Journalists are an outspoken lot - that is what everyone believes.
Journalists are all over the place - that is what everyone says.
But what are the cardinal rules for journalists in Bhutan? Here are a few (there can be more):
1. Bhutanese journalists are always broke.
2. Bhutanese journalists are famous at infamous places like shady bars and raucous clubs.
3. Convention is unconventional for journalists.
4. Bhutanese journalists can shock prim people out of their wits, not only with their half-researched, half-baked (sometimes outrageous) stories but with their lack of propriety (in manner and attire) and loose lingo.
5. Whenever you call up a high level official, if you are lucky they will say they can’t talk to you over the phone. If you are not, they will slam down the phone to your face.
So what does a fresh out-of-college graduate, inexperienced, shy and unsure of herself do when she is suddenly thrown into the media world filled with un-proclaimed mavericks, self-proclaimed intellectuals and unabashed eccentrics? (Normalcy in the media fraternity is a virtue)
Recovering from culture shock takes a few months. Then comes the tricky part – learning the tricks of the trade. How do you do it? If the journalist is a female possessing physical charms and the person she is dealing with is a hot-blooded male, half of the way, she is guaranteed a good deal of attention. But at the end, aggression, assertiveness, writing and reporting skills (short of stealing official documents, eavesdropping and accessing secret information by other underhand means) go a long way in making you a known (notorious) journalist. Of course, not without the side effects - most bureaucrats who have to tolerate the journalist’s nosiness consider journalists a formidable foe (pest).
Meeting deadlines is another issue that is always an issue. Weeklies breed lethargy for half the week. Dailies set the adrenaline pumping.
Editors barking, reporters bunking, the hurried tapping of keyboards late evenings, hazy smoke-filled cubicles and messy rooms is the typical scenario in a Bhutanese newsroom. The trend runs amok in newsrooms, much like some unruly reporters.
The hunt for stories is an adventure to some while for others who get up from the wrong side of the bed, it is pure pain. Sources and contacts are a journalist’s livelihood, and if you can charm them over with a glass of drinks and some witty one-liners, you are guaranteed a lot more than story ideas.
Discipline is a much needed but absolutely rare quality. For most journalists, the day begins when half of the world is asleep. Late nights and drinks, gossip, blowing one’s trumpet about your so-called innate abilities though no one else seems to notice it, is part and parcel of a journalist’s social life.
But what keeps a journalist going? The craving for freedom, adventure and change. Journalists like to think of themselves as crusaders. They love to challenge beliefs. They know that what they write can change lives. It can change systems. It can bring down governments. When you write news, you become news yourself. And that all contributes to the bigger picture. That is what spurs a journalist on. That is what drives a journalist on despite mounting pressure and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. If a journalist has a family, it calls for a lot of sacrifice. Time and resources need to be divided between work and family. And often, call it the tragedy of a journalist’s life but work wins. Journalists can often turn into workaholics because they thrive on pressure and excitement which their profession provides in abundance. A journalist often appears to be an egoist, but as Ayn Rand puts it, the egoist is the most selfless creator because a whole literate society thrives on the works of a journalist who knows what to create and how to.