Why I never went beyond being a correspondent in 10 years?

It has been 10 years that I worked in journalism. 2003 May when I started as a rookie (lesser than a trainee) when I worked for free for nine months at Mid-Day Pune. From the 10th month onwards they started paying me Rs 3000…my first salary ever! I was 18 then. Mid-Day was a fortnightly and I was learning everything from Rupa Chapalgaonkar -the only editorial person there. We worked like pals…sometimes even stayed in the office when work deadlines burnt our asses. Mind you –fortnightly or weekly deadlines are deadlier than daily deadlines.

Then came the big break (seemed big that time) at Sakaal group with The Maharashtra Herald. I was 19 when they took me up as a trainee with Madhav Gokhale as my boss. I was there for four years when it was revamped into Sakaal Times. As Madhav Gokhale continued to be my boss, I was assigned various assignments from writing on macro-level civic issues to handling beats like education and health.

But this is not about my career graph. This is about the one thing that I have learnt on the job…the  one thing that will continue to be on my mind in any jobs I take up in future…the one thing that the worst boss in my career taught me.

In 2008 September I was interviewed at The Indian Express by the Pune resident editor Vinod Mathew Jacob. He gave me a written test which I cleared and I was included in the team. I had heard about his not-so-good reputation…but I thought more about the brand than the man.

It turned out that I was the new subject for his torture. There were many moments of mental torture –shifting beats every month so that I don’t get used to any single beat, pestering for stories so that I attended more of his calls than actually make any story-related calls, a number of insults in public… But the worst was when he stole my story idea –that of Iranians in India voicing against their newly elected President Ahmadinejad for his own national page one byline. And the second worst was when he put an under-performer remark on my appraisals in 2009 because the management had mandated him to select two persons as part of cost-cutting. Under-performer, which meant I was not filing enough stories, when the count was two per day or I was not filing enough national stories, when my national story ideas were being trashed or stolen or I was not licking his ass or was not drinking with him…

I thought of complaining, but never mustered the strength. I thought of resigning but the idea of being jobless was unbearable for someone who was used to earning her money since she was 18. One of my friends –also a journo from another publication suggested complaining MNS about the torture. But I was too naïve and always thought, ‘what if I complain and it backfires and I never ever get a job in journalism again?’ The ‘under-performer’ remark on my appraisal left me a correspondent for the next three years.

While Vinod resigned to join The New Indian Express, his successor found it difficult to recommend my promotion till 2012. The other male colleague who went through similar torture is now with PTI Mumbai.

2013…when I was finally ready for a promotion, I decided to get pregnant, have a baby and quit my job. I quit in May knowing that I would be getting a promotion in June...but my priorities were different. I want to raise my baby during her foundation years by myself and not get distracted by anything else.

I am ashamed I never stood for me then…I am ashamed I never fought him back…Sometimes I feel ashamed I was a journalist. But not any more…even if I was an “underperformer”,  at least I didn’t drink on the job, did not take perks from sources and never misused my press card.

After reading this, many would say I was a fool for not fighting back...many would ask why I am writing about him and naming him now? Many would question if this is my way of getting back at him, not that I am out of the fiels? The answer is partially yes. I always thought of giving it out in public. And now I have the time..

This is how some editors are and how some reporters are! After all journalism is a business, not a profession...We supposedly teach the world about fighting for morality and fighting for self, but here was a moral-less editor and a gut-less reporter.  But now that I am not a reporter any more, I will always be gutsy…


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