How many of you see a TV news anchor or Video journalist on your digital feeds and feel that their life is full of glamour and lights? And you feel “wow, I too would want that life”. Well if that’s your inspiration I strongly recommend that you DON’T aim to become a Video journalist in your life.
Because you have fallen in love with the outcome which you saw on the TV, and you are not aware of the process it takes to create one. If one wishes to become a video journalist, one needs to fall in love with the process of becoming one and not the outcome. Only then will one enjoy a fulfilling career.
Being a Journalist is one of the most progressive and satisfactory career one can have in today’s times. Today, Media is one sector which requires immense innovation and new thoughts. So there is a huge requirement and opportunity for more & more young minds to come and challenge the status quo. On the other hand, the job of a video Journalist is becoming more & more diverse, versatile, and on-the-spot. Hence, Video Journalist (VJ) of today and tomorrow need to be much more versatile than the previous generations. But before one becomes a VJ, it’s important to become a Journalist. Everything else comes later. So how do we start?
For starters, it would be advisable to complete your Graduation/ Post Graduation in Mass communication from a good J-School (Journalism School) which gives you a lot of exposure on-ground and refines your skills. It is very important to choose a good school to get the basics right. Indian Schools like Jamia Islamia, ACJ, IIJNM IIMC, etc. are prime prime examples. Colombia School of Journalism, University of British Colombia, Berkely School etc. are some of the best in the world.
In order to get into a good J-school, one needs to have command over his/ her language (Primarily English or Hindi) and most importantly news and current affairs. I must say this categorically: “ONE CANNOT BE A JOURNALIST IF HE/ SHE IS NOT AWARE OF THE WORLD AROUND. One needs to read newspapers, journals, magazines, watch TV news, YouTube, and other digital platforms and gain as much information and knowledge as possible. You need to make it a hobby of sorts. Be aware of all the basic developments happening in your country and in the world, be it: political, economic, social, environment, sports, etc. You would likely choose a specialisation or genre later, but basic awareness of all the genres is vital. Any Journalist aspirant needs to be more aware than a normal person of his/ her age. Therefore READ as much as possible.
A good college gives you good training and improvises your skills. One can choose in college whether to be a VJ (TV or digital) or a Print Journalist. A thorough course curriculum trains you well. But once you get on the job, things are different. So now let's get on the job!
“Camera rolling... Cue...” - As a VJ, you get used to these words. Remember it is cue, not action, the camera-man tells you. So a video journalist is not an actor performing on camera, but speaks about real events. Nevertheless, one has to enact via his speaking skills and visual presentation. Therefore a video journalist gets used to being in the spotlight. While you speak looking in the camera, people around look at you with dismayed eyes and observation. Therefore the most basic trait or skill required to be a video journalist is to get rid of your public speaking consciousness.
A video journalist cannot have stage fright. He/ she has to be comfortable with their personality and needs to keep improvising their speaking skills and delivery styles which will help him speak comfortably without hesitation in front of people. When I say improvisation of speaking skills and delivery styles, all it implies is articulation. Articulation of thoughts and reporting is the most basic skill of any Journalist, be it video or print or digital. One needs to be able to explain things sequentially. Articulation involves construction of thoughts in your mind first and eventually delivering those thoughts in the same constructed sequence.
Off camera skills:
News is something, someone, somewhere, doesn't want you to know. Hence as a VJ you are in the business of acquiring exclusive news, breaking the news and following up for more. Therefore you need to build a very strong network of people around you. These people could range from a peon in the office to a Paan-wala to a senior corporate executive to a CEO to an IAS or even a minister. Hence a VJ needs to be extremely social and should have the ability to create and nurture relationships. Apart from this, you also need to have immense knowledge of the subject you are covering. A good read and an in depth research is a must before talking to people.
As a VJ you shall meet many people in life. Much more than the average person does. You will get to learn the difference between your sources and your leads. A source is a ‘person' who gives you information which is not known to many people. A lead is a 'person' who will take you to that information. You will need to be extremely careful while filtering information. Credibility and reliability of information depends on various factors. Most importantly, since you deal with a lot of people and they could be your sources, never ever become a gossip-monger. Your information is your currency; do not trade it like a pop-corn.
Do not transmit information between sources from two different sides. People would want to use you as their data provider and their source in exchange for many perks they can provide you. Do not fall in that trap. You want people as their source and not the other way round. Doing so could be very risky and can ruin your credibility.
While you are on-the ground covering a big development like elections, riot, budget, or a war, anything can happen. While covering a riot some people might hurt you. While doing a sting operation you might get caught or while covering a rally some people might just hurl something at you just because they don't like the media at all. While covering budgets some people might not like your idea of criticizing government spends.
Usually people don't hurt or harm Journalists. But you need to be prepared to deal with such situation if it arises. In any given situation you need to have a very strong presence of mind and handle the circumstances with a calm mind.
Perks of Being a VJ:
Journalism today offers wide variety of perks. Intelligence, articulation, command over language awareness of the society, and social outwardness is something which you acquire naturally in this profession.
Apart from very good money which is available in the industry and fame one gets to create a robust network of people. Journalists are known to get work done, because they know so many people. Some of them you nurture for life. As a VJ you get many perspectives in life, meet many kinds of people. So much so, that you realize that life and people across the world are really subjective and one cannot understand the world in their narrow judgement.
As a Journalist you would want to do more for the society because you understand and know it so well. You can debate and discuss anything under the sun with anyone. And hence the urge to do more will always be there. I believe that more and more Journalists today should become Media Entrepreneurs. There has never been a better time to do it than in the internet age. If you choose to do that later in your lives, I shall see you on the other side. But more on that later! I would have to write a book.
All the best!
The author is a senior Journalist and Co-Founder of Street Journos that focuses on progressive genres in Journalism and youth. Previously, he has worked with ET Now, Exchange4media, NDTV and Bureaucracy Today.
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