[ Nellie N Manpoong ]
The enthusiasm among my fellows over the National Press Day celebration this year took me back to the days as a journalist new to the field. I was one of those who dreaded attending press conferences and asking questions on point. I was content editing press releases on my rusty and dusty keyboard.
I like to believe that I and the rest of the longtime working journalists in the state have come a long way from when they first began as young, inexperienced reporters. But journalism, as a friend and a former editor puts it, is a thankless job.
I say thankless, but much loved.
Many outside the press community believe that the press has a professional hegemony, and that is what drives them to join the profession, even if it comes with its own set of professional hazards and disappointments like any other job in the world.
Some want to pursue journalism courses to land a job in the field because they say it would give them “unrestricted power” to be able to walk through a riot unscathed; some join it to be able to drive a vehicle when unions announce bandhs; some do it to be able to meet and question important people – people who are actually in power.
However, for those who want to be future journalists, I would say that the job requires sacrifices. The working hours are unpredictable, and there will be times when you will have to dump everything you were doing because duty calls.
You may be paid peanuts, or even less, because peanuts are getting pretty expensive; you will have to often rely on others for your travel expenses while reporting because your media house may not have enough resources to support you; you may have to put your relationships – all kinds – on the backseat (forget birthdays and social gatherings), and maybe even ruin
a few because you raised unwanted questions – questions that affect a large population but not you.
Meeting deadlines will take a toll on you, and you could be laid off because you did not take your job seriously enough.
Let’s not forget the truly powerful. Authorities may call up in the morning after reading a story and give you an earful. People will barge into your office, looking for you with that piece of article or a video clip that offended them and their superiors. You could also possibly land in a legal soup. People will fail to understand that you were merely doing your job, and that it was nothing personal.
Here I would like to add a gentle reminder for readers and viewers: journalists are only a medium, translating stories in the best and the easiest possible way for the reader/audience to understand. How one interprets the story depends entirely on the individuals themselves.
So, why do so many of us still continue to work as journalists even when the cons outweigh the pros?
For starters, if one has the right resources and investors, one could start their own media establishment and make a decent profit through advertisements. However, in my personal opinion, that is more the role of a proprietor and not of a journalist.
As journalists, we make humble attempts to tell stories of people known and unknown. When a local lad invents goggles for the blind, we take pride in it together; we share the same pain of travelling on the pothole-ridden roads; we learn about government schemes that we could benefit from; we feel the need to make better arrangements for when disaster strikes; we learn that people from outside the state are coming up with sustainable ways to light up remote villages in Arunachal, even when the government claims India is “100 percent electrified.”
Journalists learn something new each day from a new person each time. We educate ourselves in the unconventional way. But most of all, we give voice to the voiceless, and make those in authority question their ways.
Journalism, as I see it, is an adventure of the modern times. We may not be fighting off sabre-toothed cats with prehistoric spears, but we make sure that the pen keeps the predators under check.