CAREER IN PRINT MEDIA
By Dr. Pradeep Nair
If you dream of making a qualitative change in the people's life, bringing into light the dark side of the society, have the patience to get along with politicians, bureaucrats, criminals and a myriad of persons desperate to get some ready to rush to work at odd hours, do night shifts; Journalism is one of the best careers to pursue.
Journalism as such is more than a career, it's a mission. A mission that generates your creativity helps you socialize, earn name along with your livelihood, bring to the forefront problems facing the society and help implement the possible solutions. These inherent advantages of journalism attract a lot of young graduates.
Scope and Areas of Work in Print Media
Print Media is the oldest form of media. But even today it is growing from strength to strength. Around 4000 small, medium and large newspapers and magazines across the county are registered with the Registrar of Newspapers every year. This indicates that it is a growing sector where employment opportunities are increasing with each passing day.
Most of the young aspirants who want to enter the print media prefer reporting, but newspapers and magazines also seek young talent as photographers, artists, editors, computer experts, librarians, and cartoonists. Students who have writing ability, graphics or photo skills, curiosity and determination and who are well prepared by education and training have less difficulty in finding a good opening in the print media. The well known areas to work are:
Editing – Editing means to plan the contents of the publication and to supervise its preparation. Newspapers have Editors who should have sound knowledge of newspaper laws. They need to put forward innovative ideas and establish the style of the publication. Editors must be able to coordinate the efforts of a team. They must possess a sound knowledge of their market, and take the initiative in looking for new authors and new subjects. In very large newspapers, there are associate or assistant editors who are responsible for particular topics, such as sports, international news, local news, supplements, special pullouts, etc. Administrative duties of editors include hiring writers, planning budgets and negotiating contracts with freelance writers.
Newspapers also have a large number of sub-editors whose job is to give a final shape to the story submitted by a reporter. Sub-editors acts almost like a gate keeper – editing, reformatting, objectively presenting each report, keeping in mind the general policy of the newspaper. They must be able to identify potential doubts, complications and mistakes in the text, inconsistencies or lack of adherence to the style of newspaper.
Reporting – Reporting in Newspapers and Magazines means to file stories about local, state, national and international events; to present different view points on current issues and to monitor the actions of public officials and others who exercise power. Newspapers frequently station reporters known as correspondents in large cities and in other countries to prepare stories on major news events occurring in these locations.
Freelancing – One can also work as a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines. Freelancers are not the regular employees of the organization. They are paid according to each piece or article they write.
Writing Columns – A newspaper appoints specialists for regular columns. Columnists, being assigned a column, have to keep contributing to the column on a regular basis.
Writing Comments – Well known people, who are authorities in their respective fields, are invited to write on topical issues in magazines or newspapers.
Drawing Cartoons – A comical or satirical sketch on political, cultural events is the job of a cartoonist. While established cartoonists work for some big groups, others are generally free lancers.
Working as an Artist - Illustrators and cartographers who specialize in maps and charts to illustrate data work in this medium.
Photojournalism – Photojournalism is an art to tell a story with pictures. People having an interest in photography with an ability to link it with a news story can work for newspapers and magazines as a photojournalist.
Nature of the Job
A journalist can work in various capacities in print media. The print has several sub categories like newspaper, magazines and news agencies, and also internet based news portals like Tehelka.com, Indiatimes.com, Rediff.com, etc.
In a newspaper house, fresh journalism graduates usually join as trainees at the news desk or the editing desk. After a couple of years, they get transferred to reporting. However, exceptions to this rule are common and some people join straightaway as trainee reporter also.
The hierarchy for reporters in most of the newspaper houses is roughly as follows - trainee, staff reporter correspondent, principal reporter/ senior reporter/ correspondent, chief reporter and special representative/ correspondent.
Working for a news agency is slightly different because of the tougher deadlines - not at the end of the day but right now. The ABC of news agency reporting seeks accuracy, brevity and clarity. The format of writing is very straight forward and to the point and does not allow any scope for speculation or analysis within the news story. Agencies like Press Trust of India (PTI) and United News of India (UNI) are 24 hours open and their offices are not closed even on Republic or Independence Day or on big festivals, which are holidays for the newspapers.
Reporting for magazines involves less leg work than newspapers. But it requires closer co-operation with the sources of news. Here, the distinction between reporting, editing and desk work many a time gets blurred and the reporter does all the work.
Where to Study and the Eligibility
To pursue a career in the print media one may attain a bachelor's degree or a post-graduate degree or diploma in journalism or mass communication. Courses in journalism are offered in English, Hindi and regional languages. Specialized courses in selected fields like page composition, layout designing and photo journalism are also offered. Apart from the professional degrees, other skills required are a good command over the language, good general knowledge and the ability to collect information and report events quickly.
Now a day’s most of the Indian universities offer both under-graduate and post-graduate programs in journalism. Graduates of any stream are eligible to opt for a post-graduate degree or diploma program in journalism.
Some of the well known institutes offering journalism courses are Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, AJK – Mass Communication Research Centre (MCRC) of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan units at Mumbai, Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram, Manipal Institute of Communication, Manipal, Times of India School of Journalism, Mumbai, Pioneer Media School, New Delhi, The Manorama School of Communication, Kottayam, St. Xavier’s Institute of Communication, Mumbai, Simbiosis International University, Pune etc.
Beside this, there are certain traits which a budding journalism graduate needs to know while opting journalism as a career. A good journalist should have – a keen interest in people related issues, an inquisitive nature, ability to meet deadlines and outstanding communication skills. Basically if you are not interested in what people have to say, their emotions and their achievements, you simply cannot function as a journalist.
The minimum salary as per government directive has to be Rs. 5500 to Rs. 9000 for reporters and senior reporters, Rs. 5000 to Rs. 10,500 for the chief reporters and sub-editors, and Rs. 7500 to 12000 for editors. Private sector even offers higher remuneration including lucrative various fringe benefits. However salaries offered depend on the publication house one is working with. Field journalists are given travel and stay expenses as well as allowances are additional with all pay packets. Freelancers are paid for each piece of work they submit. Self-employed also have good earning depending upon the nature and extension of their business.
Further, the bigger publishing houses pay far higher salaries than the prescribed grades of the Government of India. Entry level salaries range between Rs. 8000 to 12000, experienced Journalists get from Rs. 20000 to 25000 and Senior Journalists earn over a Lac per month. Editors of several publications draw salaries in Lacs as they are given globally competitive salaries.
Excelling your Skills
Journalism is one of the most important vocations. Journalists not only report news but are also responsible for searching out for new stories that might impact the larger society. Journalists are also responsible for shaping opinions and perceptions about key issues that are prevailing in a society. From the local to the national level, journalists play a key role in shaping public opinions and perceptions. Journalists therefore perform a special function and one that no other vocation does.
Journalism as a vocation has also been one of the fields that have seen a radical change over the years. Both print and the visual medium have grown exponentially over the years and there is always a demand for skilled professionals. Increasing competitiveness has also led journalism becoming a very high stress job where deadlines must be met at all cost.
There is also an intense competition for more readers and viewers in both the print and the visual media. Both print and media journalists have to battle the daily stresses of work and life in order to produce relevant results. The job is stressful and may involve very high workloads in order to meet tight deadlines. It is not a profession for the weak willed or the timeservers. The vocation requires passion and complete dedication from an individual if he wants to excel.
Good writing skills itself is not enough to excel in journalism. In addition to it, one requires an attention to details, because it is in these details that a story finds both clarity and meaning. Journalism also requires boundless energy and the relentlessness to pursue a good lead.
Journalism can be an ideal career for those who love to read books and write. The vocation offers them an opportunity to extend their natural talents and utilize them to the best of their abilities. There are also various streams within journalism that a journalist can specialize in. These specializations include sports, investigative, science and film journalism.
For people who are looking forward to a journalism career, there are so many things that they can do to move an inch higher to their dream. For young people who were already to determine in themselves that a journalism career is really the profession that they would want to pursue, they can start gaining all they need to be qualified for the job.
Young ones should be arming themselves with the necessary skills in becoming a journalist such as writing. To do this, they should practice writing articles more often and monitor their improvement. To be more knowledgeable about the craft, they should also enroll in various writing workshops where the resource person are the ones who have been in the industry long enough to share their first-hand experiences. Aside from meeting famous writers and journalists, attending writing workshops can also help you improve your craft and will introduce you more into the technicalities of writing such as styles, structures and the like.
To widen your vocabulary, it is also a must that you read the newspaper regularly. Aside from current events and news, reading feature articles in magazines and even novels can help you be familiar with certain writing styles that can help you in creating your own in the future.
When you get to college, it is best to take up a journalism degree giving importance to the practical assignments. Generally in a good institute, you will be trained in all aspects of the field. Aside from training your writing skills, the school will open you up to other possibilities of the field such as the business side and other fields that may help you decide which field you are really suited to. Here, you will also have the opportunity to meet the "masters" in the field and you will also be able to use the school publication as the training ground for your future journalism career.
Getting the First Career Break
Graduates can go in for an internship with a newspaper for supervised training. The latest trend in this regard is that big groups of newspapers advertise the posts of trainees in any of the above categories. After conducting the entrance examination, suitable graduate trainees, with a flair for writing, are selected and employed.
Almost all newspapers hire journalism graduates fresh out of college, though most of the larger papers (and many of the medium-sized ones) ask for prior experience. Therefore, the smaller the newspaper, the better your chances of landing that first job. It is advantageous to apply to newspapers that you know something about, newspapers where you have had an internship, and papers that are located in areas that are familiar to you.
Print Media organizations where aspirants can find jobs are:
News agencies and news bureaus like the Press Trust of India, Reuters, United News of India and Associated Press
Magazines and journals in English and vernacular languages
Indian Information Service (Group A) of the government, Directorates of publicity
In-house publications of large corporate houses
It is best to create your own opportunity by learning how to market one's self, coming up with a strong portfolio, and to know when the best time to break into the field is. Here two things are quite important. The first one is to sell one's self. This is a very important aspect because employers and editors would not believe you if you just say that you are good. During an interview for a position, try to mention some of your good qualities that can be assets to the publication such as resourcefulness, creativity, and productivity. The second one is the willingness to start small. If you are a fresh journalism graduate, don't expect that you will get the position you want right away. Since the journalism field is competitive, it is best if you will have mindset of starting small. Those who are enjoying their journalism career nowadays are the ones who underwent through the ladder of success.
About the Author
Dr. Pradeep Nair is presently working as a Research Scientist and Course Coordinator of PG Program in Development Communication with Anwar Jamal Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre (MCRC) of Jamia Millia Islamia (A Central University), Jamia Nagar, New Delhi. E-mail Id: firstname.lastname@example.org
source: employment news