Please tell us about yourself

‘Threats are a daily part of my life’

Vijayalakshmi Shibaroor, Investigative Reporter, Suvarna News 24X7

This fearless reporter, who has worked for both television and print, speaks about the risky world of investigative journalism and the thrill it gives her.

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Did you enter journalism by choice or chance?  How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

By choice. I was brought up by my grandmother in a remote village in Karnataka. From thinking of joining the army, to going to Kanyakumari to become a sanyasini, I finally ended up studying journalism. This was against my parents’ wishes, and in the face of acute poverty. Through a campus interview I joined Janavaahini (a daily) as a sub-editor, and worked there for a year. I then came to Bangalore and joined another newspaper, Samyukta Karnataka, where I became the desk chief. Subsequently, I joined ETV in Hyderabad.

What were the challenges that you faced initially?

The profession was dominated by men. But I had no hesitation spending nights with cameramen and drivers when we went to  remote places for exclusive stories. I worked 24X7 even when I was nine months pregnant, and two months after delivery, I was back in the office. Subsequently, whenever I went on assignment to remote places, I would take my child along. Through all this juggling of responsibilities, I did go through a lot of stress and depression, but my passion for journalism didn’t diminish.
Unlike in print, the visual media seems to be a place where beauty is given more importance than merit when it comes to women journalists.

What do you think?

Initially, I felt my physical appearance was an obstacle to my career. But I figured that if my field reporting is good, I could do well. I used to be on live-chats under the burning sun, with sweat rolling down my face. Even now, I do not wear much make up when I appear on screen. Beauty doesn’t matter if you know your stuff. If you look good but don’t know your subject, don’t have presentation skills, or story ideas, people won’t respect you.

Before becoming an investigative journalist, you were reporting on politics. What is the difference?

Both are the same. Some think that political reporting means attending press conferences. That is not the case, I feel. When I was doing political reporting, I used to pick up scoops, run after scamsters, and investigate political blunders. So, in my opinion, both are the same. It depends on how you do the story. As far as I’m concerned, my life is about taking risks and attracting challenges.

Do you think women are usually not given risky assignments?

Everyone scared me initially. Because of my reports, once our cameraman was attacked. Some rowdies threatened me as well. Sometimes, others stood for live-chats in my place, as I was facing death threats. Now threats have become a daily affair for me, and I have escaped several physical attacks. Recently I had gone to Bellary to do a story on Sriramulu. We were hiding in Hampi. It was very exciting. When I was in TV9, its chief, Mahendra Mishra, assigned me very risky stories, despite having efficient male investigative reporters. When I look back, I think good luck and God’s blessings have seen me through all these assignments. By and large, women do not take risks, especially when they are married. But if you are willing to take risks, opportunities galore.