Two newsrooms in the city – Puthiya Thalaimurai and News 7- have only women making major editorial decisions and running the show

This Womens Day these two TV newsrooms in Chennai were run entirely by women
news Women's Day Tuesday, March 08, 2016 - 21:26

“We actually thought they would give us a treat by letting us rest today, but we’re actually doing twice the normal amount of work we do!”, Parvathy Bama says, chuckling. Bama is a senior editor at Puthiya Thalaimurai TV, and she’s got her hands full: helming the all-women bulletin on Women’s Day. But she quickly quips: “Jokes apart, we’re loving the freedom today.”

Two newsrooms in the city – Puthiya Thalaimurai and News 7- have only women making major editorial decisions and running the shows. “We have a debate on feminism running right now, see?” says Parvathy, signalling to the television screen, “It feels good to be the boss today.” 

Parvathy is assured that things are looking up for female journalists in her newsroom today. “When we recruit, we don’t have time to look at reporters as men or women, the job has to get done. We really want to go beyond gender.” Their biggest enemy is hesitation, according to her. “We’re not asking hard enough for what we want. We have to own our space.” 

There’s a sensitivity and depth, she says, that women bring to environment and human rights’ stories, but the newsroom is far removed from the stereotype of women only working on specific beats. The percentage of women in the Puthiya Thalaimurai newsroom, doesn’t account for much. Currently at 20 percent, Parvathy still says there’s a long way to go in terms of numbers. 

Parvathy’s eyes dart to the screen. “That girl. She’s new, and she’s anchoring live. She was shuddering in fear and nervous. You just need to give her a chance.” Abhinaya is a year in, and her debut at the all-women bulletin is being lauded in the bustling newsroom. She looks fairly relieved it’s over, and an anchor in a radiant pink salwar kameez stops at her desk. “What were you so scared about? You were fine,” she assures her. She’s also Abhinaya, five years in and juggling reporting and anchoring.

“I’m big Abhinaya and she’s little Abhinaya, and we try to help each other as much as we can.” The pair then discuss the next bulletin.

In the News 7 Newsroom, Editor-In-Chief Thillai is happy to assure that the percentage of women currently stands at 40%. The channel’s launch boasted of an all-women’s bulletin – an example he’s trying to set, by having one every year. The PCR, the studio, the reporters, the camerapersons – women are owning all their roles, “and having a great time doing it,” he says. 

News7’s senior audio engineer Gladys has been at the console for the entire day. She’s taking a lunch break. “I fell in love with the audio console during my degree, and I haven’t wanted to do anything else since.”
 


 

Her parents however, were incredibly supportive of her plans to study the craft. And from her native place in Kerala, she was off to NDTV in Chennai, which she calls one of the best workplaces. “All the women there were audio engineers, and I couldn’t be more motivated.” She shifted to Delhi shortly after where it “only got better.” But she had to come back to Chennai after getting married, and that caused enough hesitation. However, News 7 for her was a breath of fresh air. “What I’m most proud of, is that I am producing a show on Gadgets, which is stereotypically seen as a largely male interest – and leading a team of 4,” says Gladys. 

News 7 also makes a conscious decision to hire female camerapersons. And Dhanya Lakshmi from Mannargudi is one of them. For her, to have chosen a path other than engineering, was a big leap backed by her mother's support. "My father was very skeptical, but taking the effort to explain a little more is all that he needed, and he had accepted my decision," she says. It's her first job, and she's more than proud to take a path that's often not taken by women in the local media. She however, went through her fair share of criticism. “At first, male camerapersons would always breathe down my neck to check if the frame is right while I’m looking at the LCD screen in the camera,” she says. It was infuriating.



 

“Are you sure you’re a cameraperson?, they would ask. But no one has time to respond to all these comments.” Dhanya had her ways of focusing her attention and hitting back if she needed to. "As long as the visuals go to my boss, that's what matters, I would always tell myself."

Gradually, asserting her space at rallies and meets that she covered meant that the male camerapersons were softening. "I think they just weren't used to it. They accepted that I was there after a point, and I wasn't going to go away."  

 

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