March 02, 2016

Explaining my 'D' grades in reporting

In previous blogposts, I've pulled no punches in dissing reporters who habitually turn in shoddy work. As a sub-editor and a perfectionist, seeing those pathetic non-stories would make me cringe, much like chalkboard scraping. I'd give myself full marks (and an extra for the passion) as a sub-editor, but how good a reporter would I have made?

When I was learning the tricks of the trade in my J-school, we were required to go out to report once a week. I always dreaded that day. When the day would arrive, my usual chirpy self would transform into a nervous, quiet guy. To get a story, one is required to speak with a lot of people. That's what always proved to be my undoing. 

Having to approach strangers almost always left me jumpy. I once went to the office of the forest department, but couldn't bring myself to enter it as the board on its entrance read visitors were allowed only after 3 pm. For one story I needed to speak with random people on the street. I couldn't do that. In my first job, my editor asked me to do a small story. I went to the municipal office, but got cold feet and returned without speaking with anybody. 

In my J-school, this weakness got the better of me. In both the semesters, I got 'D' grades in the core elective of 'Reporting & Writing'. I'm surprised I didn't get an 'E'. Towards the end of our course, I was put on probation and a letter was sent to my parents, stating I needed to pull up my socks if I didn't want to fail. I've no idea how I passed, but I hope this is a good enough indication of how bad the situation can get.

I don't know how or why I turn this timid sometimes. Diametrically opposite of foot-in-the-door journalist. I become heart-in-the-mouth journalist. It leaves me feeling small, under-confident and annoyed. 

The chickenheart/dragonheart dichotomy
It's not that I'm always this feeble person. When I was interning with The Hindu, I did so well as a reporter that I was asked to extend my internship by a month, at the end of which they offered me a job. When I'm at it, I'm really good.

Currently, I'm in that too-meek-to-report phase. I've got this wonderful freelancing opportunity to keep my journalism career alive as I cut my teeth as a musician. I've got five story ideas, two of them super relevant and too interesting. Every day I vow that tomorrow I shall call up or visit the people I need to interview, but I'm finding it so daunting that it's getting stalled forever. 

It's not that I lack confidence in general or am wary of confrontation. I had famously put my foot down when our infamous, no-nonsense college director tried to browbeat us into shelling out 10k for a stupid Kerala trip. I had stood up for my gal pals when a busful of hostile locals in Bangalore were ganging up against them. I had given a 'reveller' a chase after he had tried groping my friend after a New Year party. I'm not a wuss. Only, at times I become one. And this is clearly one of those times.
I don't want to be a loser. Right now, I'm being one. I find it strange that I'm prone to hitting such lows. Glad that I know it's all in my hands. I might not understand why it is the way it is, but I've got my eyes on the prize. Gonna get there anyhow.

My current assessment
Coming back to the heart of this post. How good am I as a reporter? A reporter is as good as his last story. My last story would have been way better if I were not being such a wimp. It's still good, but not great. Underwhelming. Me as a reporter? I suck. A brilliant writer, but a featherweight reporter. 

I want to change that. For someone who wants to earn the moniker of "a reporter who rocks", I gotta party hard and work harder. Oh, I need to work on my partying too, but that's another blogpost.