About the Author: Nandhini Chandrasekaran from University of Madras shares her fearless and passionate experience of working at The New Indian Express as a photo journalist and at News 18 as a television reporter.
I am the kind of person who can not do a monotonous, 9 to 5 job; I am someone who wants to have adventures. I did my first undergraduate internship at The New Indian Express, Chennai as a photo journalist. Some of my peeps warned me that photojournalism is a very tough job; however, I just wanted to have a taste of the experience, and my love for photography pushed me towards it. I approached Express through my dad’s friend who was the executive producer of the Chennai branch. During the first meet, he was surprised to know that I was into photography. He introduced me to the head of the photography department. Initially, people were amused to see a girl carrying a camera and looking for an internship in that field. I must have lived in some parallel universe thinking that it would be normal in Chennai. After an hour of patience, I got to meet the head. He said it’s a good thing that girls are finally coming out of the stereotypes that have been drowning them. Then he asked, “Are you sure you want to pursue photojournalism?”. I smiled and replied that there was nothing more I’d rather do. I persuaded them that gender is not a constraint in this century, and I wished to experiment. I promised them that this could be my first step towards my dreams, and I would take care of myself. Seeing my confidence and enthusiasm, they decided to give me chance.
In the first week, I was assigned a task to observe the published images and to rewrite the captions to those images in my own style. At first, I struggled to find mistakes in the pictures, but later I realized that a picture in itself is an article. I also learned how to effectively utilize space for the captions. I was thrilled to click photos during my initial days. After that, however, I started to face challenges. Being a girl, some of the male photo journalists asked me to go away and said I was just wasting my time; some said that it was not a field for girls. On the other hand, there were some who appreciated my presence. From people patronizing me for being a girl to getting verbally harassed because of my interest in photography, I faced it all. However, it was worth the pain when I saw my name in the newspaper print, just below the picture I had taken for the newspaper. By the second week, I was assigned separate events. I was thrilled as I was entrusted to handle responsibilities alone. I went to a few protests, fashion events, motivational events, etc. To capture a perfect moment, I stayed calm, tried to observe and wait for the perfect moment to click the picture, and checked whether it told a story.
During my postgraduate degree, my interest piqued in television reporting. So I decided to satisfy my inner Nancy Drew by joining as an intern at NEWS18 TamilNadu, Chennai. I approached the channel directly to inquire about internship offers. Unfortunately, at News18, the internship process was already over for the month and they asked me to try next month. Desperate and determined to get the internship that month, I requested them to arrange a meeting with the HR which, fortunately, the HR agreed to. During the meeting, he asked me about my interests and my knowledge about News18. I was already prepared for these questions as I had always believed in doing a pilot research before any official meetings or assignments. I summarised my interests in television reporting stating that I wanted to try this field because I was good with current affairs and source collection. I did not have any recommendations, and so, I gave them my word that I would do the work sincerely. I was overwhelmed when I was given an internship opportunity just on my word and my confidence.
Television reporting seemed to be a completely different and busy experience from my earlier experience. I had this amazing crush towards mics, and so, holding it came naturally to me. I was supposed to assist the reporters and make their work easier. But, I found myself dragged towards the political beat often. I was jubilant when I was allowed to interview a political leader; I was so proud to catch up on the exact content the channel had wanted. In Chennai, one always remembers the plot twists in the history of politics like the selection of new General Secretary Sasikala, who now spends her leisure time in jail, former CM breaking the truth at J. Jayalalitha’s memorial, Marina Jallikattu protest, etc. I was there in flesh with them when all this happened. It was an exciting moment when I knew that I was going to be a part of something that would change the whole story, and I would be the one giving the breaking news. One day, I had this thrilling adventure to chase Mr. O. Paneerselvam, former CM of TamilNadu, to get there before the patrol cars to be the first one to give the breaking news. Another experience was during the Jallikattu protest, I was instructed to go into the crowd to get a video byte. And then came the flying water packets and biscuit packets which hit me hard. So hard that they left a mark on my skin. However, as a budding journalist, I kept my calm and got what I wanted for the channel. Later, I went to the protest as a protestor and advised them about what they did to me in anger, and how it could have done serious damages. During the Republic Day event in Chennai near Marina, there were only a countable number of people present because of the infamous Jallikattu protest that happened there. I was asked to do a Person to Camera (PtoC) for the empty beach road and interview a few people about how they felt about the reduced number of visitors at Marina. My favorite works were during Jallikattu protests, Nadukuppam tragedy, smuggling of Alexandrian Parakeets, etc. At News18, I had attended events from politics, crime, lifestyle, inspirational stories, education, etc. which gave me insights of how to approach the society from the eyes of a neutral brain.
It was great fun, and I had the most enlightening experience during my days at News18. Little did I know that I would be interested in politics. After my internship, I started following all news channels to stay updated on the current affairs.
Editor’s note – If you also have an interesting story to share, you can now participate in Your Internship Story Contest 2017 and win cash prizes and goodies worth INR 1 Lac!