Interview with the Principal correspondent of The Hindu – Vijaykumar Patil
“You can make a story on whatever you see, listen and smell; one should have nose for news. Never be part of yellow journalism as it is the greatest sin not only against the profession but also the society.” Vijaykumar Patil said.
A native of Bidar, Vijaykumar is a Bachelor of Engineering with Specialisation in Electronics & Communication. Born in 1960 both his parents are in the field of journalism. His father, Vishwanath Baburao Patil is a noted journalist & served The Hindu for a long time. His mother, Amrit served as a Managing Editor of the Hindi daily newspaper “DAMAN” from Bidar.
He was the Principal of R.R.K. Samithi’s Industrial Training Institute, Aurad Bidar from June 1, 1984 – August 31, 1985. He then served as EDITOR for INDEPENDENT SPIRIT and English Daily from 1988 to 1992 at Bidar at the same time he also worked as a STRINGER for PRESS TRUST OF INDIA & INDIAN EXPRESS. From 1992 to 2004 he served as a part time correspondent for Times of India, Gulburga.
Vijaykumar was the first journalist interview with R.Venkataraman, Former President of India for THE HINDU on June 29, 1999. He has been an invitee delegate at All India Fact Finding Committee on Godhra-Gujrat Violence, UNESCO sponsored Conference on ‘Alternative Schooling’, National Level Indian Classical Music Competitions, National Conference on “Role of Media in Restoring Values in Society”, State Level Workshop for Hindustani Classical Music Review Writers.
He also regularly contributes articles on Educational/Career issues, Reviews on Hindustani Classical/Light Music, Drama, occasionally on books in THE HINDU.
He has won Karnataka State Government’s “Cash Reward” for investigative stories on “Anti-Veerappan (Forest brigand) Operations” & ‘Best Journalist Award’ for the Year 1989-90 presented by Lions Club of Bidar.
He is interested in Political and Electoral analysis; Development, Panchayat Raj, Environment, Human Rights, Child and Women Rights/Labour, Education, Health, Reviews on Hindustani classical music and Theatre. A multifaceted personality with wide range of interests and good command over English has made him mark for himself a great place amongst the crowd. He knows Gujarati, English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi and Telugu.
He has a daughter who is software professional and his son is Commercial pilot.
Some excerpts of the interview with Mr.Vijaykumar Patil:
1. What made you join this field of news reporting?
V Patil: I chose journalism as career even though I am a graduate in Electronics & Communication Engineering. I hail from a journalist family. My father Sri Vishwanath Baburao Patil is a seasoned journalist and served THE HINDU for long, besides being first in Karnataka to successfully run and edit a Hindi daily newspaper “DAMAN” published from Bidar. He was conferred Karnataka Press Academy Award, Karnataka Rajyotsava Award and TSR Award (Development Journalism) in recognition of his significant and valuable contribution in the field of journalism. My mother is also in the profession as Managing Editor of the daily. My graduation in engineering course is in fulfillment of my parent’s desire. But, the instinct for journalism was developing in me since my early days, matured along with my age leading me to opt for journalism as a career. But, the main reason to embrace journalism was out of social anger, which is widely visible among all youth who refuse to accept social evils such as corruption, nepotism, negligence, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, castism, unemployment, exploitation and other issues resulting in social unrest.
2. You work for an English paper of repute does it put pressure on you when you collect news.
V Patil : Working for nationally reputed newspaper like THE HINDU is a matter of honor and pride. I have never felt ‘under pressure’ even though I (all journalists) work under the threat of a deadline. A journalist has a great responsibility to pass on factual and authentic information/news to the readers every day. Any analytical story or feature must be well substantiated instead of cooking up stories. Therefore, it is a matter of responsibility, no matter even if a journalist works for a small newspaper. There should not be any compromise on the element of responsibility.
3. All ask me this Question; and I want to ask you this, how do you collect news?
V Patil: Normally, a newspaper/correspondent is informed about events such as press conferences, functions, seminars, etc. organised by government and private organisations/institutions in advance. However, one has to be alert round the clock on various incidents happening in different fields, including crime, social, political and cultural. One has to develop a network of “sources”, which are reliable and trustworthy. There are some ‘trade secrets’ as well! But, what makes a difference between a Reporter and a Journalist, as I understand, the former communicates an event/information/news while the latter ‘reads between the lines’ thereby, he not only extracts a good news but also a thought-provoking story. Yet, without a nose for news, it is difficult to run the show.
4. Working for an English paper in Belgaum, not much glamour there is not it.
V Patil: Many enter the field of journalism because of glamour and easy access to power centers. It does not bother me whether a place is glamorous or not. If you look at issues and people’s problems, glamour will become irrelevant and vice-versa. Nevertheless, I am pained at the ‘intellectual vacuum’ and people’s indifferent attitude towards their own problems and issues, and leaving everything to self-serving politicians. There are few exceptions but of any significant consequence or impact. An intellectual atmosphere is complementary to the growth of journalism in a given geographical area.
5. A notable event that has happened in your life while reporting?
V Patil: Many events in the life of a journalist are notable. When our reports/stories make an impact and evoke positive response from the concerned, like any other journalist, I too feel to have served the purpose to some extent. To be specific, the Karnataka Police announced cash award for my report in THE HINDU, which I was given understand that it influenced the then J.H. Patel government to change its mind on recommending presidential pardon for forest brigand Veerappan to the Centre. I take this opportunity to thank the present ADGP M.K. Srivastava who had enlightened me on certain legal argument, which formed strong basis for the report. During my initial years of service in THE HINDU at Mysore, I was lucky to get an opportunity to interview former President late R. Venkataraman, which was facilitated by Mr.Prasad, Sri Ganapathi Sachidhand Ashram, Mysore. I was told that it was his first ever interview to any national newspaper. I was thrilled when Lions Club of Bidar honoured me with ‘Best Journalist Award’ in my maiden year of journalistic career, which gave me a moral boost in those initial days of my career.
6. You are not a localite from Belgaum, so does it make any difference in the way of collecting of news?
V Patil: No. If you do not take sides, people will trust you. Newsgathering is also an art. I am happy that there are many in Belgaum who share information and their concerns with me for professional reasons, academic or topical discussion.
7. What do you want to tell the upcoming youngsters who want to join this field?
V Patil: There is much more to learn for myself. Sky is the limit in the field of journalism and one can come out with a good story on everything a journalist comes across under the sky. You can make a story on whatever you see, listen and smell; one should only have a nose to smell the news. One request, never be part of yellow journalism as it is the greatest sin not only against the profession but also the society. The field is challenging and thrilling, but with honour and reward come great responsibility, which must be exercised without bias and in a constructive way. Journalism would not have been termed as “fourth estate”, otherwise.
8. Your son is a commercial pilot, was he never interested in joining you or your field?
V Patil: No. To be a pilot has been his childhood ambition and as a father. I do not believe in imposing parents’ wish on children, rather allow them to explore out their own life. I have only tried to help him realize his dream with the blessings of my parents and support of brothers and sister; my wife, her mother, father, two brothers, my co-brother, “three” best friends, a national bank, which granted educational loan and the God almighty.
9. What is that you like most about Belgaum?
V Patil: Cosmopolitan nature of the local society, broadmindedness, hospitality.
10. English papers are not widely read in Belgaum does that hamper the way you work
V Patil: Not much. Any difficulty in carrying out work is due to known professional constraints and not otherwise.
11. The media always takes a bias stand towards one, it is said, your view on this.
V Patil: I do not deny this in Toto. Any bias cannot be justified, as it only renders injustice to the section or an organisation or an individual against which it holds bias. Newspapers are here to present facts without any bias and prejudice in an objective way. The market pressures, questions on survival, personal desires to make quick money and win honours by hook or crook and other evils have sneaked into this profession as well. Unfortunately, unlike in the recent past when a newspaper was regarded as an intellectual organ and a catalyst of change, it is being treated as a ‘product’. However, there are newspapers, which remain committed to professional ethics largely. One should always look at the best in the profession instead of being carried away by evil influence of yellow journalism for the simple reason that no field in the society is free from corruption.
12. Your thoughts on what Belgaum needs so that it will be developed?
V Patil: One of the best aspects of Belgaum is that the developments and progress, whatsoever so far, is mainly due to local initiatives and visionary leaderships of few individuals. But, the society has been allowed to remain politically divided on linguistic issues by politicians, who seem to have exploited sentiments to serve their own cause more than anything else. Had they made a common cause, the city would have achieved much more progress than what we see today. The rich natural resources, educated and skilled work force, relatively better environmental conditions (although worsening due to urban expansion) comes to it great advantage but not properly utilised. Better late than never, it is high time that people and leaders come together to work for the progress of Belgaum to develop it into a second capital of Karnataka, virtually. There are a few success stories where good leadership motivated people to join hands and changed faces of their villages (eg.Jafferwadi and Hulikavi in Belgaum taluk); they are like oasis and shining examples of development, worthy of emulating.
To be specific, given the agrarian economy and rich natural resources in and around and congenial climatic conditions, there is good scope for agro-based industries, which will generate direct and indirect employment opportunities both in rural and urban centres in large number, and boost local economy. This will also prevent brain drain and migration-temporary or otherwise.
But, I feel disappointed when I come across people with lethargic attitude and tendency to postpone ‘action’, which plays an invisible bottle-neck in the way of progress. No city or town can keep pace with progress if its citizens are lethargic.
13. Is journalism FREE from corrupt practices?
A. No. However, not all journalists are corrupt. However, like in other fields, there are best of the journalists, both professionally and character wise who remain committed to professional ethics. If the newspaper organisations/owners are strict, the menace of yellow journalism could be reduced to a considerable extent. But, there is greater danger from ‘idelogical corruption’ than material corruption.
14. Are their any benefits or welfare programmes from Government?
A. Railway Travel Coupons at 50% discount and once-in-a-year Rs.1000/- free coupons to travel in KSRTC buses, only.
15. Should journalists or journalism be brought under the purview of Lokayukta? Why the Income Tax department doesn’t take up investigations into assets of those journalists who have made quick riches?
V Patil: Yes, after all, they are also part of the same system. If there is any case against a journalist being directly or indirectly involved in corrupt practice or has hand-in-glove with a government official or those holding public office, the law must treat him equally. The IT department is free to take up investigations to check unaccounted assets of journalists too.
16. Your thoughts on this website and how it could improve?
V Patil: First, I would like to congratulate you for your blog and your efforts to provide ‘All About Belgaum’ to people across the world. I have been watching your dedication involved in developing your website since beginning and there is always scope for further development. See for yourself, let our eyes browse the pages you have posted and you will know what more could be done to develop it. But, “authenticity” of any information displayed on website must be the highest priority, even while trying to be ‘first’ to inform about events and happenings.