Sunday, September 30, 2012
Two decades ago, I started my stint in media as a gawky teenager working after college hours in one of the first community newspapers started in Madras. I got a mail from the paper today asking me to write something for their 20th anniversary. Thank you Anna Nagar Times, Mr. Ramakrishnan and of course, my first boss Vincent D Souza all I can say is thank you.. Here is the article that was published in the community newspaper last week.
It was the summer of 1992 and I remember a college professor asking me if I was interested in working for a community newspaper that was going to start soon in Annanagar. I was a gawky teenager, looking for an experience outside academics . I nodded my head vigorously without even knowing where Anna Nagar featured in the map of Madras, now Chennai. Little did I know that my decision would take me on a roller coaster journey into media . I had no formal education in journalism and everything I learnt was on the roads of Annanagar, through Vincent and Mr. Ramakrishnan. I was called a cub reporter and then a founder reporter, but it was the first start up experience of my life that laid the foundation of my media career .
One of my earliest memories of working in ANT (as we fondly call it) was a visit to the police station. I was on the crime beat and it was the first time I walked into a police station. I was hardly nervous (I don’t know if that was my youth or the power of the press) while the police were amused to see a young teenager asking questions . It was a case regarding a thief who was stealing dogs from the city and a few dogs had gone missing from Annanagar as well. The inspector was happy that we were featuring cases and stories that were not written about in the mainline newspapers. A few days later, he called me to tell me that the thief had been arrested and he asked me to come over to the station. For the first time I saw the thief in custody , who was pleading with the cops, besides confessing to them. The inspector told me that it was a huge racket and he was happy that we were following the case.
Besides journalism , ANT taught me the meaning of the word “ community”. It was not just news, for the paper stood for the emotions of the community. The smiles of the students who did well in the exams , the relief on the faces of the residents whose civic issues were highlighted, local government officers from Metro water ,the police who were lauded for their efforts – all these men and women were our local heroes who were featured on the newspaper. Many a time, my civic stories were picked up by main stream newspapers after reading my articles from ANT. That used to give me immense satisfaction besides the by-line and the modest pay-check at the end of the month. For years to come, ANT became my learning ground and AD 79 was not an office, but an institution.