Pulasta Dhar

Indian football writer and commentator; News Editor (Sports), Scoopwhoop

MA Broadcast Journalism, University of Sheffield, 2010–11

Pulasta Dhar interviewing Chris Gayle

I had already started writing for Firstpost.com on a freelance basis before they offered me a full-time role as sports reporter. That this happened in 2012 was quite the boon – it was an Olympic and European Championship year and this was a startup where I was involved in everything – writing, video and audio.

Things took a turn for the better when I won a national award for my feature on Afghan football captain Zohib Amiri. The Asian and Commonwealth Games happened in 2014, and there was the FIFA World Cup, and I rode these events as Firstpost grew into the largest digital newsroom in the country.

It was around this time that I started hosting my own weekly music show on All India Radio. It was after this that I started teaching students radio journalism in college – first in my own alma mater Ruia college, and then at MIT Mumbai.

What the MA in Broadcast Journalism taught me was hardly limited to TV and radio. I grew as an all-round journalist. Within a year I knew how web journalism worked, I knew how print worked, I knew how TV and radio worked

I moved to Delhi this year to Scoopwhoop. They call it India's Buzzfeed, and just like its American counterpart, it wants to be taken seriously – not just for cat memes. I was part of a hiring spree which saw lots of 'serious journalists' join the company. The website is a work in progress and I'm the News Editor (Sports) here.

A dream job

What has really helped is my column in one of the dailies – livemint.com. It is owned by Hindustan Times, who wanted me to write on European football – long columns for their Sunday edition also followed before my break in football commentary. I did the full I-League season in 2016 (the equivalent of the Premier League in India) and recently led the commentary team for youth tournaments on national television.

Football is growing at a tremendous rate in India and I think I've cemented a certain presence as a football journalist in print, web and on television here. Interviews with the likes of Roberto Carlos, Elano, Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Savage, Gianluca Zambrotta, Robbie Fowler and Peter Schmeichel have certainly helped that! It feels absolutely great. It's a dream job.

I was not ready for any job in journalism after my bachelor's degree. What the MA in Broadcast Journalism taught me was hardly limited to TV and radio. I grew as an all-round journalist. Within a year I knew how web journalism worked, I knew how print worked, I knew how TV and radio worked. It was a rapid development – from not knowing what to ask for a story, I was thrust into a situation where I needed to find three stories from Chesterfield, where I'd never set foot in my life before!

Pulasta Dhar interviewing Sania MirzaThe MA course was a blur – with so much information – but the exercises, the teaching, the project work was remarkably set up to send you into the world ready for any journalism job: be it a match report or a vox-pop; editing videos or doing a voicer. After University of Sheffield, I came to India equipped with an all-round skill set, and the confidence to do anything that was asked of me.

Subtle things

I've always wanted to do broadcast – and hardly ever concentrated on writing. TV and radio newsdays changed that. I had to do everything, and while that is the most common reply you'll get from graduates – "Newsdays were the best!" – there were the other subtle things that mattered, like the one-on-one sessions in voice modulation; the headlining exercises, where we were trained to think differently for every medium; and of course, the work placements. I think working, and eventually earning a casual contract with BBC Leicester was also a brilliant experience and confidence boost.

Favourite memories? A particular piece of work – I would pick my dissertation on tiger conservation in India. An incident? The teleprompter suddenly conking off on a TV newsday when I was presenter, leaving me looking slightly stupid and speechless! The screen during radio one-on-one sessions that was suddenly shut down as we read the news, to make sure that we didn't just read it, but 'understood' and 'felt' it (I do it to my students now). These challenges – some set up on purpose and some which just happen – that's what makes you a proper journalist. And Sheffield did that.

MA Broadcast Journalism More taught postgraduate degrees in journalism and communication