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In Conversation with Mr. Shakoor Rather, Deputy Editor, Press Trust of India

Mr. Shakoor Rather is an experienced writer, editor and trainer with a demonstrated history of working in the media industry. He’s a seasoned communications professional with experience in designing several successful communications plans. Additionally, he is the author of critically acclaimed novel ‘Life in The Clock Tower Valley’. Mr Rather spoke about his journey as a journalist with Rabiya Singh, Trainee Associate at Legal Desire.

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself?
I work as a News Editor at the Press Trust of India (PTI). I mostly write about Science, Health, Climate, Environment, and Biodiversity. My first novel Life in the Clock Tower Valley was published in 2021. I have reported from several countries, including the US, China, Germany, Canada, Spain, and more.

Q. What was life like for you growing up in Kashmir and what were some of the challenges you faced living in Kashmir?
Growing up in Kashmir was a unique experience that was shaped by the region’s complex history and diverse population. Kashmir is a region that has seen its share of political turmoil, and that certainly impacted my childhood. However, my experience was not defined solely by the political situation.
One of the things that stood out to me was the warmth and hospitality of the people. Kashmiri culture values community and relationships, and that is evident in the way people interact with one another. I have many fond memories of spending time with my extended family, eating delicious Kashmiri food, and enjoying the beautiful natural scenery that the region is known for.
Of course, the political situation was always present, and it impacted daily life in subtle ways. But despite these challenges, I grew up with a deep appreciation for the rich cultural traditions of the region.
As a writer, my experiences growing up in Kashmir have shaped my perspective and influenced my writing. I am passionate about sharing the unique beauty and complexity of the region with others and hope that my work can help to promote greater understanding and empathy for the people of Kashmir.

Q. Your educational background is quite interesting – from a Bachelor’s degree in Science to a Master’s in Mass Communication and Journalism. Can you tell us how this unique combination of studies has influenced your career choices and writing?
Studying both science and mass communication provided me with a diverse set of skills and knowledge that played a valuable role in my career paths, including writing. A strong foundation in science gave me a solid understanding of technical concepts and the ability to critically evaluate scientific information. On the other hand, mass communication and journalism helped develop skills in writing, research, and communication.
For a science journalist, a background in science provides the ability to write about complex scientific topics with accuracy and creativity, while skills in mass communication and journalism help with character development and storytelling.
A combination of scientific knowledge and communication skills is also useful in explaining complex scientific concepts to a general audience.

Q. As a deputy editor at India’s leading news agency, The Press Trust of India, what are some of the biggest challenges you face when deciding what stories to cover and how to present them?
With so many events happening every day, it can be challenging to decide which stories are worth covering and which ones to prioritise. As an editor and a writer, one must stay up-to-date on the latest news and trends to ensure that they are providing accurate and relevant information to their audience.
Another challenge is deciding how to present the story in a way that is engaging and informative. Editors must consider the best way to tell the story, whether it is through text, images, videos, or a combination of these mediums. They must also ensure that the story is presented in a way that is easily understood by the audience, especially when covering complex or technical subjects.
Additionally, editors must consider ethical and legal issues when covering certain stories. They must ensure that the story is presented in a way that is fair, unbiased, and free of any potential legal issues. They must also consider the impact that the story may have on individuals or communities and take steps to minimise any potential harm.
Overall, the job of an editor is challenging and requires a balance between providing accurate and relevant information to the audience while ensuring that the story is presented in a way that is engaging, ethical, and legally compliant.

Q. You’ve been part of media delegations to several countries, such as the United States, China, and Maldives. What was the most surprising thing you learned about writing during your travels?
Each culture has its unique writing traditions, and writers learn new techniques and perspectives by observing and interacting with writers from other countries.
Another surprising thing that I have learnt through my travels is how universal some writing themes and challenges can be. While cultural differences are significant, writers may find that some of the same topics and writing challenges exist across cultures and borders. This realisation can lead to a deeper appreciation for the commonalities that unite us as human beings.
Additionally, you learn about the power of language and how it shapes our understanding of the world. Language can influence our perceptions, and by interacting with writers from different cultures, writers gain new insights into how language can impact our views and beliefs.

Q. Let’s talk about your debut novel, LIFE IN THE CLOCK TOWER VALLEY. What inspired you to write this novel, and what do you hope readers take away from it?
“Life in the Clock Tower Valley” is a coming-of-age story set in the Kashmir Valley that explores the themes of identity, love, loss, and conflict.
I was inspired to write the novel based on my own experiences growing up in the Kashmir Valley. I wanted to capture the unique beauty of the region and the complex social, political, and environmental issues that shape life there. I also wanted to highlight the impact of conflict on the lives of ordinary people, especially young people who are trying to navigate the challenges of adolescence in a volatile environment.
I desire to create empathy and understanding for the people of the Kashmir Valley. I hope that readers will gain a deeper appreciation for the challenges faced by those living in conflict zones and the resilience and strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Ultimately, I want the readers to be moved by the story and get inspired to take action towards creating a more peaceful and just world.

Q. You’ve received several grants and awards for your reporting on science and environment issues. Is there a particular story you’ve written that you feel has had the most significant impact on readers or society?
My reporting on India’s environmental issues has shed light on the impact of climate change on the lives of people in the country, particularly in rural areas. These stories have raised awareness about the urgent need to address climate change and environmental crises and their consequences, including food insecurity, economic distress, and human suffering.

Q. Being selected as a fellow at the Word Water Week in Sweden and the UN Climate Conference in Madrid is quite an achievement. How have these experiences impacted your perspective on the importance of journalism in raising awareness about global issues such as climate change?
Being a fellow at events such as the World Water Week in Sweden, the UN Climate Conference in Spain, and UN Biodiversity Conference in Canada provided a unique opportunity for me to gain insights and knowledge about global issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and water crisis. These events bring together experts, policymakers, activists, and journalists from around the world to discuss and share ideas on the most pressing environmental challenges facing the planet.
For a journalist, being a part of such events can provide a platform to raise awareness and highlight the urgency of the issue. It can also provide an opportunity to network and collaborate with other journalists and media organizations, which can help to amplify the message and create a wider impact.
Attending such events can also help journalists to gain a broader perspective on global issues and their interconnectedness. Climate change, for example, is not just an environmental issue, but it also has social, economic, and political dimensions. By attending these events, journalists can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the complexity of these issues and their impact on people’s lives.
Overall, being selected as a fellow at such international conferences can broaden a journalist’s perspective on the importance of journalism in raising awareness about global issues. It can also provide valuable opportunities to network, collaborate, and learn from experts in the field, which can help to create a more significant impact and drive positive change.

Q. What advice would you give to people who want to enter into journalism?
My advice to people who want to pursue journalism is that start early and build your skills and experience. Develop a strong foundation in writing, grammar, and language which is essential for a career in journalism. Focus on developing these skills by reading widely, taking writing classes, and practicing regularly. Journalism is a vast field, and it helps to specialise in a particular area, such as politics, business, sports, science, or environmental reporting. Specialising can help you become an expert in your area of interest, and it can also set you apart from others in the field. Journalism is all about networking, and building relationships with editors, reporters, and other journalists is critical. The media landscape is constantly changing, and digital media is becoming increasingly important in journalism. Embrace new technology and platforms, such as social media, podcasts, and videos, to stay relevant and expand your reach. Don’t give up on your dreams, keep writing, and keep pushing yourself to improve. By building a strong foundation, specialising, networking, embracing digital media, and being persistent, you can set yourself on the path to a successful career in journalism.

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