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Mixed Media: Right time to be in journalism in India? Perhaps not

27-October-2009
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Mixed Media: Right time to be in journalism in India? Perhaps not

If you were wondering if the mighty souls of the Indian media had managed to silence me, no such luck. I was on chhutti last week – a short vacation with the family, and as for yesterday, well, as I mentioned in the footnote two Mondays back, Mixed Media will henceforth appear on Tuesdays. Stupid, but vital reason: it enables me to take off on Sundays. Stupid, for, as much as I want to, it’s tough not writing at deadline hour, and however much I have tried to write this on Saturdays, it’s not easy doing it. Sigh!

As it happened, I did a bit of introspection during the break and asked myself whether it was the right time to be in the business. And whether the Indian news media was a worthy career option for the thousands of people who get into it every year.

The answer I gave myself was regrettably a ‘No’. I write this even as I’m trying my damnedest to attract good talent, but to my mind, the way our enterprises operate currently doesn’t really augur too well for the future. So: a 4/10 per cent for being in the right time to be here, but I would bring it down further to a 3/10 per cent as a career option. You could up this a bit, if you have another educational qualification to back you up. Thus, if the whirlpool in the news media doesn’t work for you, you can hop over to another stream.

And why this extreme disappointment with the way things are? First, and I state this with a great sense of responsibility, a majority of Indian journalistic ventures are unprofessionally run. While one may say that the promoter-driven ‘lala’ style of management has stood the test of time and delivered successfully in the past, I’m not very sure if it will work in the current scenario and in the future.

Second, there is little emphasis on best practices. Mediocrity rules.

Third, while the number of newspapers and channels are getting a hang of the new media, there is a still a great deal of ignorance about how technology can grow our business. We aren’t future-ready.

Fourth, protectionism: the big guys don’t want the foreign media to come in, and thereby effect a positive content- and (hence) brand-driven business strategy.

And lastly: Little emphasis on staff development. It’s a people’s business and upgrading staff skills can have a positive impact on profitability. Regrettably, not many organisations bother much on this count. Agreed there are scholarships available, but these are few.

While I don’t dispute the need for being focused on profitability and get good returns on one’s investment, but you can’t be doing that at the cost of good business and journalism. As journalists, we revel in mentoring the world and telling everyone how they ought to be conducting themselves, but the fact remains that much needs to be done to bring our own homes in order. The decaying state of affairs is perhaps the reason for a steady rate of drop-outs from the profession.

The global slowdown and resultant crunch in India hasn’t helped matters much for the Indian news media. After a few corrections, a few players have been doing remarkably well in print and television. Sadly, not all of them for best practices.

(The views here are personal. Post your comments below or email mixedmedia@exchange4media.com.)

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