The title sounds too cliche. I know. But, in the last 20 months, I’ve been asked this question several times. The answers to which will be provided here.
I remember that I cultivated the habit of reading a newspaper (The Hindu) from Class 7 though I never understood what any of those news reports meant. Reluctantly, I used to glance at the newspaper, page by page, just to satisfy my father who believed that I’d learn good English from it (Those who subscribe to The Hindu are aware of this fact).
Even before that, I developed an interest for current affairs and politics. All thanks to my dad for imparting “basic current affairs knowledge” to me during dinner time, everyday. That interest in current affairs grew deeper and by the time I finished school, I was writing articles on the current topics. (EAMCET & Education System in AP and the evil of Caste System dominated the write-ups).
During my summer holidays, I attempted to write a piece to “Voice your Views” column of The Hindu. My very first one got published with my name. I was elated and sent the second one too. That too got published. That summer gave me confidence that I can write something that people can connect to.
That was also a time when our country was witnessing an Engineering & medical education boost. This trend caught the fancy of almost all parents in Andhra Pradesh as India was witnessing the IT boom. I told my dad I’d pursue journalism after finishing engineering (thinking I had no option). But, the saviour that he is, he told me to opt for B.A in Mass Communication which changed my life.
During my Mass Communication course at Loyola, I got the opportunity to freelance for The Young World and The Sunday Magazine of The Hindu. I realised that print journalism was my calling and opted for it.
I knew I loved seeing my byline in the newspaper. I always dreamt of it. During my PG Diploma in Print journalism at the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media (IIJNM), I learnt the basics of journalism from some of the best journalists in India and the world. They taught me the ‘right kind of journalism’ and made me what I am today.
I also remember going to the Media lab on Sundays at IIJNM and stumbling on “Why I quit journalism” articles by western journalists and, wondering why the hell would anyone quit such a dynamic profession. Now, I know why, despite having different reasons.
And, it was at IIJNM that I wanted to ace one subject. Just one. Never in my life did I ever want to stand 1st in academics, etc. But, in journalism, I knew I was good and I wanted to ace that one subject. I did it.
My first job in journalism was on the desk as a sub-editor. I did very well. I learnt how to survive among the most egoistic people in the profession and the best too; fought with one of my editors, survived the newsrooms chaos and was appreciated for my work for handling an entire edition (children’s edition of 12 pages) all by myself.
After that, I began feeling choked there. I wanted to quit because I was writing stories for someone else (as a sub-editor) when I had the skill to write my own stories. I quit.
I took up business reporting in another mainstream newspaper. This was unexpected. Business reporting was one thing I never wanted to experiment with and I feared it the most. Somehow, I had to face it. I risked it and began loving it. I also had a great boss who gave me the freedom to write on a variety of subjects. It gave me a lot of exposure and helped me develop great contacts from across the country.
While I was doing that on one side, I continue writing human rights/development stories which I had a knack for. These stories got published on various websites that belonged to the genre. My hands were always full and I never counted the hours (except for the desk work). That was how much I loved journalism.
My life revolved around journalism – from status updates, tweets, blogposts and several other things in personal life. I loved every bit of it. I made several friends who I met during the course of my profession and they’ve stayed.
I quit my job as a business reporter and sub-editor, freelanced for sometime. During this time, I got an opportunity to meet Chandrababu Naidu & interview him when I was working with a senior journalist from Christian Science Monitor on a story on elections.
Two months later, I got an opportunity to work for AP Chief Minister’s Office. On my way to the interview and a day before, I kept thinking about the risk I would be taking. 1. My journalism career would be in jeopardy because I’d be branded as one party person. 2. Is this worth risking & giving up a profession that is my passion?
That was the moment of truth. From my experience in journalism, I have seen that in mainstream print journalism there is no growth. I observed that even after 20-30 years of experience in journalism, I would be doing the same kind of work, except for a change in the designation. I knew I’d feel stuck if I stayed in it. I didn’t want that. I do respect those journalists who are still true to the profession and I’m glad I know a couple of them.
I always wanted something to keep me going. And, CMO was my calling. I took the right decision. During the time, I also witnessed how journalists had to take a stance post bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. I knew that this was not the kind of profession I wanted to be in where ethics became a forgotten thing and ego-pampering/negative propaganda took over reporting.
I’m glad I made the right decision. At CMO, I got to see the other side of journalism and journalists. And, I felt glad I quit journalism. Now, I’m working on something I believe in. Something that keeps me going and has growth opportunities.
Of course, I’m not aware of what the future holds for me. But, I’m at a happy place currently. And, I love that.
NOTE: The post is written based on my personal observations. It doesn’t intend to offend anyone.