Please tell us about yourself
I’m Disha, a reporter on the data and investigations team at NJ Advance Media in Iselin, New Jersey, covering what is slowly coming to be known (unofficially) in our newsroom as the “morbid curiosity” beat. In other words, most of my stories are about death and destruction and violence and other grim things. I was in journalism grad school right before this—I went to University of Southern California in sunny Los Angeles, and I miss everything about that place every day. Prior to moving to the US, I worked as a journalist in India and Bangladesh.
My work appears on NJ.com andThe Star-Ledger. Previously, I was a News Editor at USC Annenberg Media and have also worked for The Telegraph, Calcutta and Goethe Institut in Calcutta and Dhaka. I’m a recent graduate of the M.S. Journalism program from University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. I’m interested in data journalism, virtual reality and interactive storytelling. Issues I care about include gender rights, education and freedom of press. My Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is INFP, and I love traveling, reading, good conversations, dogs, and baking, but not necessarily in that order. I am most likely to be found with a cup of super-strong coffee, which is what seems to be keeping me alive these days.
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Where are you from and what were you doing before enrolling in the Journalism program?
I’m from Calcutta, India. Before joining the journalism program, I was working as a research fellow with Goethe Institute in their Calcutta and Dhaka offices. Prior to that, I was juggling a master’s degree in English Literature (Jadavpur University) and a job as a reporter with The Calcutta Telegraph, covering their education beat.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
I did a lot of online research before applying to graduate schools in the U.S. A lot of journalism schools weren’t proactive about modifying their curriculum to suit an industry that is in a state of constant flux, but I was really impressed at the range of courses offered at Annenberg, and the school’s focus on digital journalism and other highly experimental platforms.
What do you enjoy most about the program?
The encouragement I get from my professors is by far the best thing about the program. All of the faculty are amazing instructors, but more than that, each of them has had a personal impact on my overall program experience. I’ve often wanted to pursue some quite unusual story ideas, but never have I been told that I cannot do it or that I should focus on something else. That kind of creative freedom has been most important to me.
How has the M.S. in Journalism program prepared you to be a more successful professional?
The number of skills I’ve acquired in the past few months would have taken years to gain had I been a working professional. By the end of my first semester, I had worked with many so many different platforms that I already had a clear idea of what my skills were and what I wanted to specialize in. The standards are very high in this program and I am sure that I will be in good shape when I join an organization after graduating.
What excites you most about the direction of the journalism profession?
It’s exciting to see how newsrooms are currently trying to innovate and adopt newer modes of storytelling. It shows that we are prioritizing the story over the platform. Inevitably, I see the industry undergoing a huge overhaul, but I feel like that’s necessary to move forward.