A journalist from Zee News named Deepika Tiwari had committed suicide at her home in Gurgaon on the 29th of August. Her family suspects that she did this because she was out of a job for a long time. Deepika had resigned from her job as a News Anchor for Zee News in April 2006 and had been unsuccessfully looking for a job since then.
This article took me back to an infamous incident that was talked about in media circles a few years ago. The concerned news channel was Star News. This ‘event’ happened when the channel was making a transition to its ‘sensational gossip’ avatar. Aaj Tak’s shrewd Uday Shankar had recently replaced upbeat Ravina Raj Kohli and the BJP Alliance had recently lost the Lok Sabha elections.
The employees of Star News, New Delhi, had filled in their annual appraisal forms and were expecting a good raise because of the increase in channel viewership and advertising profits. The telephonic interview of each employee with his or her boss and HR based in Mumbai had also gone well. Emails and word of mouth promised a good increase in salary. Many employees had made plans to buy a new home, vehicle or to get married.
Every Star News employee was eagerly waiting for the day when the increment letters would be handed out. On the fateful day, Rishi Gaind (HR head), Saurabh Sinha and Vynsley Fernandes arrived from Mumbai with the so called ‘increment’ letters. Employees were called into a room for a face-to-face interview where the increment letter would be presented to them. Some folks got a letter with a marginal increase in pay. However, many others were rudely told to submit their resignation letter mentioning that they had some ‘personal problem’ as the reason for leaving.
The main reason they were not given the pink slip straight off was because there was a clause in the employment contract that said that if the company terminated employment without notice then they would have to pay the employee three months salary. The employees were so shocked and upset that they wrote and submitted their resignation letters immediately. If you ever wanted to see grown men and women cry, then the high-rise balcony of the Star News office was the place to be. People who had been working their butts off in all sorts of shifts for hours on end, had had their dreams shattered in an instant.
Later on, this sort of treatment became a common practice in media companies. The increasing number of graduates from mushrooming media schools and the high demand for a ‘glamour’ job, lead to employees being treated like crap in most news channels. Many left to pursue jobs in other fields because of the fear of getting sacked for no reason at all.
Currently, most news channels are staffed by interns or trainees who receive a pittance for a salary. They are replaced whenever the placement cells of media institutes ‘contact’ news channels for giving ‘work experience’ to their fresh batch of students. Those employees who have permanent jobs usually have high political connections or years of experience.
Here is a word of advice to people who have just got sacked from a News Channel in India –
- It is not your fault. Nothing you could have done could have made them change their mind.
- They do this every year to many employees. Today it was your turn; tomorrow it will be someone else’s.
- Look for another job in any field. Don’t think that you were a ‘top journalist’ and what will people think if a famous ‘Aaj Tak’ reporter stooped to an ordinary job. It does not matter – no one recognizes you anyway!!!
- Pray hard. You will get something much better than a News Channel and then you will be thankful you lost your job.
- Don’t commit suicide. It will have no effect on your former bosses. They will just hush it up in the press. Your loved ones will end up bearing all the pain.
I am too late to save a Deepika Tiwari, but I hope this article helps some other person in need. If you need any more information or help, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does anyone else have any information about similar happenings in other news channels or media companies?