foremost journalist and then an employee…

Being in HR I have also got a chance to interact and observe all kinds of people and from all genre. The veterans and the trainees on one side, those who have worked hard and made their name and place in the new media on the other side and also those who couldn’t care less about anything…

Therefore today I pen down what I feel about today’s time and manner. I feel that the time that one is exposed to today is the most difficult for anyone in this field. This time is the real test of a person’s desire, ambition, ethics and all those values that brought him or her into this field. The men will be separated from the boys… whose way it is going to be is to be seen then…

Let me give some background. Today, TV is a medium largely for entertainment. Therefore news on TV has also become a means of entertainment and it is viewed mostly for that. There seem to be very few takers for serious news. This has been revealed by the various viewer ship analysis done by our research team and also from various articles published in leading national dailies. The result is that the serious journalist gets very very frustrated. He/she does a good story but the same is not watched by masses and a freak entertainment program relating to bollywood gets the desired numbers… Slowly the motivation levels start going down. These are people who have contacts, who wish to take up issues, which are socially and politically relevant. They work on those lines and at the end of the day realize that these issue no longer matter to the public. People are not bothered. This is the hard reality and this is what all people in this profession are facing…

As per my observations there are three categories of people… One the veterans who are now channel heads, editors and hold responsible positions in media houses and take the decision of what will go on air or get published. The second category is those people who are the middle generation. These people got into this field inspired by our first category of people, who have seen the boom in media, who have seen the actual transition and who have through hard work made a name for themselves. The third and the last category of people are fresher, trainees, who have studied this medium after the boom, who decided to get into this, not out of any inspiration or any social cause but because they think it is glamorous because glamour is all that they have seen on TV, in print on net etc…

So what is it that makes times difficult for the journalist or those associated with these journalist. So what does this changed scenario do to the various kinds of people.The veterans are faced with anguish, confusion and sometimes inability to take a correct decision. They are the ones who need adapting the most. They are the ones who take decisions and their decisions weigh on those below them… Though they may often wonder what is this that they are into but they are the ones who have the maturity to understand that this is the way ahead… To my mind, those in the business may often be facing pangs of frustration and my heart goes out to them because they can’t even complain… to whom will they go and complain anyway… they are the leaders…

Then comes the second category. These people are faced with a turmoil day in day out… they have hope that times will change. Serious news business will be back again. They have invested the former years of their career in learning the ways of journalism. The veterans from print and electronic media have been their mentors. To now suddenly accept that what they believed was journalism is not what people want to see or read, their entire existence seems to be in a state of confusion. They curse their seniors, the management, the media houses, they change jobs in the hope that the new place would do things differently and they still try to attempt stories, which are socially and politically relevant. When they succeed in their attempt, they get a ray of hope that things are not all that bad… The good thing is that they never give up. They fight day in and day out. They are carving out a path for the next generation, they still keep their networks alive, and they still break a story with the same passion… All they find difficult to do is to accept that the old days are gone forever.

However the saddest state of affairs is of the third category, the new entrants. Their foundation is the new age journalism, the world of glamour, hype and entertainment. Journalism that is shallow and that is based on quantity than quality. They are not to be blamed. This is all they can see all around them. This is what they learn, they practice and this is what they imbibe. In terms of work, they are the most productive and the happiest lot. There are no confusions in their mind and no turmoil. They never question the ethics of a story. They work on it because they have been taught that the people want to view/read these kinds of stories. Why would they then be in sad state of affairs? The reason is simple. They do not know and will never know what true journalism is all about. (If we were to believe that times ahead will remain like these). They have not worked as closely with the leaders and veterans of yesteryears. They have not seen the power of pen which can change the country opinion or which can dismantle governments. They have heard of these things, as those were the days… This does not imply in anyway that these people are not working or are a failure. In the times when they have joined the profession they are contributing in which ever way they can. However their shelf life will be shorter. People may not remember the journo of today after a couple of years. The monetary boom in the industry has got into the heads of most of the people and therefore the time most people are willing to invest in learning and establishing themselves has drastically come down. In effect a very sad state of affairs for this profession.

Whether the times prevalent are good or bad, are in the interest of this industry, this profession or not, we will have to wait and see. Which one of the three category (similar to three generations) of professionals will be the happier lot will also have to be seen. There is a lot to be seen and experienced in this industry. I have spent endless hours talking to people from all the three categories of people and I can be one with their anguish, their confusion and their dreams and their hopes. I am sure even if professionally I don’t remain in this industry, I will continue to be part of that society which craves for decent and relevant news. News we can use. Therefore either as an HR professional or as a viewer/reader, I will continue to track the changing mood of this industry. As of today I know for sure the mood is grim and the times are trying.

Shubhra Chaturvedi

Just a passing thought...

Last night it was very cold and slightly foggy. It must have been about 11.30 pm or so and I was on my way back from office. On the signal near my house, I saw a beggar. I always see him. A frail old guy, grey, almost white hair, wearing glasses that were thick and one could hardly see what his eyes were like. He was clad in a light green dhoti or what we in UP call angocha, and a kurta which had almost gone black with all the smoke from the vehicles. He had an aluminum bowl in his hand and he was begging. Shivering and shaking, going from one car to another. He was bare feet and upto his thighs his legs were all bare.

All the cars waiting had their windows up, mostly must have had their heaters on and hardly bothered about him. Some didn't even notice him, their attention was focused on the signal, waiting for it to turn green.

I was farther off in my car, windows down, enjoying the feel of the winter and watching this old beggar go from one car to another... Before he came to me the signal turned green and I too like others sped away.This beggar however left me unsettled and triggered some questions:

  • What would I have done if he had come to me?
  • I generally don't give money to beggars but what would I have done to this one who was shivering in cold?
  • He genuinely was shivering out of cold or was pretending?
  • Would a rupee or two have been of any use to him or should I have taken off my warm sweater and given to him?
  • Would he have survived yet another day to be back at night begging again?
  • Is it right to not help beggars by way of giving them a rupee today and then letting them be like this forever?
  • Does a one rupee clear my conscious and can I still go to bed and sleep well?
  • Does that beggar think of all these things or is it that for him its a business...

As I write this I remember a joke told to me by my grandmother, long back. She once scolded a beggar begging on the traffic signal,"Why are you begging, why don't you do some work?" He replied, "that's what I am doing, can you beg on the crossing in this heat? Try it" My grand mother did not know where to look.
Just a passing thought...

Shubhra, January, 12, 2007

Whose loss is it anyway?

Recently a close aunt of mine passed away. I would say close because the families were very close till we were in Kanpur. Later as we moved away distance did affect everyone. My childhood had fond memories of visit to her house and playing in their vast lawns. I somehow always liked her presence.

When one Sunday evening I heard of her death, I remembered her for a moment and then carried on with whatever else I was doing. It was then it struck me, death after all affects who? I questioned and answered and then argued within my head. Finally I did get my answer. Its always a loss only to the immediate family or friends.

Now one would think what a profound answer that is. To my mind it is. For me it is. What is death, absence of the person in his/her physical form. Now the real loss or pain of that life long absence is felt only by those who are in the absolute daily contact of the person. A father, a son, a daughter, a mother, a grand mother, a grand father, a long associated servant, the dearest friend.... Who else can one think of? The others are anyway not in everyday touch with the person. They will indeed miss the person, but I doubt if its the same loss as a person whose immediate family member dies and suddenly when the life comes to normalcy he/she realises that the person so always present in their life is no where to be found.

I can explain it better with my experience. When my cousin in Gwalior passed away I was in 11th standard. I obviously was heart broken but soon life was normal. I did not have to go through her absence in my life each day. When I did visit Gwalior, there was a void but there were others paying attention and life seemed normal. I felt as if she is just out of town and will be back. However when my grandmother, with whom I lived all my life, passed away in Kanpur, many many years later, the loss seemed irreparable. When I reached Kanpur after her death, in that big mighty house she was no where to be seen. It didn't feel as if she is out there somewhere and will be back. It was evident that she is no more and she will never be back. The loss of my grand parents in my life has ever since been irreparable.

I do not in anyway, wish to lessen the loss of people whenever death takes them away. However what I do realise is that with times as they are today... life is taken for granted for everyone and death is just another loss. And unless you are directly affected by the absence of the person one wonders whose loss is it anyway. So you hear about so and so passing away and then another passing away and then another. You pay your homage, your condolences and sometimes shed a tear or two but you never really get affected in your normal life by such losses or do you?

Shubhra 4th February 2007

Can you stop life?

Once a broad shady road it was. The outer ring road. Pipal and Neem trees on the sides, the dividers with flowery shrubs like bougainvillea and madhumalti. It was a lovely drive. Red signals were a pain but they gave time to admire the beauty of these age-old wonders.

Then they thought of development. Building some more flyovers and subways and some high capacity bus service too. They ruthlessly chopped the trees, some of which were older than their own existence. The once shady beauty was now only lifeless brown trunk fenced by a tin enclosure. Each time one passed the heart went out to these trees. The question lurking large was, is this the price for development?

Then one fine March morning, as I passed the same road and what do we see? There are these tiny light green shoots, leaves, and saplings shooting out from the brown trunks. Life had sprung again. These tiny little things were shining, dancing with the wind and whispering their music in the spring breeze. As if they were shouting and saying who can stop life?

Shubhra, 17th March 2008, 2.30 pm