words of a friend…too much knowledge too early

“What will you people do?” The words of a widow who had seen countless journalists come and go but her situation remained the same. What exactly is a journalist supposed to do in the face of such overwhelming poverty and injustice? Where does he/she draw the line between becoming a voyeur and a sympathetic listener?

One of the unwritten rules of journalism is to keep oneself in the background. One should never get involved in one’s subject. A journalist is there for a job and after his job is done he/ she has to withdraw. But when faced with such stark reality one has no choice but to get involved. At this point it is no longer a question of one’s profession but rather one’s humanity. Journalists are better suited for this task because they are aware. They can see beyond the superficial reality that is presented to the world. Their experience and knowledge tell them that there is another world out there that only they can see. That is one of the great advantages of this profession. To borrow a line from spiderman: with great power comes great responsibility.

A journalist might even call oneself a prophet because he shows the world what it cannot see or rather what it chooses not to see. But then the question lingers: how does one go about this overwhelming task? How can we make a difference? It does not mean that one should leave everything that he does and head for the rural areas hoping to change the world at the first instance. Only people who can afford to forsake everything can do this. This is because there is no turning back on this idea. But there are also other ways to make a difference. As Milton said in ‘On his blindness’: They also serve who only stand and wait. A journalist’s greatest weapon is his pen. His / her stories are capable of influencing multitudes of people. A politician can speak to the people and influence them. But as time goes by his voice will deteriorate and he will not remain the effective speaker that he was. A journalist however will remain the same for the rest of his life because his pen will forever remain the same.

The first step is awareness. The people who live in their tall ivory towers have no idea how the rest of humanity lives. It is not true that they do not want to know but rather that they cannot know because no one tells them. Ultimately the power lies with the people. So the people should be made to understand that for every comfort that they seek there is somebody who goes without the basic necessities of life, And this is what the journalist can do.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “words of a friend…too much knowledge too early

  1. vrindasharma

    written by James Hardy {hardy.james@gmail.com} after our class returned from a trip to cover deprivation.
    i was reminded of it today after a widowed women who had lost half her family to cancer asked me what i could do?
    saying that i would write about it was not a solution but neither is it possible for journos to pick us every issue they see and make it their reason to live. The notion of being objective about the issue goes for a toss when reality is slams u to the ground, whether it is cases of female infanticide, honour killing, AIDS, poverty or corruption. How can u not be subjective when u breathe the same air as the subject. To be the background needs a strange sort of balance, the brazen reality, the hopelessness and the audacity of the issue that we often write about do make the blood boil and the heart ache but all i can do is write….this issue will make a national page headline and another will reach the front page. i will get my pay slip and the issue might just stay the same….

  2. i dont agree with half of it….the idea of journalists knowing the truth is just naive belief of a fresh-faced kid from j-school, who believes in the power of journalism….in reality journalists don’t have power….like u said….the story will go maybe on page one or nationally but the real issue remains unaddressed….the only ones happy are us journos because we have gotten an exclusive and trumped our competition to that story….how many journalists have actually gone back to the site of their groundbreaking story…not as a journalist, but rather as a human being…..and to be honest this profession is not a social service…..it is social but not a service…sometimes the best remedy a man can do is to let it be….sometimes our interference can multiply the magnitude of the problem…but no!!!!!! our profession demands it…we have to interfere….we have to get a story….if you ever get to have a heart-to-heart with a seasoned journalist, ask him if he’s really happy….

  3. vrindasharma

    seasoned journalist or not
    i have gone back, to caste based arson in mirchpur and to manual scavengers of ambala and commercial sex workers of manimajra..not for a follow up story but as a human. m not saying i did smthing massive, its just that i could go back also u see james- I AM STILL ‘Covering Deprivation’….

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