Am I a Journalist?

Yasir Mushtaq

In my childhood I had read journalism is the fourth pillar of our system. Those days in Kashmir we used to get national newspapers in the afternoon so in the morning we have to read local newspapers which were mainly in Urdu. Being an average student of Urdu I hardly used to read those newspapers. So I was reading newspapers in the evening when my newspaper vendor used to drop Hindustan Times and The Hindu at my home. In 90s Kashmir turmoil was on peak so daily one report used to be about Kashmir on the front page. During early 90′s there was no web of news channels on TV unlike now. I grew up watching DD news but in late 90′s Cable TV tsunami stormed Doordarshan and private news channels took over the centre stage. During those day’s I saw a young gentleman reporting on TV about Kashmir and I liked his reportage. He never used to do kite flying but report facts. This reporter was none other than Rajdeep Sardesai. I used to watch his shows regularly and slowly I forgot to read newspapers. But I had no intentions of becoming a journalist. I passed my SSLC and then my 12th and finally graduation. During these years I followed Rajdeep from Star to NDTV to CNN-IBN. Respect for him kept growing in me and finally I decided to study journalism and reason was Rajdeep’s quality journalism. He was my inspiration for taking up journalism. Call it my luck or destiny, within few months of completing my journalism course I got a job with Network 18. It was just like a dream come true. Rajdeep, Ashutosh and Prabal Pratap as my bosses, I was on cloud nine. I was given a free hand to do stories from anywhere in the south India. I always tried my best to do justice with my job and I think I succeeded in that. But by now, I realized what I have heard in childhood about journalism being the 4th pillar of democracy is not true. In a short span of 10 years, growth of journalism changed the values of journalism. From news it became noise, whoever creates more noise is considered as best. But I used to look towards my inspiration and think somewhere in media, journalism is alive. Today I met Rajdeep at his book launch – 2014 The Election That Changed India. India changed or not that I don’t know since I have not finished reading his book yet but I definitely have changed. During his speech Rajdeep said these days news channels look for Match Ka Mujrim and they also look daily for one person whom they can make an idiot. His speech echoed the same things that I had in my mind for last few years. Am I a journalist or a news porter who gets salary for porting news from his area to head office. These days reporters have very less say in what is the big news from their area, it is about the owners of the channel, who decide the editorial policy of the channel. These days only negative news is news. You will hardly see any positive news being discussed at prime-time. These days our bosses will always ask for big news or badi khabar. I remember once Ashutosh said reporter’s duty is to give report and to make it a big news or badi khabar is with the editor. After listening to Rajdeep’s speech for few moments I was lost, I didn’t know what to say. I asked myself, ‘am I a journalist’, can I introduce myself as a journalist to anyone sitting in this book launch. I didn’t get any answer. After the book launch was over few students met me and asked me if what Rajdeep said, was right. I thought for a while and said, “Rajdeep also said that this is only one phase of journalism and editors will realize this soon”. One of the student replied “Hope so”. Student’s left but the question I asked myself still remained.

(The author works from Bangalore for a national news channel. This article was first published on his blog.)