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Journalism qualifications, March 2013

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Press Council of India is recommending basic qualification for Journalists in reporting & set up a committee. This is my take on the idea as a former reporter and now as an independent communication consultant working with the community in close quarters.

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Journalism qualifications, March 2013

  1. 1. Do Journalists need basic education??This is my post in response to Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman – Press Council of India,blog on the above subject – check (http://justicekatju.blogspot.in/2013/03/press-note_13.html).A great initiative. As a former journalist with Times of India, Indian Express & DeccanChronicle and now an independent communication consultant for clients – I feel it’simperative that some basic qualification is required to write a story or report an event.Despite an MA -Economics from Univ. of Hyderabad, used to be wary while reporting oneconomic or business issues and consult with seniors during my reporting career. Today,when I meet business reporters in leading dailies - feel sad at their competency levels andunderstanding of macro issues, RBI policy, GDP and other subjects but they write with gusto- unquestioned by the publication and at times, make a mockery of themselves and theirshallow understanding of the issue.With an onslaught of new media houses coming up in addition to those already present –it’s more a numbers game than a talent issue. In Hyderabad for example, there are 18 TVchannels in Telugu - if you see the profile of these reporters – their stories or style ofreporting is obvious and hence the viewership. There is hardly any TV channel that has aproper content plan but they run 24x7 news channels and keep showing the same pieceover & over again.Also, the lack of basic qualification merits higher attention especially when the reportagecauses great damage to an individual or firm with an inaccurate report with some damagingvisuals that have been fabricated. Unfortunately, it’s the responsibility of the victim to provehis innocence - the issue of rejoinder or clarification is getting lost in the process. The sheerlack of a redressal mechanism for someone whose reputation has been damaged by awrong news report makes it even more difficult and at times painful to trust the mediahouse or reporter.Clinical Trials, Microfinance, SEZs, Power Sector, Aviation, Telecom are some of the areaswhere my clients operate and I am always at wits end to explain how the media works withthe clients since irresponsible reporting is the default norm. TV channels run havoc withstories and visuals that have not been corroborated or cross-checked with the other party -basic minimum requirement and client then either resort to ignore the report or find ways to"Manage" the media in their own fashion.The job of a communication consultant gets very difficult to operate in these circumstancesand hence am keeping away from media relations purely on account of this lack of basicqualifications to report.Take the issue of energy crisis in Andhra Pradesh - 4-6 hours of power cuts imposed inmetros and longer duration in villages. The media reporting is only on power cuts, problemsfaced by citizens and farmers and closure of SME and how thousand are rendered jobless
  2. 2. due to power cuts. Not a single TV channel or newspaper makes an attempt to get to theroot cause of power cuts - why is there no generation happening in Andhra and whathappens to the large number of projects that are "in hibernation" unable to generate despitegetting requisite mandatory & regulatory permissions.The media is not keen to understand why projects are being stalled by activists,environmentalists and farmers and generation coming to stand still in Andhra. A celebrationof disruption called "Bhutalli Panduga" OR Festival of Mother Earth was organized inSompeta, Srikakulam District by National Alliance of People Movement - AP Chapter tocelebrate the success in stalling the 2640 MW coal-fired power project and it completing1000 days. A three-day conclave with different academics, films, radio plays and the workswere organised celebrating disruption - media coverage was huge in local dailies. Not asingle daily questioned what is the need for this three-day conclave, where are the fundscoming to organise such a large event - power for the function etc OR is stalling a powerproject call for such celebration??With over Rs. 75000 crore being invested in projects in India from Nationalised PSU banksand equity coming from promoters and some global PE firms - all currently stuck due to lackof political will, red-tapism and mindless agitation & protests by green groups - there is nopower projects taking off the ground. The banks will not question Govt. inaction or lack ofpolicy inaction; promoters are scared lest further delay is added to their project and hencedon’t talk in public for and the red-tapism and bureaucratic delay adds to the delay and themedia is laughing & enjoying the fun from sidelines.Just now there is a report of Credit Suisse, a rating agency downgrading Tata Power Mundraproject since the tariff hike sought by the company due to bringing imported coal fromIndonesia is unlikely to get sorted soon and hence losses of over Rs. 1500 crore will mounton the company. (Read: : http://www.firstpost.com/fwire/credit-suisse-downgrades-tata-power-shares-fall-656970.html)A SC bench of Justices HL Dattu and Ranjan Gogoi said recently: The moment a powerproject is to start, litigation is filed in court. If initially, the project cost is Rs 1000 crore, itescalates to Rs 10000 crore over the years and tax-payers money is wasted. They go onadd - No one wants power plants, but everyone wants bijli." (Read:http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-25/india/36546959_1_power-projects-kudankulam-nuclear-power-plant)Every sector has a minimum qualification as you rightly pointed out but journalismprofession needs none but they have the right to question how a company or govt. couldstart some work project without getting the minimum qualification to execute the same.Lack of understanding and nowadays, willingness to understand also and the pressure ofone-upmanship, pressure of advertising & TRP ratings are bringing a lot of disrepute to theprofession.As a former journalist and now an independent communication consultant - it pains me tosee the profession withering with such blatant violation of basic rules to function. Hope your
  3. 3. attempt garners sufficient support and some amount of basic guidelines are put in place forthe profession to become truly Fourth Pillar and not medium that doesnt get ample respect.Reach me:Twitter: @ChelluriLinkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/chelluriBlog: http://schelluri.wordpress.com/URL: www.sparadigm.inHP: +91.99490.93501Mail: shankar@sparadigm.in

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