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December 10, 1999
A Journalist First...
It's important to think of yourselves as journalists first, rather than think about yourself as a male/female journalist, a minority/majority journalist, an Asian/American journalist etc.
It's important to be focussed on becoming the best journalist and create your own opportunities. Combine that with hard work and this is an industry where you can succeed.
Do work hard but also make sure that your work harder than others. Seek out people who can teach you and help you achieve your goals, look for opportunities to increase your skills.
Another thing you must remember is that, in this field you have to pay your dues. You cannot start out seeking assignments to cover the White House or getting the biggest business beat. Do assignments which others don't do or perceive as boring. Good work does not go unnoticed. Generally, lot more Indians tend to do well because they have a great work ethic and they set themselves to achieve their goals.
My Don'ts would be the opposite of my Do's.
I don't want to sound like an old man but I find that the current generation is not prepared to work hard. As baby boomers it was beaten into us that you can't expect things handed to you. You got to have your own initiative and the willingness to go that extra mile.
Everyone brings with them their cultural presence. As an ethnic minority, you don't need to do anything towards that. Just the presence creates that impact on the group as a whole. The problem with being an Indian here is that this country does not understand India. The only time India gets attention is with major events like Mrs Gandhi's assassination, or a chemical plant problem, nuclear testing.
So the roles an Indian journalist plays here is always a difficult one as compared to leading minorities like African Americans.
In the mainstream media we do come across stories that would not be there had it been some other ethnic community. You cannot stereotype Sikhs, for example, as militants. The same media is sensitive about portraying Islam. But the presence of a large number of Indians in media would eventually change that. They would bring with them an inherent sensibility towards the issues concerned.
However it still helps to think of yourself as a journalist first and build credibility for your work. I don't ever believe that just because one belongs to an ethnic minority they should cover only that beat.
As told to Shubada Deshpande
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