A working journalist

August 27, 2020 § Leave a comment

The prospect of facing down and finishing my story (deadline saturday) felt so daunting this afternoon, that I escaped it by dozing off after lunch. Later, I was able to spend about 20 min on it, and even that made a difference — I got my lede (journalists like to spell it like that, instead of ‘lead’) in place at least up to the point where it only needs polishing up now.

I spent another 15 min on it after dinner and made a bit more progress. This is how I’m getting my work done, snatching 10 min here, 5 min there. A 30 minute effort, without interruption, is superb. I get a couple of those in a day, which is how I’ve made it this far. On the whole I get about three hours of real serious work done each day and that’s what has kept me going. I’ve managed thus far to not miss deadlines.

This is somehow tied to the rejection I suffered at the hands of my mother when I was 15 — that much I’ve figured out. And to  her expectations that I’ll be a world conquerer. Growing up, I chose science, because my father was a scientist and he was the ideal for my mum. I struggled through the science classes right through school and college all the way up to post graduation.

On the other hand, an English essay contest, for example, was a breeze and so were the history classes in school. Yet it never even occured to me to consider the arts stream as a career option. To this day, I don’t really know how I managed to clear my MSc Physics exams.

I became a reporter by sheer accident and it was the biggest break I got in life. The proprietor of a local newspaper, in Kannada (my mother tongue) had a small afternoon English daily and he took me on as a reporter and in addition to Rs. 2000 a month as salary, paid Rs. 30 a day for petrol for the motorcycle I’d borrowed from my father.

My day would start at 7 a.m. and by 2:30 p.m. or so, my copy had to be written out by hand on some rough cheap paper and handed in to the chief reporter who was my boss. He would edit them, also by hand, and then the copies would be typed up on a computer by a lady who was employed just for that any other typing job that might come along.

There were days when we’d be short of stories (journos call their copies ‘stories’) and my chief reporter would just hand me a photograph and ask me to spin a yarn around it. I’d have to typically deliver at least 400 words to go with that photograph. I was hooked and never looked back. I’d grab one copy of the printed newspaper from the printing shop downstairs as the newspapers came out fresh, and head home to read my story. I never even got a byline. Didn’t even know what it was for a while.

That was more than 20 years ago, and I didn’t know about the internet back then. My sister was smarter than me. She had friends, many, who taught her a lot and exposed her to a lot. I had gradually grown to be a loner.

In the 20 years, I must have changed jobs some 15 times. But I also worked at national newspapers, US-headquartered tech magazines, Bloomberg, Reuters, and for almost five years — only the second time that I’ve spent this long in one place — in my current job, writing on tech for much of my career.

#anxiety #depression #work #career #journalism

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