Soliloquies Of a Journo
I don’t know how many times have I been reminded of this immortal song from ‘Daddy’ today as I go over my 37-year- long journey in journalism. I still recall one of my teachers at the ‘Dateline school of Journalism’ where the Palika Bazaar stands now telling us that if you don’t quit journalism in three years you are there in it for ever. And having spent 37 years means that I am ‘good for nothing’ else.
On May 20, 1976 I had joined ‘Morning Echo’ a tabloid of the Hindustan Times at a princely stipend of Rs.300/ month. But I did not mind the money because I was in the profession by choice not because I did not get into the civil services or the Bank PO jobs, which were the fashion. And before I start talking like a narcissist, I take this occasion to thank my two Gurus (unfortunately both are no longer with us) who guided me in my foray in the profession- Mr.Manohar Shyam Joshi, who was the Editor both of Morning Echo and Saptahik Hindustan and Mr.R K Makker the gentleman News Editor who had come from The Statesman.
Mr. Joshi, who later became famous for the first tele-soaps in India like Buniyad and political satire Kakkaji Kahin taught us that there was no Boss in journalism. “Don’t call me sir, call me Joshiji if you like, but we are all colleagues” was something that has remained etched in my psyche from the first day in the profession. And if there any Mr. Cool in a daily it was Joshiji. When any editor would panic for a lead story by evening he took it ever so coolly. “Don’t worry, I always keep some rabbits in my hat at the end of the day, ” he would tell us when we panicked. Something like the last over batting of our modern day, Mr. Cool, M S Dhoni.
And Mr. maker was a perfectionist in his job as in his etiquette. On the one hand, he could take on our star reporter by insisting that he would decide whether a story deserved a byline or not her. And the same Mr.Makker would send a small slip saying “Thanks for a very good story” minutes after I had typed and filed a story with him. How many editors do today I am not sure.
Now And Then of Journalism
I could go on and on with this soliloquy. But I also think it is time to say something about the way our profession has changed over the years, apart from technology. Are the issues and concerns that were relevant in 1976 relevant today? It is colloquial to say that times have changed, but have they really? Or have we changed?
When I tell my juniors that that we came into the profession with a mission to change society or living conditions better for the underdog and under privileged they smirk and giggle. Which only means that times have not changed , it is we who have changed. We have degraded ourselves so much that no one takes us seriously any more.
Those Were The Best Days of Our Time
There was a time when people in general and journalists in particular would risk our necks for people whom we knew even remotely because there was a dignity and integrity associated with the profession. Today any Tom Dick and Harry can abuse us on our face and get away with it because there is no one would stand up for us since we don’t stand up for anyone. It is tit for tat.
What is particularly nauseating for old timers like me who have seen the glorious days of the profession when journalists walked out of press conferences of a Prime Minister without a story and no questions asked by the Editor is that today the dividing line between what is Good and Bad is completely obliterated. There is no Black and White, only shades of GREY that dominate.
I joined Hindustan Times during the emergency when censorship was the norm and V C Shukla was the boss of the Birlas, but we always knew that newspapers like the Indian Express and Statesman were our heroes because they fought the tyranny of Indira Gandhi like true fighters.
Does today’s generation has that kind of spine and I am not talking only of journos. Each one of us has to wage a battle to keep our dignity intact, but it is so much more practical and convenient to go along the path of least resistance that we don’t even think of finding a different path.
And that is a tragedy, in fact, the cause of all our present woes, if you ask me.
By Amitabh Srivastava
Image Source: IANS
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