By: IRFAN QURAISHI
Ironically apart from trending notion of government servant cum Journalist and burgeon rise of ‘Litho’ newspapers, which has blocked the opportunities for dedicated journalists as well as for new entrants, a new breed of ‘pseudo’ Journalists without genuine organizational affiliation has surfaced in Kashmir. Have you ever met this breed of journalists? Don’t be surprised, if you have not, in Kashmir you will find scores of these scribes.
The serious question is who are they? And how they work? They are not even freelancers who pitch stories to their editors to earn some bucks sincerely. These scribes are mostly bogus people misusing the profession for vested interests. Interestingly these scribes work for free. The only thing they need is to accommodate their PR (public relation) news items or sometime with a byline. They call it PC (Paid coverage). These scribes cover almost every event, be it political, corporate or a protest demonstration at press enclave. Worth to mention their assigned beat is mostly lesser known politicians, political parties and union leaders.
Latter they get these news items accommodated through reporters working in different newspapers on friendly terms if possible. If failing to do so, then ‘Litho’ newspaper is already a secure option for them to accommodate their PR item. And the rates will be charged accordingly to the client. Even they also provide a receipt for the payment to satisfy their client and to pretend authenticity. These pseudo scribes are in nexus with ‘Litho’ newspaper owners to run this ‘news’ trade. This is an agonizing nuisance growing in Kashmir journalism, spoiling such a noble profession besides defaming sincere, dedicated and honest journalists and media industry.
This is not confined to print media only; electronic media also exists in this race. Shockingly so-called electronic media men taking undue advantage of Kashmir being ‘news hot spot’ for national news channels approach low budget television channels for free work. These people having no media degree just manages to get TV channel logos (Mike ID) from one or more news channels depend on accessibility. They don’t need reporter or vice versa. They are all in one scribes, doing camera and arranging scripts for their PR and PC news items. They never know that what a news, intro or camera shot is. They hardly know how to put camera on recording mode as most of them are wedding cameramen.
Their approach of work and earning is not much different from that of print media pseudo scribes existing across trouble torn Kashmir valley. They don’t posses any appointment letter, designation, identity card or authenticity letter or sometime it depends upon the mood of boss at channel headquarter. But one thing is sure they have to send free feeds and manage their pockets by their own. The day they (pseudo TV scribes) start asking for expenses or payment, they are no more with the news channel.
This seems a willing exploitation by these pseudo TV scribes, which has not only blocked opportunities for Journalism degree holders and jobless professional journalists in Kashmir at national level, but also ruined the ethics of journalism. Mush to the embracement to this noble profession, they do wedding shootings also during wedding season. Many of these ‘all in one’ pseudo TV scribes during news off season in valley when civil secretariat moves to Jammu winter capital, moves to Ludhiana, Calcutta, Haryana and Punjab for selling Shawal. This notion has created a negative impact on journalists on ground.
In terms of journalism these are pseudo scribes, but they are more influential than full time working journalists and they work at their will. Amusingly journalist fraternity calls these scribes as ‘secretariat Journalists’. As they are not supposed to pitch a story idea to anyone or file a day plan, they spend their leisure time at civil secretariat, in ministers’ side rooms, at chambers of state administration top brasses or at government department offices to make their PR for better influence and to secure their survival of fittest. Most of time it is 'without organization, a pseudo scribe friend who fix an appointment or line up politicians or bureaucrats for full time working journalist for a quote/byte or an interview. This full time journalist is hardly known to these influential people in government by face as unlike pseudo scribe he is tight scheduled, stressed to complete his assignment in time.
Interestingly these scribes also make good use of social networking to impress their clients. They circulate photographs, news items and other PR details instantly through facebook pages, whatsap groups they have created. During legislative assembly polls in the state last year, a group of unidentified youth was active in Srinagar city, representing themselves a journalists and demanding money from politicians for providing them publicity in view of upcoming polls, which was also reported in newspapers.
This nuisance continues due to the failure of state information department to curb the pseudo journalism and journalists in valley. The information department issued identity cards to authorized journalists long back which to some extent proved a good step to control this notion. But that procedure was never followed again, hence nuisance goes unchecked.
(Irfan Quraishi is a Bureau Chief at Kashmir for Day & Night News, a Chandigarh based national News Channel.)