IWD: My journey in becoming a journalist was an accident, but the decision grew to become one of the best I’ve ever made

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By Rupa Seenaraine

Being a science student at St Joseph High School; the idea was to continue in that field, for it was something I wanted to pursue from a young age. But the inkling to join the media profession would soon manifest after a brief internship stint at the Department of Public Information four years ago.

The exposure to writing, presenting the news and general works of the newsroom would soon pique my interest and thereafter, I knew it was my calling. Of course, this realisation came with the understanding that I needed to kickstart this chapter.

I had considered many potential entities which I could’ve joined but Times Media Group seemed like the best opportunity, providing exposure to both print and broadcast journalism through Guyana Times and the Evening News. A few months later in January 2018, I started my first day at the company – a shy 17-year-old that was eager to absorb every piece of advice possible.

Starting in the profession, there are some facets of the job that can only be imparted through experience. There exists no manual or handbook that one can use to establish themselves as a seasoned writer. This is one of the first things I would discover and being placed in an environment with veterans in the field enabled my skills to develop shortly.

My journey thus far has been somewhat of a rollercoaster. Less than one year in the media, I witnessed the historic No-Confidence Motion in the National Assembly – an episode that would play out for long winding months. Mounting court cases and emergency press conferences later, I had thought the storm would be over.

I was given a second wakeup call when the protracted 2020 elections would stretch on for five months – as the media remained on the frontlines to uncover what was unfolding, staking out for weeks to ensure that the public was kept appraised. The memory still lingers of dodging protesters and chasing politicians to complete the storyline. It is the most challenging period I have witnessed throughout my spell in the profession.

With this experience now over, the challenges faced in covering stories also have psychological effects. The constant glimpses of people losing loved ones, conversations with victims and seeing people in vulnerable situations can leave an indelible impact.

Working during the coronavirus pandemic has also presented some setbacks in ensuring that safety is paramount while delivering the news.

Being in the newsroom in this era has been exciting as well as challenging. While there is the advent of remarkable technology that makes it easier, I believe journalists combat the plethora of inaccurate news which exists – predominantly driven by social media usage. Sometimes we brave the weather and all other forces just to capture a superlative angle.

The work of the newsroom has always appeared quite routine from the outside. It takes a great deal of patience, perseverance and commitment to remain relevant and keep deadlines in check. There are early mornings, late nights, impromptu assignments and hours of typing. However, I prefer these thrills over a slow news day.

Nevertheless, it also comes with larger than life, euphoric moments; rewarding me with the opportunity to travel, meet new people and hear the life stories of hundreds of people. Through interactions from various cross-sections, I have gained greater perspective beyond measure and confidence which was once latent. Moreover, the nightmare of having a desk job is tucked far away.

There is the question of which article is my best piece. I’ve found immense interest in covering different beats from local government, education, health and even meddled with politics. Nevertheless, the most superior ones seem to come from features which highlight the common man and real-life struggles of Guyanese. One of the most impactful articles was raising the issue that children of sugar workers were working to afford schooling after their parents were made redundant at the Wales sugar estate.

Then there’s feature writing, where I have greater freedom to express my creativity and focus on people that identify the bigger picture in areas of sustainability, human and animal rights, or simply those that are pioneering different avenues to achieve success. From a vegan chef that used the lockdown to create a business to a young man that used his production to raise awareness on climate change, to the savannah fires which threaten eco-tourism.

Exposure in this environment also provides an extraordinary appreciation for the Guyanese culture, providing a front-row seat to experience the explosion of diversity during celebrations and holidays.
Within the next five years, I plan to stay in the profession if the external forces fail to prove otherwise. There is always something new to learn, another new adventure and the ambits never cease.