A journey of a journalist

By on October 30th, 2020

Journalism these days is an attractive career option. It was not so when I entered the profession in 1976, immediately after completing my post-graduation in Economics. In those days, youngsters’ recommended career options were limited– IAS, IPS, engineer, and doctor. If one couldn’t make it to any of these careers, academics was the fallback option, and management was an emerging field.

After graduating from university, I was clueless about what I should do next. After the results were out, an urgency to find a job set in. Scanning the newspaper advertisements for jobs became a daily routine. One day, my father surprised me when he showed me an ad for trainee journalists in a local newspaper National Herald. It was a career one seldom heard of as a student.

I read newspapers to stay abreast of what was going on in the country but was a complete ignoramus for journalism’s role and challenges. I went by my father’s suggestion, not knowing what potential he saw in me as a journalist, and applied for the post. To my surprise, I got a call for a written test in English grammar, essay, and news writing. 

I had studied English literature as a subject in my BA and loved it.  Reading some of my father’s books also stood in good stead as I began writing my paper. News writing was tricky. While reading a newspaper, one hardly noticed the structure around which a journalist writes a news report.

A long wait followed. One month passed, then two,  then three, I was about to give up hope, but then the much-awaited letter arrived asking for an in-person interview with the editor, who was well-known and respected in the field.

I was given the opportunity to be selected first as a probationer, then as a trainee. At the end of two years, I received my confirmation letter, which began my exciting adventure as a journalist. There were ups and downs in life, but each obstacle was a learning lesson and made me stronger and resilient.

After the initial phase of struggle from 1976 to 1982, my career took an upward trajectory. In 1986 a journalism scholarship took me to Paris for 11 months, writing on different European issues. It was a great cultural learning experience.

My most exciting period began in 2001 when I joined as editor of the Lucknow edition of The Times of India, India’s most prominent newspaper. It was also the most challenging as I took on the powerful politicians of my state. It may sound immodest, but my shield against them was my integrity, which made the pen mightier than the sword.

In the years that passed by, journalism became a glamorous profession. Television journalists became celebrities almost overnight. Pay packets became heavy. With journalism becoming part of universities’ curricula, another job avenue opened for those interested in the field. I also got a chance to teach the subject at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, and Sharda University in Greater Noida. Interacting with young minds was indeed an enriching experience.

Parents’ attitudes toward journalism have also changed. Students from diverse educational backgrounds are now joining the profession, which now looks for specialists. It helps to be a good communicator with a keenness to acquire knowledge.

Atul Chandra
Senior Journalist & Author
20achandra@gmail.com