Sunday, July 20, 2014

Core Qualities of a Good Journalist

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Lecturer of Journalism, Peoples Campus and RR Campus, TU.

There are old as well as new books, articles, pamphlets, seminar papers and studies on journalism coming out all the time. Judging by the contents of the mass media, you would think that what it takes to be a good journalist changes constantly. Journalists are born, not made, some say. But today, the majority of journalists working in mass media have a degree or diploma from a journalism school. Today more than ever, you have got to have computer skills and knowledge. Internet, blogging, online journalism and social media are making deep in-roads into mass media.

And sure, as times change, the culture changes and technology advances, different journalistic concepts might fall in and out of fashion. But I believe there are core qualities that transcend all of that. Though there are lots of qualities needed to become a good and successful journalists, the core qualities are: good writing skill, fearlessness, impartiality and accuracy. Integrity, truthfulness and honesty should be the mantra of modus operandi of a good journalist.

Madan Mani Dixit of weekly "Samikshya" and Gopal Das Shrestha of "The Commoner" were great Nepalese journalists in the 70s and 80s. In a way, Dixit and Shrestha were the pillars of modern Nepalese journalism in Nepali and English, respectively.

During my tenure of journalism in The Rising Nepal (1992-2005), I had the privilege of interviewing some of the Nepalese journalistic luminaries: Madan Mani Dixit, Bharat Dutt Koirala, Padma Ratna Tuladhar and P. Kharel. I never interviewed Gopal Das Shrestha but late Shrestha provided me with important ideas and suggestions for my PhD dissertation paper when I met him a couple of times in 1987 at The Commomer's office at Naradevi. All these prominent journalists of Nepal during the meeting with me emphasized the core qualities needed for becoming a good journalist. (Coincidentally, I was familiar with Usha Shrestha - daughter of the late Shrestha - who also went to a school in Minsk, Belarus.)

In what could be considered as a swipe at some of the opportunistic pro-Panchayat journalists of that period, late Shrestha (who was one of the very few people educated in the US at that time) told me that journalists should be able to expose the misdeeds of higher authorities, a thing that was never done by the pro-Panchayat "mouthpieces." The editorials in The Commoner (written by the late Shrestha) and his short articles were appreciated by what was then a small community of English language readers of Kathmandu.

There is no doubt that a journalist is part of an enterprise that is challenged by a multiplicity of problems and issues, and a good journalist is the one who is able to overcome various challenges, issues and problems. Journalists should always exercise sound judgment, and should be able to play the role of a trailblazer. The press is the watchdog of the nation. More often than not, the watchdog role of the press is sometimes misrepresented by some pseudo-journalists. Instead of playing a watchdog role, there are some newspapers which carry on obsequious profiles of "dubious and corrupt" businessmen and politicians thereby becoming notorious media lapdogs. A journalist should not bring discredit to journalism - which is regarded as the Fourth Estate - by disseminating biased and sometimes untrue news stories.

No wonder, some in the social media and online journalism, have sometimes derided the mainstream Nepalese journalism as pussyfooting vigilantes because they sometimes on purpose avoided  challenging super-rich tycoons and corrupt politicians. 

No comments:

Post a Comment