Write or Wrong? Bachi Karkaria on what we call news today

BombayWaali: Bachi Karkaria

They say she will sort you out. And she does. Veteran journalist Bachi Karkaria knows her words and her wit. In the changing scenario of social media, digital journalism and bite-sized news, she reflects on why we need to embrace this chaotic transformation of news. She has served as the editor of The Times of India and has even been a recipient of the US-based Mary Morgan-Hewitt Award for Lifetime Achievement. Her work and wit attracts not just her generation of readers but also the youngsters of today, who showed up to listen to her journalist at the SheThePeople concept event.

Reflections on journalism of today

Talking of digital and social media, she is optimistic that the more formats are broken down, the more opportunities will emerge to experiment with news. Today large number of websites creating content for millennials are attracting new kind of audiences that would otherwise not take to traditional forms of news such as print. These are packaging news in a more bite-size, snappy and fun way. “The audience ultimately decides what material it wants to read and if they approve of such pattern or format of news, then we have to accept it and move on.” Irked by the Breaking News phenomenon on television, she regrets that when news actually breaks we may end up paying less attention.

Bachi Karkaria on BombaywaliBachi is also quite impressed with the crowd sourcing of content. “Technology plays a major hand in this development, as without our smartphones, this wouldn’t be possible.”

Journalism came naturally to Bachi. Her grandfather Eduljee Kanga, had started a community newspaper called Navroz (New Dawn) in Kolkata in 1917.  The responsibility was later passed down to her father Navel Kanga and he especially chose a Gujarati bride to help him run the publication. Bachi’s mother later went on to becoming the editor of the newspaper.  She had experienced the hustle and bustle of the life since she was a child and it would be unnatural to have not followed the path of journalism.

She recalls the time when she started working with The Times of India, under the guidance of Khushwant Singh, who she calls her mentor. She took some bold steps in exploring journalism that might have been considered uncool but was hard hitting. AIDS/HIV was a beat she was at the top of and as she started reporting on girl child deaths, she is known to have been the person who coined the word foeticide.

Bachi conveys the importance of smaller stories we read today. Connecting the dots leading to a big story is what we should be aware of; an opening of a flyover may seem like a local story, until it directly affects the transportation that indirectly affects the economy of the country which is talked about in the Parliament. A saying in journalism that goes perfectly with that notion is: “Every time an editor puts his finger on the typewriter, he sits back to hear the clash of the government.”

“We have to choose our battles correctly.”, says Bachi, reminding us that making noise for the right causes will get us forward. As journalists, we have to be wise in choosing our issues and starting a debate that ignites change in the society. We cannot afford to sweep our stories under the carpet and expect to stay oblivious; it is our responsibility to portray the truth.

As very rightly said, “We don’t go into journalism to be popular. It is our job to seek the truth and put constant pressure on our leaders until we get answers.” -Helena Thomas