Virtues of an Unpaid Journalist

“If it’s for money, it’s not journalism,” said an engineer friend over a bout of salvos directed at my profession. She feels that journalism and money are two parallel lines which should never meet, like the way engineers are taught that parallel lines must never cross into each other.

The world, according to my friend, is ordained by clear set of rules which, if followed, will make it a better place. One of them is that journalism is not a profession. It’s a duty. Hence, to be an unpaid journalist serves this rule better as there remains no eye on reward. Truth be told, before being a journalist, I had similar views. However, practicing journalism made me see the fault in this view. I found out that there were no ‘intellectual professions’ in the world. There were only jobs; you were a tailor, a barber, an engineer or a journalist.

In a place where the distinction between truth and fiction can become a reason for war, the role of a journalist is undoubtedly contentious and attracts suspicion. The ensuing discussion with her revealed to me several ‘high-brow’ values which, in her view, will make journalists work for the betterment of society, without getting paid, of course.

“If journalists in Kashmir were not after money, Kashmir would have been free a long time back,” goes another of her oft-repeated statements. The virtue we can glean from this is that freedom of Kashmiris is squarely dependent on the money journalists earn. If we stop earning a livelihood, Kashmir may get its long-desired and rightful freedom. Cheers to the thought!

An unpaid journalist in Kashmir is a specimen in itself, remarks another friend of mine. “They are punctual, hardworking, hardly complain and understand the profession as it is – a duty,” he added.

Whether punctuality is a virtue in Kashmir where bullets are more punctual than government employees is a matter of debate. It is, however, certain that those journalists who are not getting paid heavily use this ‘virtue’ in their defense, along with ‘honesty’.

“You see, being unpaid can teach you a lesson in life. It makes you value money, because you never see it,” an older journalist friend of mine reasoned one day. There was virtue in his advice. The virtue was clear to me like daylight. Since that day, the virtue rings in my head every time I sit down to write. It’s the one joker offered to his colleagues in Dark Knight, “If you are good at something, never do it for free.”

Originally published here —


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