Journalism as a profession demands adherence and determination, despite the challenges which is an embodiment of the profession. Being the fourth pillar of democracy, journalism adheres to the ever enduring job of informing, educating and entertaining the common man.
The electronic media has made its foray into Northeast India in the recent years and has been playing a pivotal role in covering everything from conflict to natural disaster, infiltration to insurgency, politics to economics, sports to culture and tradition.
Journalism obligates courage and passion; hence it is not for the weak-hearted or glamour seeker. MUMENINAZ ZAMAN profiles some of the exemplary television journalists from the region who relentlessly dedicated their diligent efforts to uncover the truth.
Karma Paljor, an award winning journalist and newscaster hails from the sole brother state of the entire Northeastern region, Sikkim. Being a passionate lover of the art of storytelling through the audio visual medium, he was confident about joining the broadcast medium. Paljor, completed his graduation from Bangalore, and later pursued his higher studies from the Xavier Institute of Communication, Mumbai and thereafter he never looked back. He got his first job at, “The Times of India” and later joined, “CNBC TV 18” in 2001. Finally, he associated with Rajdeep Sardesai and got engaged in, “CNN IBN” in 2005.
“I used to write a lot in school and fell in love with the concept of storytelling when I watched Sir David Attenbourough anchoring his BBC Natural History programme. This was truly my first exposure to the world of broadcast television. Since then I always desired to be a television journalist,” said Paljor.
Paljor has been in this profession for over seventeen years and was accoladed with Ramnath Goenka Awards for Excellence in Journalism, and was also honored with the Indian television reporter of the year in 2011.
Some of his exceptional reportage includes, exposing the flaws of the aviation sector in India. The investigation to frame the story of the clutter prevailing in, “Air India” nearly took him six months, and this bagged him the Ramnath Goenka award in 2011. He has also covered natural disasters, like the earthquake of Sikkim and Nepal, devastating flood of Uttrakhand, and Cyclone Phailin which again won him the second Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for on-the-spot reporting in 2014.
Currently, working as a consulting editor for, “CNN News 18”, Paljor says, “The northeast truly needs a voice in the national stage. My heart is in Northeast and its time to do something fulfilling for this region. I want to build a platform that would enable the people and most prominently the youth of this region to tell their individual stories largely driven by citizen journalism and it will truly lead to a global exposure.”
He further expressed that the satellite TV channels should spread their wings to cover the entire Northeastern region, which at present seems to be limited only in Assam.
A reputed senior journalist, an award winning documentary filmmaker, an author, and a farmer at heart, Mrinal Talukdar has cater his service for over twenty seven years in the field of journalism.
Talukdar, started his career in the print medium with, “The Sentinel” in 1989, subsequently he joined, “The North East Times” and then, “The Assam Tribune”. Later, he headed the Northeast bureau, when he joined the, “United News of India (UNI)” in 1992 and then the Patna Bureau. At present, he is the senior journalist of the Assamese news channel, “Pratidin Time”.
“I did not choose broadcast journalism at all. I started my career in print media in 1989 and in 2010, I accidentally landed up in television, but by then I was not in the mood to take it up as a full time profession. You can call me as a reluctant TV journalist,” said Talukdar, who also has interest in academics and research.
He has been passionate about cricket and considers all his cricket coverage, especially the World Cup 2007 in West Indies amongst his exceptional reportage.
Talukdar, who is very zealous about farming says, “I do farming near Biswanath Chariali where I have a small tea plantation besides fisheries, but I would like to focus on black rice and carpet grass for future. On the research front after writing, “Assam after independence”, my next work will be on the NRC.”
Raising his concern over the present scenario of the broadcast medium, he stated about the scarcity of job avenues as well as low pay structure and this seems to be alarming for the aspiring journalists. Moreover, he also felt that since most of the channels in Assam are in Assamese, this has left the English proficient students with no scope in the TV journalism.
Syed Zarir Hussain
Editor-in-chief of the satellite TV news channel, News Live, Syed Zarir Hussian has started his career with All India Radio and then switched over to print media and joined the “Press Trust of India” (PTI) at its eastern Indian headquarters in Kolkata. In 1991, he received a scholarship from the Rotary International to pursue a Post Graduate course in Radio and TV Journalism in the UK. At that time, India didn’t have a single private TV channel, but Hussain was optimistic enough that India would surely have private players coming up with TV channels. After he returned from the UK the TV industry started booming in India with the first independent TV channel, “ZEE TV”. He joined ANI and later worked for various news channels and now heading “News Live”.
From covering insurgency in the northeast during its peak years, to tracking the safe houses of the ULFA leaders in Bangladesh, were some of the challenging reportage of his career, however he also expressed that the journey of challenging coverage still continues.
“Determination and sincerity shape one’s career. I don’t believe in achievements, as personal landmarks have no meaning. I believe in working tirelessly and bringing about attitudinal changes in young reporters and colleagues working with me. By changes I mean, hardcore professionalism with a sense of commitment and accountability,” said Hussain.
According to Hussain, the electronic media in the northeast is a flourishing industry. But the industry demands well trained journalists who join this profession by choice.
Tearing apart the glass ceiling, women in the media have been significantly soaring higher in the past few decades. With a span of fifteen years of experience in journalism, Afrida started her career as an intern with Aaj Tak, an Indian Hindi news channel. It was during her internship when she was approached by the pioneer of establishment of satellite channels of NE Manoranjana Singh and that was the turning point of her profession. Starting as a TV reporter with the “NE TV”, Afrida is currently heading the Bureau of Northeast for “Sahara Samay”.
She deliberated, “It was my father who inspired me to go for broadcast journalism. My biggest achievement is my happiness as a dedicated Journalist. I am happy with my current position and I will perform my passion with full dedication and always hope for the best.”
Afrida, who also worked as a Programming Head of Radio Mirchi for a short span of time, considers TV as her passion.
Her report on the missing ULFA militants was broadcast by all national and international media besides a special story was also published on the leading international magazine, “Global Journalist of Missouri School of journalism”, Columbia. It needs to be mentioned here, that, during this reportage Afrida along with her camera person, Nitul Deka of NE TV were attacked by some miscreants and sustained serious injuries when she was trying to get access to the missing ULFA militants wives, however she was adamant enough and exposed the truth.
She also did an investigative reporting as an undercover reporter on a Jehadi, while she was working for “NewsX”.
Expressing her views on the present scenario of the broadcast media, she says, “Nowadays, TV journalism is hungry for TRPs. Here faces have more value in your report than the facts. I am not only happy to see lots of TV channels coming up in NE, but also hope that our channels will focus more into promoting the integrity, unity and overall development of our diverse society.”
Apprising, the aspiring journalists of the region she said, “At the end of the day, you need to be able to communicate in an engaging way, follow trends and do research. Be brave, come up with ideas and don’t wait for a platform, as now a days you can write blogs too, and social media is very much powerful.”
From covering bomb blasts, elections, pre-poll and post-poll, entertainment and sports, Prarthana had proved her mettle in various beats. She started her career in 2001 with “Prag News”, when she was just a first year degree student at Gauhati Commerce College. Even though her parents wanted her to pursue a career in commerce and do an MBA, she was always inclined towards the camera.
Coming from a family of footballers and cricketers, Prarthana also has a deep interest in sports, and during her course of journalism, she gradually decided to specialize in sports journalism. Her first assignment as a reporter in 2001 was also related to sports, where she covered the Bengal-Assam Ranji trophy net practice session.
“Initially I started off my career with Prag News, when Pranoy Bordoloi, Manoj Goswami, and Kaushik Nath, initiated an idea of having a news bulletin every evening, at a time when there was a very little scope of broadcast journalism except for Doordarshan in this region. They approached me and I readily accepted the offer and started my career as a reporter,” said Prarthana.
Later she joined ‘News Live’, in 2007, as a core member team, a prime time presenter, producer and sports reporter. In 2011 she shifted to ‘News Time’, as a sports editor. In 2012, she worked as a lead faculty in the media broadcast institute of NDTV, “NDTV India Can” for the east zone. Finally, she got an opportunity from DD Sports, Delhi, for the programmes like sports hour and Olympic hour. At present she is with DD sports, working as a presenter and a commentator, and cover sports news from all over India.
Since a tender age Prarthana loved the camera and it never made her shy or nervous. She acted in two Assamese movies, under the banner of Nip Barua, viz. Shakuntala Aru Sankar Joseph Ali (1984) and Aai Mur Janame Janame(1988). Moreover, as a child artist, she represented Assam in International Film Festival in Orissa in 1987.
Having an experience of over seventeen years, she was recognized as the best sports journalist by Electronic Media Forum Assam (EMFA) in 2011 for covering the Cricket world cup and Commonwealth games, Delhi. She rues, “It is good to see that a lot of TV channels are coming up, but dearth of good and meaningful journalism, lack of social responsibility and quality content due to TRPs are some of the drawbacks prevailing in the media industry.”
Expressing her views for the aspiring women journalists, Prarthana said, “I believe we need to prove ourselves so that nobody can ignore or avoid us, gain a lot of knowledge, choose your own beat, groom yourself not just by going to an institute and doing a course but by doing a lot of research, studying, and having a good knowledge on your language. And most prominently work on the ethics.”
Presently working as a senior reporter with the Republic TV, Anirudha Bhakat covers the Northeastern region. Contented to be associated with Arnab Goswami, Bhakat started his career as an intern and later as a news coordinator with the “NE TV”, in 2011.
“I wanted to take up a career in filmmaking, but later I ended up in news. The journey has been really great and I have no regret. I worked as a reporter as well as a news producer in NE TV, but the channel finally terminated the English desk in 2014,” said Bhakat.
The HS Brahma Report, which was broadcast on Republic TV on September, 2017 was one of the exceptional case covered by Bhakat. Apart from exposing the political corruption involved in the Foreigners issue of Assam, his confidential report also exposed the threat of illegal immigrants in Assam.
Bhakat also focused on the need to have a, 24*7 English news channel covering not only Assam but also the entire Northeast region. He further expressed that the local channels should work on their content, in a manner that can bring TRP which are intellectually rich, rather than becoming mere TRP mongers.
“Northeast has a huge potential, there are many untold stories from every village, street, forest and town of the region. We need to bring these untold stories to the fore. I hope the upcoming journalist will work to highlight the positive aspects of the region. The youngsters should not take this profession for the glamour involved in it. If one loves story telling, have a passion for adventure, and have the courage to call a spade a spade, only then s/he can make it to journalism.” quoted Bhakat.
Born and brought up in Silchar, Aniruddha Laskar has developed an enthusiastic persona since childhood. An ardent follower of channels like BBC and CNN, Laskar who holds a first class in Botany chose to take up Masters in Mass Communication from the Assam University, Silchar. During the initial period of his university days he got the privilege to edit some copies for an English daily from Silchar – The Frontier Sun and by the beginning of the new millennium, in 2000, he got his first break as a news reporter for a national Hindi television news channel – Sahara TV Network, and was posted to take care of the state of Tripura. Presently he is associated with one of India’s largest television company, the Network 18 group as Bureau In-charge South Assam for its News18 Assam NE channel.
Laskar, shares his journey as a TV news reporter which has been a challenging one.
“On the first day of my training with the Sahara TV Network in 2000, I was highly pleased to see a news of mine, which was not only heart throbbing but it occupied the place of a leading story. The sojourn that began that day, made me span the length and breath of the seven Northeastern states in due course of time.” expressed Laskar.
One of his dynamic expedition was when he played the dual role of a reporter and a cameraman for interacting with B C Khanduri, the then Union Transport Minister of India and Morshed Khan, the then Foreign Minister of Bangladesh. Laskar, was the only person being invited by the External Affairs Ministry for the trip to Dhaka from Agartala.
Another challenging task Laskar retrospect was the incident of a sacrifice of a buffalo by one Superintendent of Police (SP), who later carried its head on his shoulder to offer it to the Goddess. A talk show was aired between the SP, a wildlife activist, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi and Laskar himself, he considers this to be the most unforgettable event of his career.
Apart from that Laskar says, “One achievement that has touched my heart was in the year 2008. I along with, ‘Childline’, an organisation for the helpless kids, rescued an eight year old domestic help from one house in Guwahati. This girl interacted with my anchor in Noida from our Guwahati studio, and this news created ripples as I got many phone calls for helping this girl child. The child is now safe and sound and is on the verge of attaining womanhood when she turns 18 early next year.”
On a positive note Laskar highlighted that there is glitz and glamour in abundance, but one must know how to float with it, or get drowned in it. “This field can bestow you the power to make, or break, anyone’s life, including yourself, so stay true to yourself and the society that you live in.”