BENGALURU: “Journalists must be persistent. Persistence is a key to dig out information. Some stories get rejected by the editor himself and when it concerns a public figure, the management rejects the stories. This should not dampen the journalistic spirit,” said Sandeep Pai, an alumnus of IIJNM has won the prestigious 2016 Ramnath Goenka award for excellence in investigative journalism. He was addressing at a conversation organized by the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media on January 10 at Alliance Francaise, Bengaluru.
Sandeep through his investigative journalism found out how politicians use public sector undertakings (PSUs) as cash vending machines. The investigation details how leaders across party lines use their official position to cull monetary favours from PSUs to fund organisations with which they are directly or indirectly associated.
In a conversation with K.S. Dakshina Murthy, a member of the Editorial team of the English-language version of the Al-Jazeera news website, Sandeep recalled how RTI helped him to secure important documents from various ministries. “RTI is a great boon to investigative journalism. Through RTI we can get any information for any story,” he added.
On getting information through RTI Sandeep said, “There are web portals pertaining to the various Ministries which give information on the Central government. When it comes to the State governments we still have to go and request in person.”
Sandeep, from the 2009-10 batch of IIJNM, has worked with special Investigative teams of Hindustan Times and DNA newspaper in Mumbai and Delhi. Speaking about the impact of his investigative story being published, he said, “After the story was published, several PSUs issued circulars saying that money should not be released on the request of MPs unless it directly benefits the PSU.”
Speaking about the nature of present day journalism Sandeep stressed on the need to be independent. “I remain as an independent journalist. And it gives me a better platform to publish my stories without the fear of getting rejected.”
“To be a good journalist we need to be independent. It is very difficult for a story to see the light of the day in an established media house which is bound by many restrictions. But for a good story, there will be plenty of platforms,” he added.
Speaking to the audience Sandeep said, “Do not be discouraged when your story does not get published. Have plan A and plan B. Plan A, is to get a big and interesting story and plan B, is to get smaller stories and thus keep your engine going.”
“Sources play a major role in investigative journalism and they provide the lead to the story. Investigative journalism needs a lot of field work. Once sources are built, they themselves give the lead to next story,” said Sandeep.
Answering to the question about the future of the print media in India Sandeep said, “In India, print media is still thriving. Many of the English dailies are dying out slowly due to the emergence of digital media. But the regional print media is still strong in India.”