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Broadcast Journalism

A CHANNEL FOR SUCCESS: A Career in Broadcast Journalism

A lot of people perceive broadcast journalism to be a glamorous career that’s like a ticket to instant fame. But being the ‘face of the news’ involves a lot of hard work, grit and determination. Most importantly, you have to absolutely love your job, discovers Sulakshana Gupta.

Are broadcast journalists a different breed from print journalists?
The main difference between print and broadcast journalism is that in the latter, you are writing to be heard and not read. The average length of a newspaper story is 500-600 words whereas the average length of a news capsule is 1-2 minutes.For a broadcast journalist brevity is the tool of the trade. The emphasis is on the here and now – all television news is written in active speech and a soundbyte or quote is essential to a story. In comparison, TV news is a more demanding arena because the time given to finish a story is far less than in print.

Grooming is very important and all new trainees go through a grooming programme as part of their induction. While torn jeans and unkempt hair are a strict no-no, you don’t have to look like a former beauty pageant contestant to get a job as a broadcast journalist. “It’s not necessary to be good looking, but pleasant looking. A person who is confident on camera naturally exudes beauty,” says Shishir Joshi, who heads the Mumbai Bureau at Aaj Tak
“I had to start wearing makeup, even though I had never touched the stuff before. It’s all part of the job. You are on air for the whole nation to see,” says Maya, who recently started working at a news channel.
A brilliant but unkempt candidate may lose out on a job on account of something as simple as neatness. So if you’re well turned out and fit looking, you have an edge. According to Maya, a channel stopped a new trainee from going on air because she was overweight.

In the old days (read the Doordarshan only days), there used to be a distinction between the work done by a broadcast journalist and a newscaster. A journalist would go out and gather news while a newscaster would look pretty and read from a teleprompter. Today, newscasters are almost extinct. In this new age of multitasking, the journalist presents his own story.

A broadcast journalist does all the work for a particular story – from conducting research to presenting the story on air. Most TV reporters work along with a cameraman although some work alone and film their stories as well. Back at the studio, the reporter organises his notes and decides on a focus for his/ her story. A senior producer then approves the story and the angle after which reporter edits the peice. This chain of events differs from channel to channel. “A correspondent in Chattisgarh would not write his news story. He would only be required to send in his footage. The story would be written for him at the Mumbai head office”, says Star News correspondent Vidya.

All reporters receive training in handling equipment. But as most channels have cameramen assisting the reporter, only in an emergency situation does a reporter actually have to shoot footage. If you are a reporter at a bureau, you have the additional responsibility of making sure the footage gets transmitted to the head office.

The broadcast journalist is a manager in a sense as he undertakes and oversees a number of jobs from research to reporting to editing, he or she oversees all aspects of the job. Hours of work go into creating what appears on the TV screen for just 10 seconds. The added challenge is that the reporter has to present the final product – the news – calmly and dispassionately. Typically, a journalist does one complete story in a day, but the whole process of editing and providing voiceovers etc makes it seem like a whole lot more.

A job in the field means being married to your work. “You have to be prepared to spend nights in the office. You have to absolutely love what you do,” says CNBC correspodent Anu Jogesh. It’s quite likely that you end up with no life outside of office. All channels give their reporters one day off in the week when you’ve worked 15 hours a day for the past six days, it’s likely that you’ll spend your holiday catching up on lost sleep. So although life a TV journalist is exciting, it’s not without its crappy moments. “The part, which I really hate about my job, is running after celebrities. They act so haughty all the time and treat you like shit, says Maya. “There’s also a fair share of work competition, which keeps you on your toes but also stresses you out from watching your back all the time”, says Maya. “Also, sometimes you may have worked your ass off for a story and then it doesn’t go on air. You have to learn to live with these disappointments”, says Maya.

With such varied and intense pressure, broadcast journalism is a field has an incredibly high burnout rate. “You have to be a go getter”, says Rasika Srivastava who trained at CNBC. Rasika quit after her training at CNBC because she could not take the stress. “I feel like I needed more time to do my stories. Also, CNBC is a really ruthless place to work.” Sometimes in a high pressure situation you may have to report live without a script. It’s not unheard of for a journalist to have worked for 24 hours at a stretch before they appear on camera.

A bunch of cameramen and journalists are catching their breath between stories and chilling out in the reception area. The phone is constantly ringing. Rival channels are being watched on different television screens. In the studio, a newscaster is live on air. A tired journalist returns from a break and is told she did a great motorcycle story, but should have taken off her helmet in the end. Debate ensues about whether to shoot an extreme close-up of her face taking off the helmet. At one corner of the office, a producer is planning the sequence of the bulletin. You can feel the constant tension in the air. But the whole office still looks like one big happy family and everyone has colored faces from playing Holi the day before. The best part is that there are no partitions and everyone is approachable. The big boss has a table at the corner while the other journalists have smaller workstations.

There are different designations in TV news:
Chief of Bureau – Senior Correspondent – Correspondent (Chief, Special, Junior) – Senior Reporter – Reporter – Junior Reporter

* An excellent knowledge of current affairs
* Language skills (depending on the channel
* The ability to express ideas clearly
* The ability to quickly process new information and ask relevant questions
* A high sense of work ethics
* Working knowledge of computer hardware and software
* Creativity in problem solving. e.g. Many a times one is faced with the challenge of making one’s story look authentic. Supposing, the head of police refuses to talk to you, you could stand in front of the police station say exactly that, and make your story look authentic. Your speech has to match your visuals; otherwise the broadcast will make no sense.

“Usually no one is accepted without a degree in journalism. Otherwise you need to compensate it with another higher qualification in a relevant field”, Kanhai Singh, a business reporter at IN Mumbai. But this doesn’t mean that candidates without a mass comm. degree are never hired. CNBC’s Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan first worked as a trainee at the channel. He left to complete his Diploma from the Asian College of Journalism and joined back a reporter. As CNBC is a business channel, it prefers students with a strong background in economics. The media is an industry where you are valued on how much you know and not on the basis of where you’ve studied. If you have worked in an organisation for ten years, you are much more valuable than a new employee who has a journalism degree from a prestigious college. Generally though, students prefer to complete a degree because they feel it advances their career prospects. It’s true that starting as a trainee right after graduation, you would do everything from odd jobs to fetching chai and coffee, but your knowledge of the trade would be unmatched. “We avoid taking in only graduates unless they are exceptionally good and we are confident of them turning into good journalists,” says Shishir Joshi. According to him, very few mass communications institutes equip you with the knowledge you need in the industry. “This is because very few professionals are actually involved in teaching. Students come out of these courses with only theoretical knowledge,” says Joshi who is a lecturer for the Social Communications Media course at the Sophia Polytechnic.

There are several institutes that offer postgraduate courses in Broadcast Journalism. In the industry, high intensive degrees are preferred.

Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communications
Course offered: Post-Graduate Diploma in Mass Communication (PDMC), with courses in Journalism with print, broadcast and web specialisations; and Audio-Visual Communication with specialisation in all aspects of television programming as well as advertising creation and ad-filmmaking.
Fees: Rs.1,30,000 tuition fees. Health insurance, periodic medical checkups, gym/spa, parking, examination, and some other additional charges, which amount up to Rs. 5,000, are extra.
Duration: 2 years
Eligibility: Graduate or candidate in final year of graduation
Admission procedure: SIMCAT (a 2 hr computerised exam conducted at several centers around the country) + Group Discussion + Interview + a written test + a student interface.
They ask for a capitation fee if you have made it through the entrance but are not on the first list.
Visit www.simc.edu
You get to specialise in Broadcast Journalism in the second year. You get to work with equipment and gain technical knowledge but a lot of people feel they don’t get value for their money as you need to go find your own internships, without the help of the institute.

The Asian College of Journalism, Chennai offers an intensive, hands-on, 10-week course in broadcast news journalism, conceived and run by BBC Worldwide Limited and taught by an experienced BBC journalist.
Course offered: Postgraduate Diploma
Duration: 10 months
Fees: Broadcast Media Stream: Rs. 200,000
Eligibility: Graduation in any stream
Admission procedure: Exam and Interview
Visit www.asianmedia.org

The Indian Institute of Mass Communications, Delhi (IIMC) is an autonomous society under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Course offered: Post-graduate Diploma Course in Radio & Television Journalism
Duration: 10 months
Fees: Rs 43,000
Eligibility: Bachelor’s degree in any discipline. Those who have appeared/are appearing at degree examination are also eligible to apply. (Date of Birth: 1.8.1979 or later (for SCs/STs 1.8.1974 or later))
Admission procedure: Exam and Interview
Visit: www.iimc.nic.in

Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai.
Course offered: Social Communications Media
Duration: 1 year
Fees: Rs 30-35,000
Eligibility: Graduation with 50% marks
Admission procedure: Exam, Group Discussion + Interview
Email: scmsophia@rediffmail.com
The upside is that you get a guaranteed placement at the end. The downside is you don’t get to work in depth in any one field, and generally don’t get much exposure to equipment. According to ex-Star News correspondent, Smruti Koppikar, the institute provides training in diversity and ethics that other institutes don’t.

Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
Course offered: MA in Mass Communications
Duration: 2 years
Eligibility: Graduation
Admission procedure: Exam, Group Discussion + Interview
Visit www.jmi.nic.in

Xavier’s Institute of Communications, Mumbai
Course offered: Postgraduate Diploma is Journalism
Duration: 9 months part time
Fees: Rs 40,000-55,000
Eligibility: Graduation with 50% marks
Entrance: Exam + Interview
Visit: www.xaviercomm.org

Foreign degrees look good on your resume but don’t really help you in your career. If you plan to be a reporter in India, your ease with Indian situations and political affairs is more important than a foreign qualification. Print journalists usually go in for an added qualification after they have worked for a few years, but for a broadcast journalist, it is not necessary.
It would be unfair to say that any one institute is preferred during recruitment. The name of your institute might get you an interview, but it will not get you the job.
There are various tests that a candidate goes through while applying for a job.
You are given a print news story and asked to convert it into a TV news script.

General awareness:
Your knowledge of current affairs will be tested.

Analytical skills:
You may be given a news clip to view and then asked to evaluate it and say if and how you would have done it differently.

You are tested in several languages. Hindi, English and usually a regional language. You will be given translation passages which are checked for grammatical accuracy.

Voice Test:
Your voice is tested to see how you sound on air.

Piece To Camera:
This is like a screen test, where you are made to stand in front of the camera and read a piece of news. Your comfort level and rapport with the equipment is tested. You need to be a good presenter.

The Interview:
You will go through a personal interview where you are questioned on your ethics, beliefs and why you want to be a broadcast journalist.

Generally your technical knowledge of camera functions etc is not tested because every channel on induction sends you for a training programme in which all this is taught.

Some journalists specialise in a particular type of news, called a beat, e.g. a pharmaceutical, or science correspondent. You will very rarely start off with a specialisation. Specialist journalists are either recruited from the print media with a similar beat or they work their way into the specialisation. So you cannot start with the hope of covering only what you are interested in. It is only later if you are found to understand a particular kind of news very well, will you become a specialist journalist. You need to gain basic experience in the medium to begin with.

Usually people start off at about Rs 8-13,000 in most channels. One cannot say which would be the best channel for a person to work at. The industry is extremely fluid and people change jobs all the time. It all depends on the kind of work you end up doing and the people you meet. Every channel has their economic and political agendas. For your first job, it is better not to be too picky. Work wherever you can to gain experience that puts you in a batter bargaining position.

Broadcast journalism is one of the most important careers in the country today. The media being the fourth estate of the nation, you as a journalist would have tremendous power to influence people. Make sure you use that power wisely, and remember the line from Spider Man. With great power comes great responsibility.

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