Friday, November 11, 2011

What it means to be a TV news reporter-1

Commits alumna NEHA MEHTA (Class of 2009), who was the Times Now correspondent in Bangalore, gives television news aspirants an insight into the challenges of reporting: 

What is it like to be a television reporter? (Hmm… welcome to hell, people! Oh, I'm kidding! Or am I?)

Reporting is one of the best and, at the same time, one of the most challenging jobs in television journalism. TV news reporting has various aspects to it; the actual reporting is only one of many.

It may all look easy on the small screen, but in reality, it can be totally frenetic. To get your face on TV for those 60-odd seconds in a day you have to work like a maniac for the rest of the 23 hours and 59 minutes. But once your story is on air, the feeling you experience is something out of this world, especially when you know your story can change the lives of many.

There are at least three things to keep in mind if you want to be a successful TV reporter.

It's extremely important for you to be aware of your surroundings people, places, and, of course, information. Keep an eye on everything possible; sometimes the least interesting people can give you the most important story of your life. Also, please read newspapers EVERY DAY and, most important, watch other news channels, even regional news channels. This will help you to gather a lot of information that you can use when the need arises.

Your best source of information might not be someone at the head honcho level; often, to your surprise, it can be the ubiquitous chaiwala who sits around the corner. I was primarily a political reporter and I would get much of my information from the chief minister's driver, gunman, watchman… never from his PA. So make as many friends as possible because 'har ek friend zaroori hota hai'.


SCRIPTS AND PTCs: Your script should have an interactive feel to it and you should always “write to the visuals”, this will help to explain your story better. Don't try to tell your audience too much, nor give them too little; at the same time, don't ever consider your viewers to be simpletons don’t try to give them information which, more often than not, they would already know. Don't keep asking them questions in your story, probably once is more than enough. Your story always has to be future-looking; otherwise why will your viewer come back to your channel?

Coming to PTCs or the Piece to Camera (also referred to as the P2C), please remember this is your only claim to fame on a news channel. So be presentable, well-groomed, and confident. Your looks can sometimes add credibility to a story.

ON THE "PERSONAL" FRONT: All this was very technical. Now for some “personal” advice. It is very important that you be yourself. It takes a lot of hard work to be a part of a news channel. You will have to work insane hours and days without leave and, of course, appreciation comes once in a light year.

When you have a story in mind go and find out everything about it. Think of ways you can shoot and script it. Think about how this story can be beneficial to people around you; after all, the press is the fourth estate and we journalists carry the baton of responsibility for society. You can get vulnerable in such surroundings but it depends on you how you hold on to your ethics and values. It's very easy to sensationalise news and sometimes your news channel might ask you to do so, but I think it's you who needs to decide where you want to draw the line.

THE TIMES NOW EXPERIENCE: As for my experience with Times Now, it was the best reality roller-coaster ride of my life. Sure, I had my ups and downs but who doesn't?

I enjoyed my stint as a TV reporter because after working hard on my stories I would see them on air and that would give me the best feeling ever, something I don't think anything else can give me in my life.

Not a single day in my life was identical once I joined Times Now. Every day was a different challenge; there is so much pressure when it comes to deadlines that I was constantly hounded for stories and ideas and for months I wouldn't get a day off. Come rain, come shine we had to work and deliver. That’s when I would think back to my days at Commits, the days when Ranita Ma'am would tell us students to pop a pill and get to work. There is no escaping, folks. :). Or, as Ramesh Sir would say, c'est la vie.
  • Neha Mehta, who moved to Kolkata after marriage, is now the executive creative director of D'Oh-Boy!, the city's first doughnut cafe. 
  • Want to know how to have a successful internship at a TV news channel? Read this post.