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Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Orientation Speech at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication, M S University of Baroda

Once again, I was invited by the Faculty of Journalism and Communication at The  M S University of Baroda to address the new batch of Masters' students during their Orientation Programme. I wanted to get the students to think differently and I hope I've managed a little. I did not follow the order of the speech I had prepared since I wanted to make it an interactive discussion, but I think I covered most of these points:

"I am not going to spout some gyan on the trappings of the media. Instead, let us talk about the people who make the media.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Journalists are like that only. Woh toh aisa hi likhte hain. They will do anything for ‘news’?” What makes us journalists do anything for news? Our deadlines, our tough bosses, our society, or our genetic pool that makes us different from the rest? What do you think? Why do we choose to publish something that other people do not want to read? Do they really not want to read? Many a times you get videos of irritating news anchors on your Facebook wall. How many times have you clicked on the YouTube link just to check them out? Do you remember what he/she was talking about? Of course, you do. There, his/her purpose was served.

Who are the people who work in newspapers, television programmes, films, magazines, book, websites, social media, etc? What do they do? How are they different from each other?

Name some of the journalists/news anchors you know. What do you think of them and their style of presentation or reporting? Who is the best? Who is the most irritating? Who inspires you? Who do you want to emulate? All of you have some conceptions about the people who do a particular job. But are you really qualified to make such judgments? Would you be any different if you had person A, B or C’s job? Maybe. Maybe not.

How many people work in a form of media? Let’s say, film. All of you watch films, right? Now, has any of you waited in the cinema hall for the closing credits to end? You know, when the text scrolls down a black screen with some music in the background. Has any of you tried to count the number of people who are listed in the credits of a film? Nobody? Why should we? Some of you may have watched a movie at least a dozen times in the theatre or on TV/DVD? Do you remember the dialogues and the songs? Yes, of course! Now, do you know the credit list? Not at all. How many times do we read the Acknowledgements' or Credits' page of a book or magazine, or the credits at the end of our favourite TV show? We never even think of all those people who have given us a product — film, TV programme, newspaper, magazine, book or website — that we judge so easily.

When you like a film, do you appreciate the film as a whole or only one character in it? When you like a story/article in the newspaper, do you like it because you like the journalist who has written that report, or the way it has been presented in the paper with pictures and an attractive headline?

The point I am coming to is that media is all about teamwork. There are hundreds of people who work behind the scenes to bring together a package of content that will glue viewers to television screens or grab readers' eyeballs. Take for example the guys who do headlines in the newspapers. Do you know what they are called? How are they different from the journalists who write the reports? Did any of you think that the reporters write their own headlines? How you wish! The guys who actually ‘make pages’, which means edit stories, sort and select pictures, design the pages using softwares such as QuarkXpress or Adobe InDesign, put eye-catching headlines and proof-read the whole newspaper are called sub editors or subs. Did you know of them? No. Do you know their names? No. Why? Because they remain invisible, like the designers and copywriters who create ads. We all love those Amul hoardings. Does anybody know who had drawn the Amul Girl? It was Eustace Fernandez. We remember the girl very well, not the person who made her. That's advertising. It's meant to sell products and services, not the people who create the ideas to sell products and services.

So how are media persons different from people in other jobs? One, they are curious, very curious. In most other jobs, a knowledge of the job is good enough for you to sail through. But if you are in the media, you need to know everything about what's happening all over the world. Now, that's impossible. So you try the next best thing i.e. gain access to information about things happening all over the world in real time. You get it from websites, newspapers, news wires or agencies, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and people sources from different places. You've got to have the curiosity to know and have the ability to build a network of people who will give you the required information when you need it. Two, you need to be creative because you have to stand out. There are hundreds of newspapers in India in many languages. If you want the reader to pick yours, you have to provide content which is designed and packaged well. Hundreds of journalists are invited to a press conference. If you can't make your story different from the guy next to you, then you are simply not good enough. And three, you need to be expressive. Ideas in the head serve no purpose if they are not communicated properly. You may have a fresh perspective of looking at something, but if you cannot put it in the form of words, photographs or pictures, it's of no use. If you do not do it properly, it may be misinterpreted. If you have these three qualities, you will have bright career in the media.

You need to start looking at things in a different light. The next time you watch an anchor on a news channel, think of why the show has been made like that. Why does the person behave in the same manner every night for months? Are you judging the person or the image or the hundreds of people who work at that channel? Think, realize, understand and know better.

They say that you either find a job you like or like the job you get. I'll advise you to try both, for as judgmental you may be, it is difficult to judge yourself."

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