Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Nose in Search of News

In 2003, I started my career as a Student Journalist with a leading magazine group named Vikatan. At that time, I was doing my B.Sc degree in Chemistry at Government College Chittur in Kerala. After completing my schoolings in Tamil Nadu my family got shifted to our native place in Palakkad.

After completing my higher secondary, I joined Government College Chittur. I applied for Student Journalist Training Scheme during my second year at college. There were three rounds of selection. One screening was based on the write-up sent along with the application form, second screening was on the basis of the test conducted to evaluate the news sense, writing skills and general knowledge, and the final tests were based on direct interview, group discussion and a field reporting test. After passing all these hurdles one would get to know whether he/she was selected as a Student Journalist.

Only college students who would continue their studies during their journalism training period are eligible to apply. My first attempt was during my second year, in that year, I reached the final stage but I couldn’t clear that final round. I got disappointed after that, all my expectations went wrong, at that time, I didn’t even know the basics of journalism. I waited for a year to apply for the second time, during that period, I closely observed the articles published in all the magazines published by Vikatan Group. I considered my second attempt as my final attempt as that was my final year at college and I never thought of doing a post-graduation.

Like the previous year, I cleared two rounds and made it to the final round, this time, I gained more confidence and that helped me to become one among the 42 Student Journalists who were selected from 2,460 applicants from all across India. That was the proudest moment of my life and I still consider that as a major milestone of my life. My life could be divided into two, before getting selected as Student Journalist and after that. You will also realize this soon by reading the upcoming blog posts.

I got two-day training in Chennai as part of the enrollment as Student Journalist. Experts, writers and previous year Student Journalists shared their experiences during that training session. Selected Student Journalists who successfully completed their one year training were awarded with distinction and outstanding certificates; the experience shared by them inspired me to a greater extent. I decided to be in their position to share my reporting achievements after completing my tenure as Student Journalist with Vikatan. Latter that became a reality but the path towards it was not that smooth as I was the only Student Journalist in that 42 member batch who represented Kerala and all others were from Tamil Nadu.

One of the advantages other trainees in my batch got was the guidance of the staff reporters available in all the districts of Tamil Nadu and the other advantage was that as Vikatan is a Tamil Nadu-based media group, news happening in the State gets more prominence than in other States like Kerala.

After the training sessions, I reached home with a lot of enthusiasm. There was no one to guide me and I didn’t know how to find news sources, and how to fix appointments with interviewees, as soon as I realized this some kind of fear struck me. The first thing I did was to get a camera, an auto-focus one. After loading the camera, I set out my journey to find news. My nose was not that much sensitive to identify news from non-news. Taking photographs in public places made me nervous.

I took a lot of time to take a snap of a herd of stray cows that were relaxing on the busy road near Victoria College, Palakkad, that was my first snap and the first unpublished news item as well! After seeing the print of my first snap I began to admire myself as a budding photographer. After this first news hunt, roaming on the streets of Palakkad in search of news-worthy items became my routine.

At that time, I didn’t realize the need to understand the media for which I report. Meanwhile, my fellow batch mates began to get several bylines for their news items. On the other hand, despite sending several news items, I couldn’t manage to get even a single byline for about two months. All my initial confidence vanished. Weekends and public holidays were the time for my news hunt, on other days, I attended college. Slowly, after several attempts to get a byline I found the missing factor of Tamil Nadu connection to my news items.

At last, I got a byline for a Tamil film poster-based box news item. It was the poster of 'Thulluvatho Illamai', Dhanush’s first film, with a caption quoting the film as an adult’s only movie. I felt nervous to tell my friends about my first byline, but the unexpected appreciation which I got from one of my Tamil professors boosted me and became my first dose of confidence to explore the unfamiliar terrain of journalism.