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In Television, one has to be a jack of all trades and master of (at least) one

"Media education has to be practical and industry-oriented to produce quality professionals matching the need of the hour’ - TV Journalism Career Tips by Nilambar Rath, News Head, ETV Oriya in an exclusive interview to HNF"

HNF Correspondent : March 10, 2008

Nilambar Rath News Coordinator ETV

Nilambar Rath started career as a fulltime journalist in 1994 at Chennai as the Asst. Editor of 'Sachitra Vijaya' (monthly feature based magazine brought out by Chandamama Publications). Later, he worked in Oriya dailies 'Anupam Bharat’ and 'The Sambad’ before joining the launching team of 'ETV Oriya' in 2001. Based at Hyderabad, Mr. Rath now heads ETV Oriya News Team.

HNF: What are the challenges normally an electronic media journalist does face?

NR: Electronic media, especially television news, is a very dynamic and challenging medium. To be successful in the platform one needs to have deep passion towards the trade, a pleasant personality and, essentially, 101 per cent professionalism.

One of the main challenges a television journalist does face (throughout his career) is working against deadlines. In TV newsrooms, especially in a breaking news situation, every second is the deadline! Continuously meeting those deadlines and performing is a huge task and, of course, stressful.

In today's cutthroat competition staying ahead of the competitors is also a big challenge for any TV journalist. Normally, he scores who comes on the screen first. So one has to be very potential and prompt to hit the audience with a fresh stuff first with properly crosschecked facts, as wrong information puts the credibility of journalist and channel at stake.

You also have to be creative and innovative to hold the viewers with your band through the power of your content and presentation - be it an investigative story or breaking news, a special story or a feature. Journalistic skills alone might not help you achieve the extra miles; you have to perfectly understand the medium, know the technological developments and stay connected with your audience.

HNF: What are the essential points a TV Journalist should always have in mind?

NR: In my observations, television news is all about managing 'Team' (talent, task and team work), 'TAM' (scoring in viewership figure) and 'Technology'. I call it 'the 3T strategy'. If you have the right kind of talents (of course, you track them and make them) and you nurture in them leadership quality and team spirit; you have got the right kind of technical infrastructure; and finally, you read the pulse of the audience (meeting their expectations from time to time through strategic content) there is always a chance of finding your show at the top of viewership report

Television is a medium, which needs a full proof strategy in the core areas like content planning, development, presentation and other technicalities. You require the right set of skills, in addition to your hard work and smart spirit, to be successful and continue as a leader in your market segment.

Television news is the most dynamic platform among all the audio-visual mediums. Here, in the content and presentation fronts two things are crucial - the ideas or the concepts that makes a storyline, and the way of one tells the story. They are the key drivers of the medium. I observe, some journalists do not understand the meaning behind this mantra and use the TV screen to publish another newspaper. Here, reporting a story 'visually', writing a story 'visually' and presenting a story 'visually' are the real issues because, it’s the medium of visuals and sound.

HNF: What makes a TV Journalist stand out in the crowd?

NR: Being the most appealing form of catering information, television news plays a very vital role in the day-to-day life of the people. However it is true that all that happens around us do not make the news or all that are shown on the screen might not impress the audience. Now one of the greatest challenges TV journalists do face is to decide instantly on 'what is to be shown' and 'what is not to be shown'. And more importantly, 'how it is to be shown' too. This is how one also demonstrates professional ethics and stands out in the crowd! 

To perform the job well and match the industry requirements, one has to upgrade the core skills from time to time. It could be possible through regular interaction or training, initiatives to broaden exposure, lot of reading and observations and by innovations at the individual level. It is not only required for the students or the freshers in the industry but also true for the senior media professionals placed at different levels. In the state of Orissa, I observe, another major challenge an electronic media professional is facing today is lack of adequate practical education and professional training.

To become a successful electronic media professional one has to sharpen his edges and develop soft skills in the core areas like journalistic abilities, language and communication skills, production knowledge, leadership qualities and be focused on time, team and task management. It is nothing but a thorough preparation to meet the core challenges of today and tomorrow, and stay at the top. Today most of the youngsters feel that they should either be a reporter or a news anchor. But Television is not just about reporting or anchoring; it has few other important branches (like writing and producing) also where you can prove yourself and draw maximum job satisfaction. Deciding the stream is no less a challenge for a student or a fresher who is opting television news as a career.

My mentor and the Chairman of ETV Network (and Ramoji Group Companies) Sri Ramoji Rao always alerts us saying, 'change is the only thing which is permanent'. I believe, coping with the 'change' and getting adapted to it are perhaps the biggest challenges for a television news professional, today!

>>> Scroll down to read rest of the Story


HNF: Whether knowledge on TV production and video editing is essential for a television journalist?

NR: Yes, very much. It is not only important that 'what you say' but also 'how you say' it. 'How you tell the story' largely depends on the production skills and the tools you apply in the trade. 'Production' is a large umbrella, which covers a broad part of both 'input' and 'output' operations. Similarly, visual editing is an important and integral part as it ultimately makes a story powerful (or lost in the crowd). It doesn't matter whether you are a television reporter, copy editor or a producer. To integrate the content with the presentation style, in television, you need to know the basics of television production and special treatment styles and, also, tricks of story packaging. 'Shooting for the editor' and 'writing for the visuals' are two basic mantras, which are strictly practiced by the reporters and copy desks respectively. These two primary aspects - shooting and writing the story - are broadly connected with the core aspects of television production and video editing.

As a content person, you need not have to operate the camera but you should know how to use the tool to get the best out for your story. Similarly, as per your job title you may not be supposed to touch the editing machine, but you should be in a position to put across your ideas and guide the video editor to give your content the best presentation style. In today's highly professional film making world it is seen that many among the effective and successful directors are good technicians of the industry (like cinematographer, technical editor, sound designer etc.). Their technical insights help them deliver the best even as a director. The same can be applied for television professionals. Basic journalistic skills and experience are the must for all. But, in TV medium (electronic medium in general), technical skills and exposure not only add feathers to your cap but sometimes also make it impossible to step ahead without them.

HNF: Electronic Media journalists, especially TV reporters and producers, do face more challenges in field and workplace than their print counterparts. What's your view?

NR: I have already put forth some of the points in my earlier answers. One most important thing about a TV reporter is that he has to capture the right kind of footage from the right locations and place them on screen faster than his competitors. It's not an easy task, always! Sometimes, a great news (an investigative one or a breaking or exclusive) could be a mere coincidence too. You were right there at the right time, so you got it exclusive! It is same for all the mediums. But such occasions come rarely and fortunately. Whether it is a hard work or a coincidence, the biggest challenge in TV news, unlike print, is to be at the location at the right time. The print guy, sometimes, can manage a story without reaching the spot; the television reporter perhaps can't afford to be absent at the spot of News.

In print, many journalists need not be serious about the production aspects. You understand the news and you know how to write it. That’s it! There are others who take care of the production. But in television one has to know the production disciplines to effectively shape up as an audio-visual content. So the TV journalist has to be more techno-savvy in compare to his print counterpart. Live is an inevitable and day-to-day part of television news operations. So one has to understand the medium and use certain skills while delivering live (or facing the camera) unlike his print counterpart.

Today's Television journalism has become very competitive so needs certain level of energy and strategic planning in the part of the man who is into it. It is about reporting, writing and producing. So in television one has to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of (at least) one.

HNF: What are the key points that lead a television journalist towards success?

NR: Primarily, two aspects - pure Journalism and Professionalism - are crucial to be successful in television. One has to develop the right kind of attitude in addition to the right skills needed for the medium. Secondly, as a present or next generation electronic media professional you have to be highly positive, proactive, energetic and enthusiastic and develop an analytical mind. You have to be focused on the tools and techniques of the trade and always project people's issues. Be sensible, practical, highly creative and learn the area called aesthetics (it has got a great meaning in television). Use your common sense and respond to situations quickly. Be disciplined (planning and strategy starts from discipline!) whether you are a team player or a team leader. Be great at generating ideas and concepts and show promptness in implementing them. Develop language skills to a great extent along with abilities at good presentation and communication. Yes, a cool and flexible mind and a sound physic will ease the journey to your destination.  

I find that many young TV journalists are weak at writing. It affects their performance at handling news and features stories in reporting front and copy desk. They too look poor on-camera due to their inadequacies in the language they operate. To overcome this issue, one has to read and write a lot and continue this habit to master a particular language. Media students and freshers of the industry should focus on this area from day one.

Do create interest in research to go the extra miles. Research makes a thought further crystal clear and adds value to a great extent too. It makes the story convincing and powerful and helps to connect to your audience better.

To become a good television professional one has to focus on the physical appearance and the voice too. They can be treated as two key and practical tools for your success in the medium. One can't change the basic features of the physique, which is given by the God. However, we can certainly build or shape up a good personality with little care and conviction.

HNF: How do you see the future of television news in Orissa, especially the growth of the industry and its contribution to the growth of the state too?

NR: I see ample growth of the industry in Orissa during the coming 3 to 5 years. Presently there are only 2 private players in the Satellite space. ETV Oriya, which was launched 6 years back had set many new trends in the Oriya television Industry. The other had gone sky just a year back. As far as the advertisement business is concerned, Orissa has got a small market in comparison to our neighbours like Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. AP has got a huge business potential and that is why the number of channels have gone up to 10 including five 24/7 news channels. The state has largest Cable and Satellite penetration too. Especially, we had seen many new players getting into AP sky in the past 2 years. Similar is the case of Bengal. Many new players are also preparing their ground to compete in these markets.

For new players coming up in a market, two things are crucial - one: the business potential and two: the Cable and Satellite penetration. When the first yields direct business from the advertisement market the other generates revenue from the consumers as monthly subscriptions (if the channel opts to become pay). I believe, the coming decade is very crucial for Orissa and it will certainly bring some substantial growth to the Satellite television market in Oriya segment. It can thus result in creating more space and opportunities for both young and experienced media professionals of the state. At this moment, if I am not wrong, every year Orissa is producing over 400 journalists through 10 to 15 media institutions located across the state. As there is a dearth of 'quality and trained professionals' in the Oriya television space (in comparison to the market demand), today, these institutions, perhaps, have to come up to a level with best faculty and academic infrastructure to meet the expectations of the industry and provide high quality and practical oriented media-education to the new generation students and professionals.

And finally, as I see, media expansion in Orissa in the coming years will certainly contribute to the socio-economic growth of the state to a large extent.



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