By Sameena Kenaz & Kedar Nadella
Preeti Singh, who is a news correspondent for CNN-IBN news channel, Hyderabad division, in an interview with Aggregate talks about her experiences as journalist and her views on the current media culture.
1. What prompted you to switch from Chemistry to Journalism?
It was an incidental internship at one of the newspaper offices in Hyderabad that made me discover my inclination to news and journalism. I have always enjoyed science and had a neatly woven ambition of teaching science someday! But here I am. Also, with no prior experience/studies in mass communication, switching to journalism was really one of my first lessons of following my gut.
2. Can you tell us about your experience on your first job as a journalist and your first break into the field?
My first job as a journalist was more of a paid internship. I was in my 2nd year of graduation and like most students that age; a few extra bucks are always welcome. Even better, if you are paid for doing something you like. For me it was writing. I worked as a features city reporter and sub editor for about 3 months, later freelancing for the same paper through my final year of graduation. I don’t know if there ever is a first “break” in the field as most of us hit the ground running, but I distinctly remember my first interview.
3. Could you tell us about the work you did for which you were awarded the Ramnath Goenka award. What avenues has it opened up for you?
I was covering the catastrophic floods in 2009 in Andhra Pradesh where hundreds were displaced, houses washed away and several others stranded due to rising water levels. The challenge was to reach the towns that had been cut off by a furious and flooding river. We walked through knee high slush, caved–in highways, constantly reporting on the situation, the requirements of stranded citizens, and in our own way, trying to assuage feelings of all those who were relying on us to get news of their loved ones. For me and my team, the Ramnath Goenka award hasn’t really been about new avenues, instead, it is a constant reminder of the responsibility a journalist must shoulder.
4. How are the lessons that are taught in journalism schools different/same from what journalists experience on the field?
I do not believe in casting away all that’s taught in journalism schools. I do believe it is a window to the world outside but obviously there is only so much one can see through a window. Experience as a teacher is irreplaceable and there are lessons in teamwork, news sense, adapting to on-ground situations and challenges in story telling that one can only learn outside the classroom.
5. Over the years, in your experience, have there been any changes in the perceptions of general public for the media? How have the technological changes in the recent years affected journalism and the role of a journalist as a mediator of news?
The perception, unfortunately, has largely turned negative. Paid media, biased reports are few of the accusations that are now cast on journalists at an alarming rate. Technology has played a key role in bringing down walls between a journalist and his/her readers/viewers. Be it social networking or video calling, accessibility has greatly increased and people have more than one avenue to verify a reporter’s story. I’d say technology now demands journalists to be more accurate, fast and credible than ever before.
6. Do you see journalists these days have the same approach as you did, when you started off? What kind of approach should they have to become successful journalists?
An honest answer would be no. And I say that with unfortunate resignation. Most journalism freshers seem to walk into the field for the supposed glamour and sheen. The false sense of power that many freshers believe comes with a Press ID card is dismal. My only suggestion to students of journalism is to strive for telling a story that needs to be told.
7. The recent TV9 reports on the University of Hyderabad caused much distress to students and parents alike. What are the ways through which the viewer can report against bad press?
The good news is that with several platforms available, journalism has now become inclusive and participative. If you feel a story hasn’t been well told, use platforms like blogs, letters to editor, Facebook/Twitter (can tag the reporter & the organisation); to say what is not ok with the report. Do not be abusive for that will steal away the importance of your feedback. There are also regulatory authorities for the press to whom the matter can be reported to.
8. What is your opinion on the recent rise in regional media? Is this decentralisation of media a good thing for everyone? Are there any drawbacks to the reporting techniques adopted by these regional media?
Competition usually nurtures quality, but the fear with an uninhibited rise of regional news channels is of credibility. In a bid to be the “first” in a TRP race, journalists will have to be extra cautious to not let accuracy be a casualty. Decentralisation of media works only in an unbiased environment, and not with news channels/papers blatantly backed by political support. The challenge for rising regional media is to keep these pillars stable.