Person of the Week: Dr. Shirish Kashikar

Dear Readers,

In this interview series where we ask questions to people who are making a difference, it can be big, it can be small, it doesn’t matter, what matters is their contribution to our society. It can be anyone from any walk of life and from any country. Please, do send us suggestions of people whom you think we should interview for this series.

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 Dr. Shirish Kashikar is a director at National Institute of Mass Communication and Journalism (NIMCJ) in Ahmedabad, India and an experienced journalist with a career spanning over 19 years. He has written several articles & papers on modern mass communication and history of journalism. He regularly participates in debates on several regional and national news channels.

Following are his views on some of our questions

Tell us something about yourself?

 I was born and brought up in a Hindu family at Rajkot, Gujarat. After a topsy turvey educational career, I settled into journalism and after 11 years in the field, I started teaching students about mass media and journalism,  I enjoy teaching a lot. I am a father of two daughters Aashka and Anusha & my wife’s name is Anuja, she is a homemaker and takes care of us all.

Who was the journalist that inspired you most & why?

 While I was a journalist, Arun Shourie and Khushwant Singh influenced my thought process but they are not my role models. Karsondas Mulji & Narmad – two, ninteenth century, brave Gujarati journalists cum social reformers are my idols; their insatiable thirst for finding truth was a light of inspiration to me. They still and will always inspire me.

Was there an instance where you faced pressure for what you have written?

 As a journalist, I never felt such pressure probably because my editor was himself an owner of a newspaper, a journalist through and through, so I never felt such pressure, in fact, he always encouraged me to fight for the truth and common man’s woes.  After active journalism, I joined state government’s Information department, where I was responsible for the dissemination of information to the public.

Do you think like western countries, we should have complete freedom to publish anything under freedom of speech?

  Our Indian constitution guarantees freedom of expression. Our modern Journalism has flourished under this guarantee. It has a glorious past & we have seen a tiny newspaper bending corrupt giants with just an ink stroke. But in this age of social media & 24×7 news channels, it’s high time to think about other aspects too. In the name of “Freedom of Speech” filthy & defamatory content cannot be allowed because if journalists have a freedom of expression, a common man or the targeted person has a right to save his dignity too.

When it comes to credibility of media, people see news outlets with a wary eye, what can be done to renew that trust?

  I think this is the most difficult situation for journalists worldwide & especially in India. In fact, all (i.e. Journalists & media houses) are partially responsible for this situation. Hard core competition to deliver fast news has created this situation. We are losing our credibility rapidly. In fact, in this age of digital media, unconfirmed news and & videos’ are flooding our tablets and smart phones. Media should have the last laugh because still people look at us when they really want to see the news. I think unnecessary race for TRP or circulation should immediately stop. Some credible Journalists, editors should take this initiative to regain our lost credibility. Higher standards of journalistic practice must be redefined and implemented.

Do you think the recent ban on NDTV India was justified?

  If we see this practice of banning news channels (partially or fully, for some hours or days) it’s not a new practice for the Indian government. Earlier too, a Hindi and an international news channel were banned by the I&B ministry. In NDTV India’s case, it was a matter of national security. It was not about some financial scam of politicians or bureaucrats.

 In fact a self-regulatory body of TV news channel editors is also there to take care of grievances against news content, but ironically, big shot news channel bosses are running this body, so how one can expect a neutral judgment? The said channel has goofed up even during Kargil conflict & Mumbai attack on 26/11 which costed us many precious lives. Government had warned them time and time again but they didn’t change their ways. I firmly believe in freedom of expression & journalistic practice of anti-establishment stand but in this case, it was a matter of national security & no one is above the nation.

News channels are mostly debate where people more often than not insult each other, why we don’t see a variety in content these days?

   I think for this situation, we viewers are also responsible up to a certain extent. Our Indian psyche to indulge in negative situations of life has brought this trait on television screen too. One more Journalistic aspect is involved here, editors/news producers don’t believe in this saying “too many cooks spoil the broth”. In fact, it is marring the image of our news channels image though it earns a high TRP for them. A balanced, calm & trustworthy debate is required on news channels to retain credibility & sanity.

Where do you want to take NIMCJ under your leadership?

 NIMCJ and its expansion is a dream project of team NIMCJ.  We want to take this institute to the next level.  We are planning world class infrastructure and best human resources to reach global level after a certain period of time. With core cultural values and high standards of research, we want to take this institute to an international repute and respect. 

What’s your vision for education in journalism?

   As per my view, journalism is going through a tectonic shift. Technology & content creation are the biggest opportunities for new age journalists. With the fast speed of digital technology, old journalistic practices have become redundant. We need to invent new methods to prepare new age, young journalists. Though technology is an important part of this field, we must teach our students core values of Journalism. Our great journalistic legacy must be passed to them. As journalism is the fourth pillar of society, a journalist must have strong shoulders to carry the truth fearlessly. We must imbibe these qualities in next gen journalists/mass communicators.

Your message for our readers?

  Journalism across the globe is passing through various challenges, but brave journalists have proved the pen’s might over sword, every time. Journalists are the change agents of a society. They too have their personal biases & views but ideal journalistic practices have and will always prevail due to fearless journalists. Readers/viewers must keep their faith intact in journalism.

2 Comments

  1. Girish Vaishnav says:

    Dr Shirish Kashikar is one of our very limited best friends. He is most loveable teacher in his institute NIMCJ. He gives complete freedom to his students with eye on each student for decipline as well. I humbly thanks Indian Periodical to cast such interview on its page.

  2. Let us hope that the journalism in India regain it reputation and credibility. Wish glorious days ahead.

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