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Why journalism?

The hordes of students who want to do their graduation in journalism should understand what the profession entails – or learn on the job

In the last five years, the question that I have been asked innumerable times is: “Why journalism?” When in college, where I was pursuing BA (Hons) in journalism, I used to answer with a lot of enthusiasm: “I want to bring about a change in society!’ As time went by, my answers changed to a crisp: “I like writing and want to explore the unknown.” By exploring the unknown, I don’t know what I meant but I am surely doing just that!

This year, in Delhi, BA (Hons) in journalism saw the highest number of applications per seat — 1,12,233 for the 306 available seats in the course. Since then, the reason why students are being drawn towards this profession or subject has been debated and discussed. And this makes me wonder why I did the same, five years back!

To be honest, I never aspired to study journalism, let alone choose the profession. It all happened organically, or let’s say accidentally. I was determined to study either literature of films – but couldn’t get through. English Honours required a high percentage and had a huge number of students opting for the few available seats, while films were not being taught as core subjects in any of the colleges.

Thus, as fate had it, I ended up here – with my father supporting this choice. Varied reactions came about after I joined college. The most common among them – some of my family members asked this — “So, when will we see you on a news channel?” For them, a journalist was synonymous with a tv anchor. One of my childhood friends once asked, “Have you met Arnab Goswami?”

With time, I started liking the course. We had various practical assignments — mostly writing and designing pages. Then, we had a college magazine — for which we used to collect stories, click photos, design — all these made me fall for the profession and I decided to pursue it further.

After graduation, I moved to Delhi for a diploma in this subject. And that course was an eye-opener. Journalism is not ‘a bed of roses!’ as I thought during my college days. This came as a rude shock!

It’s much more than just writing and designing. And whatever I learnt in the three years of college, it all seemed a bit meaningless. I had to unlearn a lot of things taught in college. After all, it was all theory — nothing of practical use. There was a huge difference from what journalism was all about in the real world.

Ours was an intense course – with loads of practical field assignments and sessions from working journalists. So, that gave us an idea of what journalism is all about — with all its pros and cons.

Many students, during the course, realised that they are probably not fit for it or are not interested in a career in journalism. Some left the course midway to pursue other courses. One batch-mate decided to finish her Master’s in English, and left one fine day — without informing anyone. Perhaps she was unable to bear the hectic schedule, as she herself once confessed to me.

Thus, in a way, the course was helpful in giving us an understanding — which even the three years of my college could not provide! Even after a year of working in various media organisations, some of our batchmates left. One girl decided to go for content writing, another decided she wanted to work at a publishing house; there’s another girl who’s planning to switch to PR and a boy left his job to pursue cinematography.

Another interesting fact which I have come across is one does not require an undergraduate degree in journalism to break into the professional world. Rather, you will rarely come across working journalists who had actually done BA in journalism before coming into the profession.

In that way, journalism is flexible and inclusive. People from almost any background — be it arts or science or anything –are welcomed, given they have a knack for it. I have even heard stories where engineers or IITians have chosen this profession out of sheer passion. Moreover, there is no age limit which dictates when a person can join this vocation. Even people in their 30s or 40s have switched from other careers and made lateral entries.

Now, it’s been more than a year that I have been working as a journalist. After I joined, I realised that my post-graduation course was quite helpful. And it actually gave me the much-needed preparation to enter this field as a professional.

This being said, I would like to go back to the point why more and more students are opting for journalism. This might be because (as confessed by some students) more people are opting for it as they want to break free from the cliché – like engineering or doctor, or they like writing (majority college students had this reason for opting journalism as they thought it’s all about writing) or think it is a ‘glamorous’ and ‘adventurous’ vocation!

Apart from these, seldom can you find students who are actually driven and passionate about the subject and thus opted for it. Or like me, just landed up here by accident! Whatever be the reason – college-level journalism is nothing but a teaser (not even a trailer) of what the profession entails! That I can vouch for.