Omar Rashid is a Journalist currently working as the Uttar Pradesh Correspondent for The Hindu. In this interview he has talked about his educational journey and experiences in the field. You can follow him on twitter at @Omar
How would you introduce yourself to our readers who are mostly young students across India? Please tell us about your family background.
My name is Omar Rashid and I am posted in Lucknow as the Uttar Pradesh state correspondent for The Hindu. I am 28-years-old and have been covering UP since 2012. My work entails a lot of travelling and gives me the opportunity to meet a range of different people and brings exposure to different issues, especially rural. My parents are of Kashmiri origin. They have no association with the media business.
Where did you go for your school education? What were your aspirations then?
I was educated at St. Joseph’s School in Darjeeling, West Bengal, one of the oldest institutions in the country. Back then, like most of us, I did not know where I would land up but one thing was certain, I never saw myself doing the standard office job, with fixed timings. That made my career choice even more complicated since opportunities are few and far between.
From where did you completed your graduation? Your experiences at the college.
I studied Sociology from St.Xavier’s College, Kolkata. The course was academically heavy but also offered us insights into the vast depth of sociological potential in our daily lives. While in school I was active in sports and quiz, the college routine left me with so little time and space, I preferred to spend my free time with friends or exploring new places. As I grew up in the mountains, I would often trek to offbeat locations and that habit comes in handy during outdoor assignments today.
What motivated you to pursue career in Mass Com?
I had no particular interest in getting enrolled to a journalism school and did it only on the suggestion of a friend, who perhaps saw more potential in me. In retrospect, however, I would say that I could never see myself become anything but a journalist. I enjoy travelling and telling stories.
Experiences of your internships? Any remarkable experience that shaped your career.
I did not have any internship though I worked with a few self-help groups operating in slums of Kolkata. To be honest, none of these will directly help your career, but the rich experience and source building helps you later in the day when you are employed and on the field. In journalism, you are as good as your sources. More, the better. My experiences at the Asian College of Journalism, where I studied, played a big role in training me.
How important is the degree of Mass com? Which things an aspiring journalist should focus on?
It might be necessary to obtain a degree in Mass Com. or journalism if you wish to work in the industry but it is not the end of it. The course gives you a theoretical understanding of work but you actually get a sense of things once you enter the field, which is not as predictable as the classroom assignments. If you are in college and aspire to work in the industry someday, you should do these three things:
Read a lot (newspapers, books, magazines, pamphlets, social media timeline, and whatever your eyes can handle); talk to your teachers and make notes (get your queries answered, doubts cleared, contacts in place and the right background of the topic that interests you); always keep an open mind, never dismiss an idea and socialize with a range of people.
What are the pros and cons of making career in print journalism in today’s digital world?
Print journalism is getting more demanding today for a number of reasons, the rise of the digital medium one of them. There is additional pressure on reporters to do more special stories, get in-depth information that the online medium has not already. Having said that, the print is still the most credible medium, and I must say this, is also taken more seriously, though television has the potential to reach masses. If you are preparing for a career in print, be sure to brace up your social media skills.
How much grades matter in securing a job in mainstream media? Tell us about other activities which play a major role in securing a job.
Grades matter only to qualify you to the interview. The real test is the interview and the quality of work presented by you in the entrance test/assignment. You need to be well-informed about key news events and developments. Knowing the right people also helps. Contacts matter.
Did you find that your college had prepared you sufficiently for the many tasks you were required to execute during your internships and later at your Job?
I cannot say so. The college system in India is an extended version of school and does not provide you guidelines for choosing a career path. Whatever qualities you pick up are by default, not training or planning. It is up to the individual. But my journalism college did provide me with a real-life insight into the trade and I was fortunate to be trained by some of the veterans of the business. You do not become a journalist in a day.
How would you describe your present job at Hindu? Role and experiences.
My work is exciting and there is hardly a day where something interesting does not happen. We just concluded coverage of the 2017 UP election and that was a rich experience, especially in times when our society is changing so much.
What is your view on media becoming irresponsible and showing fact less episodes?
The media is an agency of power and ideally should act like a mirror to the government and the rich. But it has today become a proxy for the State and the power galleries. Since it has little accountability, such false news and propaganda programmes will continue. A question of who will bell the cat. Hope the new generation of journalists takes a more principled stand. But honestly, the blame goes to the owners. They determine the ideology of the paper. The more business oriented they are, the weaker the editorial.
What role ethics plays in today’s journalism? If any. Or has it become totally market oriented?
It is largely market driven but for a small section of the media, I assume, ethics still matter most. It is because of them the media has whatever remaining credibility.
What would be your parting message to students who want to be at your place?
Focus on your course, and keep writing or contributing to portals or websites in the meantime. Planning early is also very important.
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