Not biting TOI's bait
Ironically, it is the newspaper's huge financial success that seems to be turning media students away from the Times.
Friday, Apr 06 00:00:00, 2007
M R N
In the context of increasing circulation figures and charges of increasing commercialisation, it is heartening to note that newspapers are on a massive talent hunt for journalists (Ashutosh Nayak, 'Hyderabad newspapers chase journalism graduates', The Hoot, 22.03.07) and are making the rounds of media colleges across the nation. However, what must also be noted is that journalism students aren't exactly biting the bait, and when they do, it is for all the wrong reasons.
In journalism school campuses it seems that even the 'vastly circulated' Times of India is not an attractive option for the best of talents. The most obvious reason of course is that whatever statistics and industry pundits say, print journalism still ranks behind 'Corporate Communication' and 'Broadcast media' in terms of desirability here. Compare the Rs 12,000-15,000 offered by newspapers to Rs 25,000 offered by advertising agencies!
No wonder then that on a recruitment drive to a media institute in Karnataka for the soon-to-be-launched Bangalore Mirror, the Times Group managed to attract but a few students for the interview. But even those students with 'an aptitude for print journalism' who appeared for the interview, were clearly not impressed with the enviable pay packet that was offered (Although nowhere near the figures offered by the Corporate sector, the TOI offer is more than that of other newspapers). Far from elated over the prospect of bagging a job even before graduation, one undergraduate student walking out of the presentation declared, 'They are trying to buy us with money.' For the students, the Times excesses were a dampener, and the agenda of the proposed Bangalore Mirror - sting journalism - actually worrisome!
Ironically, it is the newspaper's huge financial success that seems to be turning media students away from the Times. And the disenchantment seems to take mere months to set in. Students freelancing for their commercial supplements declare after a couple of stories that they learn more about what good journalism is not than what it is!
Sure, questionable practices cannot be confined to only TOI, or for that matter only to print journalism. But it is just that the aggressive marketing strategies adopted by TOI highlight its practices more. Any student who freelances for any of TOI supplements will tell you that the first requirement of the TOI desk for a story is 'no depth, not too many quotes and not more than 400 words'. Not a hard job and at Rs 900 for 400 words quite lucrative for first-year undergraduate students, but the problem is that their class assignments are more challenging and more fulfilling!
Then there are unethical practices that cause dismay. To list a couple of experiences, one student who did a story on fashion accessories in another town found that the story published in her name was based in a newly-opened commercial complex in the city of publication with all her quotes attributed to different persons! Another was simply told to weave words on the computer and to stick to the ubiquitous 'what do you feel' questions in interviews of celebrities! Now the slogan in media campuses is 'TOI for pocket money and other newspapers (that perhaps do not pay) for experience and challenge'!
It is true that TOI has changed the face of journalism and made print journalism more lucrative. But unfortunately for the Times, journalism schools are still talking ethics and social responsibility and surprisingly, quite a few students do seem to see sense in this.. Till such a time, perhaps, Indian journalism is safe!