Mediawomen prefer TV

Manisha Jain | Updated on: Jul 07, 2011

LF08WFSB | Photo Credit: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

Despite tough working conditions and deadlines, many women journos are opting to chase news with a camera.

Lights! Camera! Roll! A young cameraperson focuses on an attractive actress who is very much in the news. As the subject sits cross-legged under the klieg lights, waiting to be interviewed by the anchor, a group of young professionals stand by for the shoot to begin. With a gracious smile, the anchor begins questioning once the cameras start rolling. After the recording is done, it's a mad rush to get the footage edited and readied for the telecast.

What makes this scenario special is that the cameraperson, the production persons, the anchor, the producer and the editor of this programme to be telecasted by a prominent network, are all women.

That women are increasingly making their presence felt as media professionals is well known. Data generated by the Global Media Monitoring Project 2010 (GMMP 2010), which had scanned 1,365 newspapers, television and radio stations and Internet news sites across the world, have revealed that female reporters are responsible for 37 per cent of stories compared to 28 per cent 15 years ago.

Less documented is the fact that over the last decade, television has emerged the most sought-after medium for young women media professionals fresh out of journalism school. They enter the field with stars in their eyes. Undoubtedly, the glamour quotient of television is a major draw, but there is more to it than that.

The fact remains that the proliferation of 24-hour television news channels has transformed the media scenario radically from the days when the State-run Doordarshan was the only channel in town. Television journalism today has unassailably overtaken print journalism at two levels: One, in its ability to disseminate information faster and, two, in sheer reach and pervasiveness.

This is why women journalists in television remain committed to their chosen field long after the glamour factor fades away. This, despite the punishing pace and tough working conditions. These women are more than willing to work into the wee hours of the morning. They don't think twice about putting marriage on hold indefinitely and are quite prepared to sacrifice their social life, given the pressures of prime time.

As Kumkum Binwal, a producer with Total TV, puts it, “I don't remember when I last spoke to my former colleagues in my earlier office. My personal life has taken a total backseat. For me, life is just about news breaks, interviews, sound bites and editing.”

But would she ever exchange this for the more sedate pace of print journalism? Kumkum firmly says, “No. I was meant for television. For me, chasing news with a camera is very exciting and gives me a lot of satisfaction.”

It has also given her self-confidence and emboldened her in her interactions with all kinds of people. “I have been trained to treat a criminal just as I would a perfumed celebrity on my programme. In this field, you have to be prepared to interact with just about anyone,” she says.

Of course, Kumkum is also the first to admit that her personal life has suffered a great deal because of the endless work hours the job entails. “I wonder what I will do after marriage? The timings are so unpredictable, you never know when you will finally make it back home,” she says ruefully.

Archana, who is an anchor with India News, echoes Kumkum. “At 27, I find I have no time to socialise and cannot even think of marriage, given the long hours. I am responsible for news bulletins and the deadline pressure is immense. This is the kind of work that you cannot drop midway. You have to complete your responsibilities before you pack up for the day, or night.”

Having been in television for more than five years, she has decided that once she gets married she will opt out and set up her own production house. “That way, I will be able to call the shots,” she smiles. But she is also clear that she would not like to marry a journalist because there would be far too many “ego clashes”.

Dolly Joshi of Focus TV, a recent entrant in television journalism, is very excited about her chosen profession and looks forward to reaching office every morning to begin yet another day of news gathering. She laughs as she recounts her first day at work, “I was so nervous and so focused on getting things right that I messed up the whole shoot.”

Like Kumkum and Archana, Dolly too has quickly realised that the job demands her total involvement and that marriage is a strict no-no. She has also learnt how important it is to be mentally tough. She says, “One has to be prepared to face opposition, even attacks.”

She has now learnt to read situations more clearly and discovered that a little diplomacy and caution can go a long way, “I find one has to be very careful about handling people you are interviewing, especially men. You have to be very prudent and cautious because you can easily be misunderstood.” At the same time, as a television journalist, she knows she can't let the important questions remain unanswered.

“People turn nasty when asked tough questions. Which doesn't mean you don't ask them those questions. One has to rise to such challenges and carry on with courage and determination,” she adds.

These are women professionals on the learning curve, but are they making a difference?

According to the Global Media Monitoring Project 2010 data, women mediapersons are breaking the stereotypes. Stories filed by female reporters are twice as likely to challenge gender stereotypes than those filed by their male counterparts.

But the challenges remain, especially that of biases and discrimination. Kumkum says her male colleagues always seem to get the creamier assignments and end up being more appreciated by the boss. “You would have thought that a profession like journalism would be relatively free of such gender biases, but that is not really the case,” she says.

Despite some prominent women journalists making their way into the highest echelons of television, most have to be content with lesser profiles and doing the drudge work. And, as in most other professions, the glass ceiling looms large. But as more women enter the field, this too will become a thing of the past. At least that's the hope.

© Women's Feature Service

Published on July 07, 2011
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