Wednesday, February 22, 2012

For Students of Print Journalism --- Lets Go crackingg

In a previous posting in 2010 in this blog I have described journalism as my OBSESSION – something which started as an adolescent love and incidentally has stuck lifelong. It’s a difficult ballgame to continue to be with it, I maintained and claimed that among the plethora of reasons for that, one factor that has been driving down the road is : I cannot do anything else. So when I decided to entertain request from some young friends to pen a few lines for the students of print journalism, especially in Indian context, I took the opportune moment as a challenge. I will not go typically in a class room manner. Actually, it must be understood that class rooms can dole out clerks to CEOs – but never a journalist. At least, I am not one. So, I start here with Development Reporting: Let’s keep the definition about news and principal facets of reporting for another day. In Development Reporting, firstly one needs to get its ‘initial acts’ together. For instance, someone with non-economic background should not try hands at reporting sectors or ministries like Finance. It’s not impossible but you will need the lady luck to come to your help. So let us imagine the stage for non-economic background students. So from New Delhi’s point of view – that’s is if you are based in the national capital, you are likely to cover ministries like Rural Development, Urban Development, Agriculture, Railways and a few more. Lesson number 1. Firstly, like all streams, you should have some basic information/knowledge about the beat you are covering. A ---- like who all matters in the beat (say Rural Development) --- who’s is the Minister, How many and who are the ministers of state (brief political background of each) --- Secretary, Rural Development and other key officials. B ----- Then what’s all happening in the ministry or department. (In Rural Development beat if u r covering it in circa 2011-12;;; You OUGHT TO KNOW WHAT’S MG-NREGA scheme (It is the flagship scheme of the UPA government launched in 2006 and is in news almost on daily basis for one reason or the other) Similarly, if you are covering Railways::::: you must know whose who of Rail Bhavan. - Unlike any other department, Railways in India has a Railway Board. So you should know who is the chairman? (A brief refresher knowledge of the railway ministers is must again) What’s happening with the Indian Railways? In February-March every year: the buzz is the railway budget. So obviously beat correspondents are expected to do stories in the run up to the Railway Budget. --- How well the financial position of the country’s largest land transporter is? What are its limitations? - How would the budget address the issue of financial balancing when fare hike is something generally DISLIKED IN INDIA. When was the railway passenger fare hiked last? What will happen to railway safety as train accidents are a major concern? So how will a reporter start his day: 1. Actually, he starts much before that d-day. He does his homework properly at least 36-48 hours before about the beat…. And he is at the job – obviously he does it hour by hour – episode b episode. 2. Then he should know (the government appointed) PROs or Information officers to the department/ministry. These information officers by nature of their job are more concealment officers. They will hide things which really make news and instead tell you routine stuff like railways’s freight income has gone in September to feb as against last year. This fact does not make any story. So THE CHALLENGE IS TO DIG OUT INFORMATION. --- it will not come overnight. Your intimacy will count. And top of these your nose for news. NOW FOR INSTANCE, pro could tell you the railway minister is busy today – he has gone to the Planning Commission. If this is happening on the eve of budget --- there is a story. Because Planning Commission’s say is vital in clearing several projects or even getting adequate funds for specific projects or general. == so your next course of query either from pro or some responsible source will be to : has the minister gone to planning commission to meet the Deputy chairman of the planning commission. If so what are the issues they r likely to discuss. It can’t be the minister has gone to the planning commission to ask about deputy chairman’s wife’s uncle’s health? Before we proceed :::: we must know who is deputy chairman? His equation with the railway minister? If they have held any important meeting earlier? If the relation is not good then a mere visit is a good enough hint for a good story --- but with details. Now imagine the meeting is taking place on the background the railway minister Dinesh Trivedi meeting the prime minister the previous evening seeking Rs 14 lakh crore additional funds for modernization of railways.. then in all probability you can link the same. ## Now yet again, imagine RD minister jairam ramesh has gone to the planning commission. - scenario will be slightly different. Though this also merits story.  Background:: sometime back, jairam and deputy chairman planning commission montek had differences over the poverty figures. --- the RD ministry had in the past interacted with planning commission members over ways to bring improvement in NREGA scheme… so you know how to connect these. Don’t forget: among the basic elements of news we know how News // News like episode is related to something else in the news. Conflict, and consequences r essential features in working on a news story. Enough for tonight, let’s c the reactions?

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