Friday, 18 July 2014

How to win a Journalism Fellowship: Tips & Warnings before applying

Media Fellowships are the journalism industry's equivalent of rock bands winning big recording contracts with major labels. It is an incentive professional journalists covet; it makes your record of credentials and achievements heavyweight. Two dimensions of engagement define why fellowships are highly valuable:
  • The entire objective of fellowships appeals to engaging an exceptional set of industrially relevant skills. Meaning, only the best skills get to take down a fellowship.
  • Fellowships appeal to accomplishing goals that are otherwise esoteric and specialized, at least in terms of engagement. Experience is one thing; specialization is another. Normally, fellows possess both hard heuristic knowledge and experiential skills.

At the time of writing this blog, the Inclusive Media-UNDP Fellowships (2014) for Journalists was accepting applications from Indian professionals in the media. I can imagine the degree of competition. Beat Reporters from across India are applying for it.

Range of grants & monetary awards

The grants that come with being a fellow are generous. In India, they range from Rs. 50, 000 to Rs. 2.50 lakhs per fellowship. The median is Rs. 1.50 Lakhs. The United States and Europe – every, where the ultimate journalism experience is, offer significantly bigger grants. US grants fall in the range of $ 6, 000 (approximately Rs. 3, 61, 529) to $ 25,000 (approximately Rs.15, 06,374).

Having stated that, the personal rewards from winning (and accomplishing) fellowships are even bigger: your expertise and capability receive exposure before the eyes of the industry, you learn new skills and insights, and your niche and industry quotient climbs even higher. 

No wonder that fellowships are only for news professionals that have what it takes to make it.   
That is the reason why experienced journalists are meticulous and focused when preparing their applications. There has to be something about a fellowship that has only 10 journalists winning, out of 500 that applied. Yes, there has to be something. That ‘something’ is preparation.

The first ever Media Fellowship I received was the Panos Asia award in 2009, which, unfortunately, saw limited publication for various logistical and interpersonal reasons.

In 2010, I was fortunate in winning another. This time, it was the All-India Journalists’ Inclusive Media Award from the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). Only 10 journalists from across India made the All-India Journalists’ Inclusive Media Fellowship. Being one among the ten, and the only journalist from the North East Region, remains an honor for me.  Since then I have picked up a few more, and missed several.  Here are a few tips, suggestions, and insights if you are seeking your first fellowship to declare it in your Resume.

Preparation

As stated, there has to be something that puts you ahead of the pack. That ‘something’ is preparation. Preparation is a goal unto itself. The task encompasses time management, research, backup, design, and prioritization of goals. Somebody said, ‘well begun is half-done.’ 

I know journalists who had incredible project ideas but failed to translate them into projects, thereby missing the opportunity. Start planning; gather the required materials; seek the advice of seasoned journalists especially those with experience in undertaking fellowships; schedule your time for designing projects; research topics and find the one that suits your capability and experience, and your time and logistics. Preparation, do not forget. 

Reconnaissance

‘Assessing the terrain’ will help you develop a realistic project; it will force creation of news-gathering strategies that are both novel and industrious. Above all, it puts you in a position that speaks in favor of your capability to accomplishing it.

Do not propose a high-sounding project you would not be able to handle later. Impressing selection boards with your proposal is one thing, accomplishing it entirely another. Before you design a project, assess the pros and cons of your scheme:
  • How conversant am I with this topic? 
  • Are sources and information pertinent to my project accessible?
  • How much travelling would it entail? Where? 
  • What are the logistics that my project would demand?
  • Would I be able to prioritize my news-writing schedule with travel and on-spot investigations?

A hundred and one variables could go wrong and compromise your work later. I suggest that you prioritize and design a project you would be able to handle, complete, and accomplish – accomplish with excellence worthy of a professional journalist.  

Get Fussy

Make sure that you fulfill every directive, condition, and rule. Read, reread, read and read again the ToS, and rules and regulations. Why? With media fellowships being so competitive, do you not think it’s natural for selection boards to need only one itsy-bitsy excuse to cut down the number of applications to accommodate the best?  

Reduce the selectors' chances of discarding your meticulously designed application just because you missed out a point from ToS even though your project was tremendous.  I am told that about 200 applications have already come in for the UNDP fellowship since the announcement. That is competition. Focus.

Speak ‘loud’ and fast

State only what is important, and make it concise while at it. If they asked you to confine your project proposal or cover letter to 500 words, then you must keep it at 500 words. When you have hundreds of journalists with their hefty packages each fighting to capture the attention of selectors, do not expect the board to spend their lives reading your 2, 000-word letter. Be concise; state only the most important parts of your project.

Weight your mettle

What is the commonest mistake journalists make when applying for fellowships? Setting goals they cannot accomplish. Do not offer something this is beyond your capability. Plan stories that you can write. Explore perspective and story angles that are very specific to your project and what you want to accomplish within your scope of experience and understanding. 

Forget grandiose projects; selectors are not stupid: They see your capability by just reading the cover letter and CV, leave alone your project. Chose a project that fits your capability, scope of experience, and a subject you are conversant with at both heuristic and experiential level.

Specific, more specific, most specific

What is a project proposal? It is the synopsis, an outline. What is a project breakup? It is the elaboration of the project proposal. Normally fellowship regulators ask for a broad proposal, and a breakup (specific proposal).

1. Example of a broad proposal:               

    You will highlight economic tensions caused by illegal immigrants in California.

2. Example of a break-up (or specific) proposal:

You will investigate why the border policy is not working, who is responsible for that      deficiency, and what problem that irresponsibility is inflicting on the economy of California.   Then, you will publish 2 news features, 5 hard news stories, and 2 op-ed commentaries in the   Washington Post.

Be specific about what you want to achieve, and what strategies you will be employing to accomplish them. Be specific with your objectives. Selectors look for that angle.

Big brand employers Vs Small timers?

Do journalists working with ‘big’ organizations have bigger chances at winning fellowships than do professionals with lesser-known media groups? What are the chances here for freelance journalists (also sometimes called ‘independent journalists’)? Knight International Journalism Fellow Patrick Butler has the best answer to both:

“The point is to make sure you understand what the goals of the fellowship are. Independent journalist vs. big brand – I think either can be a good candidate. If you work for a major media, you can make the case that your work reaches many people. But if you are more of an independent journalist or freelancer, you can make the case that you are free from some of the problems big media have – political or economic conflicts of interest, for example. I will say that for freelance journalists, I always look to make sure they have a media organization that is regularly using their work. You don’t want to give a fellowship to someone who is writing for an audience of no one – so show that you do have an audience if you’re a freelancer.”

I would be glad to assist you in setting up your project proposals and news pitches. In case you wish to, please use the contact form on the blog to get in touch with me (No, I will not charge you anything! I just want to encourage journalists, especially entry-level-to-mid career reporters, mark a notch). You have my best wishes.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Apply for the Inclusive Media-UNDP Fellowships for Journalists 2014

Journalism fellowships for Indian journalists have been scant for a while.  Nevertheless, here is one you can apply for: the Inclusive Media-United Nations Development Program Fellowship award for 2014 for professional journalists in India.

The journalism fellowship is run by Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in Delhi and often offers high-profile fellowships for media persons.The Inclusive Media platform is prestigious and enjoys high-retention in the media industry. So, I say, go for it.

If you are selected for it, the impetus from such a high-profile platform will definitely contribute to more than just your professional standing. It will also contribute to your growth as a journalist and enhance your news reporting ‘mileage’ and industry-skills.

CSDS runs incentives primarily for journalists whose work focus on issue-based beats such as policy, social change, agrarian crises, rural development, and economy. If you have a background in policy reporting, I say you should apply for the Inclusive Media-UNDP Fellowship.

Coordinator of Inclusive Media Mr. Shambhu Khatak emailed me yesterday informing that the fellowship was not accepting previous winners this time. I won it in 2010.
  
Here are the details: 

Inclusive Media-UNDP Fellowship 2014

Inclusive Media for Change invites applications from journalists in English and Hindi for Inclusive Media-UNDP Fellowships 2014. The Fellowships are given to increase and sharpen media coverage of rural distress/ development and the issues of the marginalized people. The fellowships are aimed at promoting democratic social change, particularly through empowerment, participation and good governance.

The ideal candidates would be willing to take time off from routine journalism and spend at least two to four weeks with rural/ marginalized communities and write/ produce series of stories that require wider coverage and public attention. 

The fellowships will cover travel and incidental expenses subject to an upper limit of Rs. 150,000. It intends to cover costs of news gathering and logistics.

A total number of six fellowships will be given for Hindi and English journalists.

The Inclusive Media-UNDP fellowships are open to journalists working for mainstream newspapers/ magazines/ radio or TV channels. Those working for well-known media websites are eligible to apply though a maximum of one fellowship can be given for really well-known new media platforms.

Freelancers can apply only if they can produce letters of support from mainstream papers with an undertaking to publish their output.

A jury of well-known editors and development thinkers will select the fellows on the basis of brief project proposals and story ideas. The projects should be about happenings/ positive interventions/ alternatives and success stories on issues of livelihoods, agrarian crises, hunger/ malnutrition, public health, and the MDGs. 

An ideal candidate will have genuine interest in rural development/ issues of the marginalized people and will be willing to spend time in rural areas for field work. The fellows will be given a chance to refine their project proposal after their selection if the jury so recommends.

The applicant must get a supporting letter from her/his media organization with an undertaking to publish the fellowship outcome in their publications in a format of their choice (i.e., series of reports, travelogues, edit/ op-ed articles, investigation, documentary film or TV/radio packages). Entries without the editors' undertaking will not be considered.

Last date for submission: 1 August, 2014.

Rules & Regulations

The applications for Inclusive Media–UNDP Fellowships should include
  • A cover letter and the candidate’s CV (strictly within 3 A4 pages)
  • A clearly defined project proposal with clear title (Within 500 words)
  • A break up of at least 5 story ideas based on the project proposal (within 250 words)
  • An idea of the geographical region selected for field work, and a rough break-up of travel/ boarding requirements with an approximate expenditure. (within 100 words)
  • Please mention the places you want to visit and a rough breakup of what you expect to be your expenditure. The Inclusive Media Fellowships are intended to cover costs of news gathering and reimburse expenditure and not meant to be salary or honorarium. So the actual expenditure receipts would be reimbursed without TDS deduction wherever applicable and within reasonable limits. The CSDS accounts department may make inquiries about actual expenditure
  • Two samples of published work (or Radio/TV programs) in English or Hindi. For electronic stories, please use CD/ DVD and post it to us clearly marked your name and the title of the story with a marker on the CD
  • A supporting letter from the editor assuring leave for 2 to 4 weeks and agreeing to use the fellowship output in the publication (Free lancers must procure a supporting letter from the editor of a reputed publication/ channel agreeing to use the fellowship output)
  • A letter of recommendation about the candidate’s past record, journalistic abilities and suitability for the project from an eminent journalist, editor or supervisor giving an idea of the candidate’s suitability for the Inclusive Media-UNDP Fellowships.
Fellowship Terms and Conditions

The verdict of the fellowship jury will be final.

All payments will be subject to TDS rules and will be made in at least two tranches.

The fellowship grant will be suspended or withdrawn if the fellow fails to complete the project and publish its outcome. The candidates are strongly advised to read the rules before applying.

The outcomes of the fellowships will also be put on the website (im4change.org)

The application material and CVs must be submitted before the last date in Microsoft Word format in English and Mangal or Unicode in Hindi along with scanned copies of your clippings to: im4change.csds@gmail.com

Application sent via emails will be promptly acknowledged. Those sending emails please write "Inclusive Media - UNDP Fellowship" in the subject line. 

(Candidates applying in Hindi must note that applications sent in fonts other than Mangal/ Unicode would be rejected)

However, if for any reason you cannot send it by email, or if you want to send a hard copy as well as the email, please do so by speed post or courier to the following address: (Please note that entries which arrive after due date, for any reason whatsoever, will not be considered)

Inclusive Media - UNDP Fellowship 2014
Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)
29, Rajpur Road
Delhi 110054

Please visit these links: Details on the Inclusive Media-UNDP Fellowships 2014 and Rules and Regulations

I'd be glad to offer you assistance in setting up your project proposals and news pitches. Please use the contact form on the blog to get in touch with me (No, I won’t charge you anything! I just want to encourage journalists, especially entry-level and mid-career reporters mark a notch in their careers). I’d be glad to hear from you. All the best to you. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Jargon used in Journalism: How we Cheese Argot in Newsrooms (H to S)

Journalism Jargon H to S or go to previous A to G

Happy Talk: The casual banter between news anchors and other people “on air” is happy talk. In India, it is slightly different: we happy talk a lot on salary days, you see.

Jingle: Short piece of music played on radio to identify a regular feature, or program

Jumpline or ‘Conti’: A line of type at the bottom of an incomplete newspaper or magazine article that directs the reader to another page where the story is continued

Kicker: A few words at the beginning of a headline, top of the introduction to a story, or caption to grab the reader's attention.

Kill, or Spike: To cancel or delete all or part of a story, or to ‘kill’ an article submitted for publication (Spike)

Kill fee: A reduced fee paid to a freelance journalist for a story that is not used.

MF: No, it’s not the word you use in the middle of tough day. ‘Mf’ stands for ‘more-to-follow.’ It is typed at the end of copy to signify that there is more of the story to come, either on another page or later in the process.

Mojo: Mobile journalists who use light and portable reporting and communications tools such as mobile camera phones, PDAs and notebook wireless computers to record, edit and transmit their work in text, audio, pictures and video while in the field, without using an office

Morgue: Our journalism also reflects our violent world. ‘Morgue’ here is actually a peaceful, docile space. ‘Morgue’ is a newsroom’s library, where old newspapers, clippings and pictures are stored for reference

Noddy: In television, a shot of a reporter or interviewer listening to an interviewee’s answer, often nodding his head. That head when being interviewed – That is why I never nod my head when being interviewd. I’d certainly dislike being called ‘Noddy Ngulllie.’

Nut Graf: It is a paragraph telling the essential elements of a story briefly, i.e. ‘in a nutshell’

Nut Graf (also ‘bullet points’): It refers to a paragraph or box containing the essential elements of a story. That you know. Next, please.

Orphan: That’s the first sentence of a paragraph left incomplete. Poor thing.

Pack Journalism: “When individual journalists competing for coverage of an event or issue act together, like a pack of dogs chasing the same quarry”

Pitman: It is shorthand mainly used in Britain and associated countries. Pitman is a faster shorthand system – that is why I use Teeline because I like cruising and enjoying the scenery.

Pork (Mainly US): Nothing to do with Nagaland here. Pork is materials gathered by a journalist but withheld for later use or whenever required

Put to bed: You ‘put to bed’ a newspaper when you have finished work on preparing the next edition and has begun printing it

Re-jig: You ‘regij’ when you rewrite a story or reorganise a page by moving elements around

Scare Quote: That is the word or short phrase placed between quotation marks (‘’ or “) when they are not necessary but to emphasize on the incongruity, bizarreness of a statement, or to suggest disbelief. Example: The Home Minister said the rise in prices of essential commodities in Delhi was due to "global warming."

Scrum: A gathering of reporters around a person, all competing to ask questions or take photographs

Slug: A keyword or phrase that identifies a news story or the reporter while it is being prepared for final editing

I always use slugs in my news reports just in case they get lost in the reporters’ archives: For example, ‘CM on Oil Issue June 1 Story Batman Ngullie.’

Spill, or Jump (US): The continuation of a story from one page to another. In Nagaland, we call it ‘Continuation.’ It is local, you see.

Stab, or Sting: Another reflection of our violent world, I suppose. It is actually the short, pre-recorded sound inserted into a program to create a pause or provide a break between different segments. It is a short piece of music (from 5 to 30 seconds) played in program breaks or to add drama. Stings are either dramatic music or based on station identification melodies

Stop Press: In newspapers, the space left blank in a finished newspaper layout to accommodate urgent breaking news, or the process of stopping the printing process to insert breaking news. 


Jargon used in Journalism: How we Cheese Argot in Newsrooms (T to Z)

Journalism Jargon T to Z or go to previous H to S

Talkback: (a) A type of radio program in which the presenter invites listeners to telephone in and speak on air (b) Two-way intercom equipment by which a radio or television presenter or newsreader in a studio can communicate with producers or directors in a control room.

Tease, or Bumpers in broadcast: It refers to materials promoting a story which ‘teases’ the reader or listener by hinting at but not revealing the real story. “Meet the journalist who suffered from a phobia for English. Find out why in the next part of this article/program.’

Technobabble: That’s confusing technical jargon for you

The Rushes: Early edited version of video or film that needs further editing. In other words, The Rushes are the unedited materials

Thirty or ‘30’ in text (US): Reporters used to type "30" at the end of copy to signify the end of the article. It is retired now, replaced by the word "end" or three hashes "###". Read Hadass Kogan's explanation here.

Throw: Where one person on-air ‘throws’ the task of presentation to someone else. Example: ‘And now we go to our reporter who is at the scene ...’

Vox Pop, or Streeters: From the Latin vox populi ‘voice of the people’, short interviews where members of the public are stopped at random, often on the streets or public areas, and asked questions

Wob: In my college days, a wob was someone who lacked social skills or was ‘bad’ with girls. In journalism, a wob is the white text on a black or dark coloured background. Cute, is it not?

5 Ws and the H (WWWW & H): The ‘Who,’ ‘What,’ ‘Where,’ ‘When,’ ‘Why,’ and the ‘How’: The six most important questions journalists are expected to ask and his news stories should answer

Standfirst: It is the line of text right after the headline that gives more information about the article

Zinger: This one is one of my favorites, more so because we used the term in college to describe girls who were, well, good in hijacking the thermometer. In other words, ‘hot.’ That is, if you were “hot” girl, you were a ‘Zinger’! My English Honors class in Patkai Christian College had quite a population of Zingers, you see.

Oh well, but in journalism, ‘Zinger’ is an unusual and generally humorous feature story often placed at the end of a story, or a newscast. How boring is that?

I shall be updating the jargon as more inventions come up. Which is your favorite? 

go to previous H to S   

Jargon used in Journalism: How we Cheese Argot in Newsrooms

Journalism, a profession that runs on words, wags a tongue of its own: jargon, slang, gobbledygook and fickle vernacular, and other specialist terminologies. They form a unique linguistic system that could fill a library of glossaries – just to numb the layman. Just keep praying that the specialist newsroom terminology never goes to the printer.

The often slangy and obfuscated expressions that journalists across the globe use in newsrooms fulfill a singular function: convenience and uniformity in communicating ideas and clarifying complex technical processes without having to elaborate. 

Hey, nobody said they were meant for non-journalists, as Bob Ingrassia would insist.

Even worse, our choice of words -- both verbal and in text -- are colorful and as diverse as they are capricious. For instance, the jargon newsrooms in Nagaland use are basic, limited, and generally colonial. Delhi is Desi, incoherent, and largely modified. New York’s gobbledygook are slangy, technical, and fiercely unique (‘30’, ###, ‘MF’, Graf, Wob ETC).  Likewise, a common term used in a newspaper in Nagaland could mean something else entirely in the cubicles of Bangalore Mirror. 

I have compiled a list of common, fairly universal terminologies used in the newsrooms and production desks of newspapers, broadcast, and the new media. The list is not complete. However, your chances of looking like a newbie will be far less if you were to relocate from Dimapur to New York. The reporter in the US and his counterpart in Delhi unite in this single fact though: our hoary vocabularies would make encyclopedias cringe.

One more thing:  successful journalists are avid readers. Stay updated, and you will never have to blush because you babbled an outdated term right in a room full of young industry veterans. 

In addition (that just made it another thing), the spellings may vary but I have mentioned the most common forms (US and Asia), and geographical alternatives where appropriate.  

If there are common terms you feel could be helpful but are missing from the list, please mention them in the comments section so I can add them here in the update. 

Looking for the perfect help with your industry language? There are resourceful books on Amazon that you might find helpful in case you want to keep up what the industry is 'cheesing about.' Check out Betty Kirkpatrick' Dictionary of Cliches and Richard Hartnett's Codes and Jargon of the News Business if you're interested.     

So.here is it, the insufferable Jargon from the world of journalism: 

Jargon used in Journalism: How we Cheese Argot in Newsrooms (A-G)

So here we are, a simple glossary of journalism jargon, and the things we say in 'secret' when 'shooting' a scene or show, when 'whipping' a news edition, or when 'nodding' to the nice interviewer on TV. I have explained in the introduction why we go anti-cheese on English words in our newsrooms. Here are the lot. 

Journalism Jargon A to G

Actuals or Actuality (Radio): That is the sound of something actually happening. I don’t really see the whole point to the meaning here, actually.

Backbenchers (mainly US): No, they are not your usual class backbench crew with -D grades in Mass.Comm. The term refers to senior production journalists in a newspaper

Beat (India, US, UK), Patch, or Round: A specialist area of journalism on which a reporter regularly covers or specializes. Some ‘beats’ are development, policy, police, politics, policy and governance, education, healthcare, music, fashion and entertainment etc. Example: A journalist specializing in or exclusively covers government-releated issues is a policy or political journalist. 

Blind, Non-Attributable, or Off-Record: A published interview where the interviewee is not named, e.g. ‘a senior official’. Blind also refers to conducting interviews not knowing the subject matter.

Blob: A bullet point in type, used in text layout to list points at the end of a story

Blooper, Flub, or Out-take: In broadcasting, recorded material left out of program

Bump, Bump Ahead, or Bumping: To move the position of a story, either up or down the scale of priority or position

Churnalism:  Journalism that churns out rewrites of media releases. The media in Nagaland is a good example of Churnalism. We are so lazy we don’t seek stories – survive on press releases and crowd-sourced content

Crawl: Those texts you see moving across the top or bottom of the television screen.  Used by news stations to show the main headlines of the moment, stock exchange prices, the weather or other useful current information. In other words, the eye sores.

Cub, or Rookie: That’s the term for a trainee, or entry-reporter. It is also a derogatory terms for journalists who are not conversant with industry skills, or skills relevant to his position

Dead air: An extended, unwanted silence on radio, often caused by technical or operating errors

Death-knock: This one is an intrusion, basically. It refers to an assignment in which a reporter calls at the home of a bereaved relative or friend when gathering information about a death. Some broadcasters also use the term for an unheralded phone interview Also known as door-stepping

Dinkus: A small drawing or symbol used to decorate a page, break up a block of type or identify a regular feature in a newspaper.

Doorstop, or Ambush: When a reporter or group of reporters interview someone as they leave a building, often unexpectedly.

Donut: A television interview in which the presenter hands over to a journalist on location who interviews guests before handing back to the presenter in the studio. CNN, BBC, Fox, NDTV, CNN-IBN do that

Double-ender: It refers to an interview between a presenter in the studio and a guest in a location somewhere else

Downtable sub: A sub-editor who works under the direction of more senior sub-editors

Dummy, Flatplan, or Layout: The template design of a newspaper page. Theterm also refers to the draft plan of how stories, pictures and other elements are to appear on the finished page of a newspaper or magazine.

Dump: You are in the middle of an interview, or talking to a caller on the phone and you decide to wrap up the talk. You simply ‘dump’ the call.

Editorialise: A derogatory description for writing in a highly-opinionated manner

Freesheet, sometimes derogatorily “Freeshit”: A usually cheaper publication that is circulated free with a larger publication. For instance, YoutNet’s employment journals that are distributed with copies of Nagaland Post, is Freesheet.

Gobbledygook: An extreme form of jargon that sounds as if it makes sense but is either meaningless or confusing. We journalists are goobledygookers.

Graf, or Par (mainly US): Graf is the shortened form of ‘paragraph’ of text

Gregg: A system of shorthand used mainly in the US and associated countries

Grip-and-grin, or The Big Pose (mainly US): It is a derogatory term used among photographers during events when, say, the subjects are expected to shake hands and smile at the camera as a practice

Guerrilla Marketing: That is an advertising ambush. It is a low-cost marketing technique involving the use of surprise or shock to promote a product or service. It interrupts a consumer to pay special attention (pop up ads in websites or an unscheduled product announcement in TVs are a good example).

Gutter: A vertical margin of white space where two pages meet

Gutter journalism: A derogatory term for media houses that use sensational reporting without concern for the harm it will do individuals


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Helium.com says Goodbye: US Publishing & Journalism Platform to Close Business

This is a sad day for journalists, writers and content creators in the US, and international publishers who found a home at Helium.com, the US-based citizen journalism and publishers' platform. Helium Publishing is shutting, after more than 8 years of top-flight competition. 

The writing platform is finally winding up from the competition after 8 years of scaring some of the biggest content providers on the internet during the past one decade. I recall the tacit rivalry Helium had with other publishing majors notably Associated Content (Now Yahoo! Voices), Hubpages, Squidoo, and Constant-Content.  

It was about 6 AM on Thursday that I was checking my emails. There was a no-reply circular from the Helium Team. I opened the email and stood shocked. It was closing the business. The email did not specify why the website was closing down. 

Helium was one of the first international writing portals that I joined. It was also one of the best. It was in 2008 that I came across Helium - one of the top journalism organizations on the internet then. I remember the first news piece I wrote for it - it was about the growth of social networking sites in the US. 

Helium's editors approving my first work motivated me even more. I began writing about Nagaland and the Naga people, their culture, and traditions - even about our super Naga Pepper. Imagine my sense of accomplishment, and pride, from seeing my articles about my land and my people on one of the biggest resource portals in the US then. It was a quieter world then.  

Editors with Knowledge, Editors with Hearts 

However, the best experience of it all was the people. Helium's editorial team was, in my opinion, better than Associated Content's, Constant Content or even Hubpages. 

I went on to find a kind 'friend' in one of Helium's content editors, Leigh Goessl. She was a helpful professional. I remember her guidance in clarifying my news reports and articles -- the "American way of style writing stuff" would help me immensely in the years to come as I forayed into writing for international publishing organizations, both the print and electronic media. 

And there was Valer Ferrar, a former journalist and an erudite entertainment writer from Minnesota. Curiously, she was with Associated Content prior to her pitching in for Helium. I recall our vigorous conversations about the relevance of the then-new blogging phenomenon called 'Twitter', and a networking site with a poker-faced name 'Facebook' that was spreading with 'epidemic proportions.' 

You see, in 2007, Twitter and Facebook was virtually unknown in this side of the world. It was in August 2007, in fact, that my friend Laimen Ozukum, asked me, "Hey, have you heard of Facebook? It's great, not like Hi5! You should try it!" 

And I went, "Face what?" 

The Nagas' first-generation internet users were all on Hi5 and Friendster then. Some were on MySpace - mostly Nagas living in the US during that time. It was a big world then.        

Helium's revenue was high for good writers. I know journalists, freelancers and bloggers on Helium who earned in a week what they'd have normally made only after months from their regular jobs. 

I wasn't making millions, but I was glad that my articles and news pitches weren't doing so bad either. It was also through Helium that I got the opportunity to write a pitch about global population control, floated by Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting (Washington, DC). 

I visited Helium's website as soon as I finished reading the email. The once-ebullient website that sparkled with feverish intellectual activity, now shows a blank, error-page. 

I know I'll miss writing at Helium. But, all said and done, the outcome was irreversible considering that the site's dealing with its writers had begun getting too murky. The quality of content began trotting down south, while every Tom, Dick and Beiber started walking in with grade-5 ideas. The party for Helium.com was over a long time ago.      

Helium.com logo
That's Helium's logo. The journalism and publishing resource portal is winding up business. 
This is the email.

May 14, 2014

You are receiving this email because you have been identified as either an active or inactive Helium Publishing community member.

NOTICE: The Helium Publishing 360 sites will be available on a read-only basis effective May 21, 2014 and will continue to be available on a read-only basis until December 15, 2014. During this period, if you have an existing Account, you will continue to have access to your Account and accrue potential earnings, but you will not be able to add more content to the Helium Publishing 360 sites or create a new Account. 

If you have attained the Minimum Payout Threshold, which currently is set at $25.00, we strongly encourage you to withdraw your earnings because the Helium Publishing 360 sites will terminate on 12/15/14 and you will no longer have access to your Account. 
Dear Helium Community,

After eight years and well over one million articles, we regret to announce that Helium Publishing will be closing. Here are the key dates that impact you: 

May 21, 2014

The Helium Publishing 360 sites will become "read only" and no article changes or revisions will be possible no new work can be completed or created in the Helium Network dashboard
new member registration for Helium Publishing 360 sites will cease

December 15, 2014

Advertising revenue share will cease. You will no longer be able to access your Account
all 27 of the Helium Publishing 360 sites will shut down and your articles will not be available via the microsites access to the Helium Network dashboard and your ability to retrieve your Helium Publishing articles, message others, and request payment will be terminated

What about my earnings? 

Your Account will be accessible until December 15, 2014 so that you can view and (if applicable) request a final payout. Your tax ID and a valid PayPal account are required to process and receive payment. Details about accrual and earnings can be found in the FAQs, available in Announcements and in the Helium discussion forum.

What about my open assignments? 

The workflow portion of the Helium Network will be disabled on May 21, 2014, and you will not be able to work on any assignments.

What happens to my articles? 

You may download your work by following the instructions available in Announcements and in the Helium discussion forum.

What if I have questions? 

You'll be able to reach us through the Helium Help Desk and Helium discussion forums. In addition, an FAQ is available in the discussion forum and in the Helium Network dashboard.

For many of you, Helium Publishing has been more than a place to hone your writing skills; it's been a place to call home, a community to connect with friends and like-minded creatives. 

Thank you for making Helium a nurturing space for new and emerging writers. It's been an amazing and gratifying journey, and we're grateful you were part of it all. Good luck in your future writing endeavors.

Very sincerely,
The Helium Publishing Team

I know I'll miss writing for Helium. My biggest regret, though, is that empires are being built and pulled down every day out there. But, many journalists from among our people - the Nagas - shall continue to remain blissfully oblivious to the world and industries changing out there.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

What is the Salary of a Journalist in India?

How much do Indian journalists earn in a month? What is the median to the pay package and incentives that news reporters and production journalists share?

Some of the commonest queries that I receive from readers, aspiring journalists, and Mass Communication students revolve around salaries and incentives members of news organizations "enjoy." I wouldn't like to encourage false hopes if you are the socialite-type though.

Money. Money. Money. Who would have thought that the good institution also pays its share of tributes to Mr. Mammon. The new media corporate, after all, is also your livelihood, is it not?

Salaries have not always been compassionate to “third-world” journalists. The United States and the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada are where the greener (and taller) grass is. Prosperous Asian economies such as China, South Korean, and Japan, dole out bigger benefits and higher living-standards-to-remuneration ratios too, obviously.

India woke to the plight of journalists late. Thankfully, for the competitive and skilled Indian journalist of the millennial years things are brighter than it was 10 years ago. He can earn well if he is market-savvy, proficient in news-gathering, is dedicated and loves competition.

From Small Change to Green Winds

The new economic realities globalization brought about also found reflection in the way the media industry began interpreting the economics of its employees. Since 1955, the government’s policy-makers have been instating wage boards to review the salaries of professionals in India. For instance, in 2007, the central government instated the Majithia Wage Board for Working Journalists. The wage board is perhaps the most proactive of the wage boards 

if one compares the industry lacunae of the post-globalization boom and the subsequent recession that saw mass layoffs and buyouts. The only problem: There are just too many publishers that want to hoard the money while the actual revenue generators, the news personnel, languish in the BPL pay band.

Even in my own state, I appreciate that a small state newspaper like The Morung Express would implement, although partially, the Wajithia Wage Board recommendations. The Assam Tribune, a more prominent regional newspaper in the North East Region, has also implemented the wages scale recommended by the board. 

Aside from such small graces, journalists of small news publications generally still toil way  beyond their pay bands while their publishers take home more than they ought to.

In India, the digital media and the broadcast organizations have been nudging into the turfs of the print industry since the digital revolution – the New Media – began in the late ‘90s. The shift from traditional print formats to the more convenient digital form intensified the competition. Meaning, news organizations now offer more competitive paychecks and incentives.

Salaries, incentives journalists in India are paid
Salary Median


Variance, and Base Salaries

In India, a journalist with an experience of 4-and-above years earns an average salary of Rs 2, 20,907 (Median) in a year. Professionals in this profession generally do not have a job experience of more than 20 years. Keep in mind, though, that salaries vary. The salary a reporter receives working for TOI would be lower or higher than his counterpart’s paycheck in the Bangalore Mirror. The same goes for production professionals: An editor in NDTV could be making more than does his counterpart in Times News, and so on.

In other words, a journalist’s salary depends on the reach and extent of the news organization he works with. For Instance, TOI, Indian Express, and Hindustan Times, and CNN, NDTV are large organizations and by casual calculations, their employees make a little more than the smaller news organizations. Salaries also vary, depending on the skills, experience and job profile of the journalist.

The variable applies to regional news groups. For instance, Delhi and Mumbai are the news hot-spots of the country. Salary offered by newspaper organizations in Delhi, or the scale offered by television channels in Mumbai, for instance, could be comparatively (and normally ) higher than those in Bangalore or Chennai.

I hope the following medians give you an idea about the salary journalists make on an average.

Note: All the figures given are in the median, and based on national average, for both newspapers and broadcast journalists. Readers may want to check www.payscale.com, or read finance news and corporate blogs regularly to stay updated.

Salary of news production professionals

Let us take a look at the average salary of production professionals – production journalists – working with national news organizations. They are professionals with specialized, applied skills and expertise in various areas of production: language and editing, designing, analysis and knowledge of multi-media platforms and applications.

Senior editor/senior subeditor/senior copywriter/senior copy editor with 6-10 years experience In the country’s metropolitan areas such as Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai can earn anywhere from Rs. 3 lakh to Rs. 7+ lakh per annum.

For an idea of the base earnings that sub-editors and senior sub-editors make, I asked my recent friend Anirban Roy, a former correspondent with a national newspaper. He sent me this text: “With 2-3 years of experience, one will get around Rs. 30, 000 per month in Delhi, and with more than 5 years experience, salary will be around 45, 000 and Rs. 55, 000.” 

That did not sound too bad, did it?

For journalism students in North East India, particularly Nagaland, I felt to add this piece too in case you wish to know. In the Northeast, the median for production journalists is around Rs. 11, 500 per month. A sub editor with an experience of 2-3 years takes home at least Rs. 12, 000 per month. 

Those with more than 5 years of work experience makes in the range of Rs. 19, 000-Rs.25, 000 a month. This is the base salary, without bonus and performance incentives. 

Salary of Reporters

Reporters are journalists that witness events, or research matter and present the collated information – from hard political news and current events to human-interest stories and, sometimes, painful nonsense – to the public.
Unlike the developed countries, the Indian media woke to globalization only in the early 2000s. 

Prior to the advent of New Media, Reporters in India enjoyed some of the most horrifying salaries ever in the media. Even modern media deities such as the Times of India and the Hindustan Times were paying an emotionally disturbing Rs. 5, 000-6, 000 to entry reporters during the beginning of the decade. Competition, and the demands of modern lifestyles and escalating living standards were the chief reasons for which the Indian media decided on a paradigm shift.

Today cub reporters (They are ‘baby’ journalists, you see) working in the metropolitan areas start in the range Rs 8,000 to 12, 000 a month. The more experienced lot, particularly senior political correspondents,  with more than 5 years, have heavier pockets – they earn anywhere from Rs. 5, 00, 000 to 10, 00, 000 per annum inclusive of bonuses and perks.

At the regional level, a cub reporter receives around Rs. 7, 500 a month while those in the 3-5 years experience receive a package in the range of Rs. 12, 000. Senior reporters who have more than 5 years of experience are paid salaries in the range Rs. 20, 000-25, 000.

Hard Work, Star Power and Goals

Media organizations also ‘market’ popular employees to increase their audience. Big audiences translate into big revenues and growth of the company. Visible and popular professionals are promoted and ‘brand marketed’, and in the process increase circulation (print), audience (broadcast) or traffic (web). 

When blogger Nate Sliver of the New York Times shifted his blog to CNN, there was a drop in the stock at the big apple's, while CNN’s increased. Such is the power of ‘totem workers’ in any company. In India, NDTV’s has a totem in star reporter Barka Dutt who you know is one of the channel’s biggest Nelsen ratings insurance. She reportedly receives around Rs. 5 Lakh a month as basic salary.

Do not expect such gratitude from regional publishers in non-metropolitan, non-national news organizations in India, though.

The variables are extensive. Still, do not forget that the size of your salary also depends on your willingness to work hard, and on the degree of passion and dedication to your craft, and of course, your skill-quotient.

Your skill-quotient and work aptitudes decide how much you can earn.  I know people who earn more in a regional newspaper than others do working in a national publication or a news channel. Seriously. 

Such cases are not common, true, but nor are they a rarity either. You can attain the same mark too if you demonstrate the drive and talent that some of the most successful journalists of our times displayed.

©2012 Al Ngullie ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This article contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval systemwithout express written permission from the author / publisher.