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Journalist' Literature Festival Concludes on a High Note

PUNJAB NEWS EXPRESS | February 26, 2024 12:47 AM

CHANDIGARH: The three-day Journalists' Literature Festival, being held at the Chandigarh Press Club, Sector 27, culminated with a series of engaging sessions that captivated literary enthusiasts from across the region.

The final day commenced with a thought-provoking session on fiction writing, where esteemed authors Chetna Keer, Aditya Kant, Sanjay Versain, and senior journalist Aruti Nayyar delved into the theme of "Mirroring social concern and changes through fiction."

Chetna Keer’s book ‘Garnets Under My Gulmohar’ comments on climate change, Kant’s book ‘High on Kasol’ shines the spotlight on drug trafficking, and Sanjay Versain’s ‘Pee For Protest’ fleshes out the anatomy of protest.

All three writers have taken up social issues and challenges. On being asked by Nayyar whether they see themselves as activists, Kant said, “I write for myself and do not expect my writing to bring a sea change. However, my novel and the issue of missing persons in the Parvati Valley has resonated with many people, most recently a woman in Canada whose son went missing in valley in 2022 reached out to me. In our book, we have the luxury to give a happy ending, a chance rarely afforded in journalism.”

Keer also said that she is happy being a storyteller and does not want to take up the mantle of being an activist. “As journalists your narratives are rooted in reality. For instance, my book mirrors climate change and the shifting landscape after the pandemic.”

Versain said, “Journalism is a medium of change. It is meant to inform, enlighten and bring about a change. If someone wants to write, they should simply start writing.”

Nayyar observed that it was earlier said that journalism was literature in a hurry, but now it literature itself is being produced in a hurry in our age of hyperrealism where attention spans have shrunk so much.

*‘Democratisation of media has caused decentralisation of power’*

The second session witnessed a stimulating discussion on ‘Alternative media – Strengths and Concerns’, featuring prominent journalists Jupinderjit Singh, Yadwinder Singh, Shamsher Chandel, and Rajinder Kaur.

Asked by Rajinder Kaur what it means to be a journalist in the digital age, Chandel said, “Earlier, a reporter would file a story, and then it would go through several checks on the desk. Today, any person who has a camera can be a reporter.”
Reporter Jupinderjit Singh objected to the use of the term “alternate media.” “These days, the so-called alternate media is very much mainstream. They get as much, if not more advertisement! In fact, these days many stories that appear in print are based on social media. In fact, I, too, depend on social media for amplification of news.”

Dwelling on the pitfalls of social media, Jupinderjit Singh, who has written a book on Moosewala said, “A major portion of the singer’s stress was because of social media, ” but still he does not prescribe censorship of anybody, even if it is a troller.

On the removal of certain tweets by the government, he said, “If we do not like a narrative, we should offer a counter-narrative.”

Meanwhile, Yadwinder Singh, called “alternate” is a politically loaded word, which has been celebrated especially in cinema. He prefers calling what he does “democratisation” or “decentralisation of media.”
“This democratisation of media has brought about decentralisation of power, ” he said.

*“There is still no representation of Dalits on the Indian national team”*

The day progressed with a session on cricket and society titled "The objectivity challenge: Cricket, society, and journalism, " where seasoned cricket writers Pradeep Magazine, Sharda Ugra, and Rohit Mahajan spoke on a variety of issues such as match fixing, the Indian Premier League, and cricketers and English and reservation among a variety of other issues.
All three writers said that it was a privilege to have a job where you are paid to cover a sport, speak to cricketing superstars and travel across the world on company dime. However, they agreed that like other specialisations, the job is not without pressures.

Ugra, who started her career the same year as Tendulkar, humorously remarked, “He has retired, but I am still writing.”
Asked about her experience as a woman sports journalist, she said, “It was quite easy to interact with officials and cricketers, who were curious about a woman journalist.”

Comparing cricket reporting then and now, she said, “Earlier, journalists were considered to be a part of the cricket ecosystem but professionalisation has changed the nature of sports. Now, there are agents and managers. The game looks stylish on screen, but the real stuff is behind it.”

Here, Mahajan chimed in saying the voice of the cricketer is being controlled. “I remember when I interviewed Sachin Tendulkar, and asked him a personal question. It was such a feeling. These days journalists do not have access to cricketers. Earlier, we would get answers about the selection decisions. Now, there is no explanation as to why someone has been dropped.”

Remarking that our athletes rarely take up a sport for the love of it, but for (employment) rozgar, Urga advised those aspiring to be sports reporters to write mindfully, lest they land in a legal quagmire as these days journalists are seen as adversaries.

Asked by an audience member, whether IPL promotes match-fixing, she said, “Such is its format, ” to which Magazine added, “Newspapers are not interested in covering this story.”
Magazine, who is remembered for exposing the match-fixing scandal, recalled how he was shunned by players, authorities and even the journalist fraternity after he broke the story. “However, after a year, the truth was there for everyone to see.”
He also lamented that there is no representation of Dalits in Indian national teams.

*‘At one time, a mainstream paper had a policy against hiring women’*

The last session centred around ‘Women's issues through the lens of journalism’. Esteemed journalists and authors Nirupama Dutt, Veenu Sandhu, and Chandigarh Press Club president Saurabh Duggal engaged in a meaningful dialogue, moderated by independent journalist Arshdeep Arshi.

Dutt recalled a time when a mainstream English newspaper had a policy against hiring Sikhs and women. “It was finally challenged in court and rolled back in the 60s, but after that women were given only select roles, in fact there was no washroom for women, so they had to use the editor’s washroom.”

She also narrated how she was the only one courageous enough to break the story about an FIR being registered against ‘supercop’ KPS Gill, who was then the DGP, and the repercussions it had on her career.

Sandhu underscored the importance of their being reservation for women in Parliament. “We need to at least get the critical mass in!” she exclaimed.

Asked by Arshi whether not having the luxury to bond with politicians with alcohol in the evenings was a drawback for women, Sandhu denied the same and remarked that there is also a probability of a politician feeding something to a reporter in such a setting. “All journalists can get inputs as long as they cultivate their contacts and are persistent, ” she said.
Sandhu also lauded the Chandigarh Press Club team for having a male member on the panel. “It is not just women who should speak on women’s issues.”

Duggal said, “I have seen the difficulties sportswomen go through. One girl, who was training, received a foreboding message from her brothers, as soon as she reached the field that she was to keep her eyes lowered, and if they heard any man talking about her, they should not be held responsible for what may befall her, whether it is her fault or not. So, women have trouble getting the same opportunities as men, and after they get a job, our society is such that they have to take a career break after marriage as so much responsibility falls on them, then when they get pregnant, there is another break and disproportionate onus for their care. Men do not have to grapple on these issues.”

Dutt summed up the general sentiment saying, “It has been a great adventure! I am glad to see women teeming into the newsroom nowadays.”

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