There is a perception that writing is a profession that does not pay well. What are your views?
Yes and no. The profession has changed a lot in the last 15 years. At the entry-level, you start low. At the mid-level, you begin to catch up with the other professions. As you go into thesenior level, the gap narrows further. You will never catch up with professions like investment banking. This is true of news organisations abroad as well.
What suggestions do you have for high-school students who want to make a mark in this profession? What can they do to prepare themselves for a journalism career?
They have to be fairly sure of what they want to do. Thisprofession is not about glamour, not about power and not about freebies. It’s pretty much like any other profession. At Mint, you can grow horizontally – for example, if a person just wantsto report, it is possible for salaries to increase as time goes by while responsibilities remain the same. It is also possible to grow vertically, into more managerial roles where you take a lot of calls about content, but are also responsible for managing others.
Students should know that this profession is not for lazy people. It is not all fun and games, it is hard work. They have to be very
clear about why they want to be a journalist. Good journalists are not people who want to change the world – that is the role of activists!
People are generally swayed by the glamour of the profession, reports of what happens in the media (much of which is largely exaggerated), their own belief that if they write well, they can be journalists, the activist leanings of their parents and the desire to change the world.
If I were a student, I would think about whether I am hugely interested in the world around me, whether I can distill complex things into simple language, and whether I am a news junkie. Another thing isthey must have an interest in new media and technology. You cannot be in this profession if you are a technophobe.
Journalism requires clarity of thought. You need certitude. You need to be honest. You need to be perceived as honest. You have to be aware of ethics and objectivity.
It is hard work. If you think ‘I can write well, I can get away with it’, you are wrong. People who think they can write well actually can’t. The quality of writing is atrocious in this country. It is also a tough profession. Not everyone will reach the top.