Pheroze Vincent is journalist, currently working with The Telegraph. In this interview he has talked about his education journey, internships, experiences in the field among other several other things. You can follow him on twitter at @pherozevincent
How would you introduce yourself to our readers who are mostly students across India?
I am a journalist with The Telegraph who learnt the ropes in Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, and in The Hindu and The Telegraph in Puducherry, Coimbatore, Delhi and Bhopal.
You graduated in Political Science from Madras Christian College; then you went for masters in International relations from Pondicherry University. Why did you opt for these subjects? What were your aspirations then?
Most of my reading in plus two–when in studied science in Chennai– was non-fiction, mainly contemporary politics. Studying politics was a natural choice for graduation. I had also applied for engineering, but I began to enjoy my BA course so much that I skipped the engineering counselling. After BA, I was not very sure about what to do. I had an offer from a technical writing firm, but I was more interested in international politics so I chose Pondicherry University. I did not clear the entrance for JNU, which is a better choice for international studies. Back then, I did have aspirations to be a diplomat but I took up journalism instead after an internship with The Hindu, Puducherry. I ended up not applying for the civil services.
What motivated you to pursue a career in mass communication? How you landed at Asian College of Journalism?
I had applied for higher studies in JNU and PU. I was scheduled for an interview in JNU and had go admission for direct PhD in PU. I had also applied for journalism and chose that instead because the deadline to pay the fees was before my JNU interview and the fee was not refundable. It was a one-year course and I thought it would do no harm to give it a shot.
Could you tell us about your internship experiences? How much internship matters?
I am what I am because of a fortnight-long internship with The Hindu, Puducherry where I covered everything from politics to crime and city features, besides editing work. the internship helped me get selected to ACJ. My experience was wonderul because of very cooperative seniors like S. Nadarajan, Rajesh Nair, Deepa Ramakrishnan and Singaravelou sir.
You started your career from The Hindu? How you managed to get placed there? Your role and experiences.
A friend of mine who was selected to The Hindu, could not join due to personal reasons. I got selected for his job, because I had good grades in my diploma. It was sheer luck and it helped that the editor knew a grand aunt of mine–who is very strict, and the editor assumed that I would be disciplined, which I tried to be. I wrote travel stories, food reviews, trekked the Nilgiris, did features on education and health and covered spot news, besides desk work. My fundamentals were built there in The Hindu, Coimbatore.
How much grades matter in securing a job in main stream media? Tell us about other factors which plays a major role.
More than grades, it is one’s ability to tell a story. It’s a constant learning experience every day. Being well connected may help you get your foot in the door, but after that its hard work that counts. Reading fiction, non-fiction and news helps improve one’s writing and generate story ideas.
How would you describe your current job at The Telegraph? Role and experiences.
It’s a great job because we are one of the few Indian publications that consistently shows a mirror to the establishment. Indian news is at a crucial juncture where the nature of news and the methods to gather it are rapidly changing. The Telegraph, thankfully, maintains its ethics and independence.
I cover Delhi and Jharkhand-related news. Over the last year, I have covered university unrest, racist and communal violence and the evolution of the AAP. It is truly a roller coaster ride that I am enjoying a lot.
What are the pros and cons of making a career in print journalism in today’s digital world? Where do you see print journalism after 5 years?
I honestly can’t predict how different print journalism will be in five years. When I started in 2009, we were told that by 2020 print would be dead. In 2017 it is still thriving. Print, and not TV, is the analog for digital. As in, digital does not have a captive audience that consumes whatever is being telecast. Like print– where you have the power to turn a page and go from politics to sports– in digital too, a different story is a click away unlike TV where even if I switch news channels I don’t really have much control in selecting the news.
It is good to be a reporter in a print organisation that gives you the time to cultivate sources and space to understand the beats you cover. Most importantly, you gain the skill to write good copy under deadlines. All these are skills that are equally imperative for online journalism. There are no cons of print journalism per se. Hours spent at work is more for professions like journalism, medicine, law and police vis-a-vis management or IT. Wages in print, especially Indian language publication outside metropolitans, is significantly lower compared to other white collar jobs. These are issues one is aware about when you choose a profession. If you value the thrill of writing more than comfort, then journalism is the apt profession.
What role ethics plays in today’s journalism? If any. Or has it become totally market oriented?
Journalism has always been market oriented. The market or any other stable economic system is not devoid of ethics. Basic ethics of truth and fairness are the hinges of any social system that has a future. Almost all news organisations are private. Advertisement revenues pays wages, and most importantly pays the cost of journalism which involves travelling and running an establishment that allows people to find news and publish it. Any publication without ethics loses the confidence of the reader sometime or the other. Trust, once lost, is almost impossible to regain– as is readership.
How beneficial is the degree of Mass com in becoming a journalist? What if a Law or sociology graduate wants to pursue career in journalism?
I have friends who are lawyers, engineers, sociologists and museologists who are very good journalists. A degree in Mass Comm introduces you to what journalism is all about. You also make friends who are your contemporaries in journalism and you help each other on the job and in life.
How working at National Bureau is different from being the correspondent of Madhya Pradesh?
Being an outstation reporter is a dream job because you are not confined to a beat nor do you have the confines of an office (or a weekly off). National bureaux deal more with policy-level stories which are often not as exciting as field reports.
What would be your parting message to students who get inspired by your work and wants to follow your footsteps?
Please don’t follow my footsteps. I have several journalists I try to emulate. I try to tell a story like Sankarshan Thakur, Rasheed Kidwai and KP Nayar, cultivate sources the way Nishit Dholabhai does, deal with newsroom challenges like Pankaja Srinivasan, develop insights
like Manini Chatterjee, develop a sense of news like Mukund Padmanabhan’s, edit copy like R. Rajagopal, plan a page under short deadlines like Ziya Salam, give structure to random pieces of information the was Khogen Singh does, investigate like Nitin Sethi, have the rigour of Charu Kasturi and Shemin Joy. These are all people I had the fortune of working with and befriending. Follow work, follow ideas, follow styles. To follow individuals or not is a philosophical question everyone has to answer for themselves.
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