Golden Press

A Journo’s Journey

March 7, 2012

by Jarondakie Patrick

35 and married with a beautiful son, Vandana Sinha is where she always saw herself – in journalism.

“Words were my only option,” Sinha said. “After fours years on the high school newspaper, I saw that as the most natural professional choice.”

The 5th grader who worked on the school newsletter is now the assistant managing editor at the Washington Business Journal in Arlington, VA. She earned her bachelor’s degree of art in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Sinha is no different than the nerdy girl or average woman. She was the student that always wanted to excel until senioritis. She finds joy in tackling pints of Häagen-Dazs dulce de leche ice cream or Ben & Jerry’s mint chocolate cookie ice cream, which she says is a guilty pleasure.

But it was her internship after graduating from college and first job where she would begin her professional track. The Virginian-Pilot hired Sinha after completing her summer internship. She wasn’t concerned with salary  she says because entry-level journo jobs are not about the paycheck.

The Pilot is a leading voice in Southeast Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. Today the paper has a circulation to over 600,000 residents. The paper has operated since 1868.

The paper afforded her the opportunity to be flown on an aircraft carrier to meet officials and work along the side of journalist Lane DeGregory. A woman she admires for her storytelling skills.

“She’s one of the finest writers of my time,” Sinha said. “She does an amazing job of capturing and understanding people and an even more amazing job putting their often inexplicable feelings, thoughts and actions into the most beautiful words ever strung together.”

In the time that Sinha has spent in journalism things are ever changing. Newspapers are putting more effort into their website and reporters are having to be well-versed in using cameras, design software, and editing.

Sinha says although she hasn’t adapted well to social media, everyone now has to familiarize themselves with new routes of storytelling. Her advice to aspiring journalist today is simply put.

“Learn the fundamentals. The delivery method — be it Twitter or Facebook — will change faster than humans can evolve. But you aren’t doing journalism unless you understand what kinds of questions to ask and how to elicit the answers you want on any story,” Sinha said.

As for men dominating media Sinha disagrees. She says journalism is a pretty female-dominated career field and no matter the career track people will question your ability to perform.

The last report released by the newsroom employment census in 2008 states the percentage of women and minorities at daily newspapers in the U.S. are underrepresented. Nearly 90 percent of reporters, writers, and news supervisors are white and two-thirds are male.

Although Sinha is not at a daily newspaper, she says there’s no difference between dailies and weeklies. News has become an hourly, minutely commodity through websites, blogs, online feeds, tweets, etc., even at formerly traditional monthlies or weeklies. You have to be on the ball no matter where you work, she added.

Her switch from reporter to management was a long thought-out process. She had considered working on the editorial side since her days as a student reporter where she also worked as an editor on the campus paper.  Her exchange of roles in her career has taught her a lot.

“It’s forced me to work even more on my organization skills. I’m not just managing my own “beat” or writing portfolio, I’m managing those of a dozen others as well, including freelancers,” she said.

Like most who love their career choice Sinha sees herself still editing and writing in the next ten years. As a woman balancing a household and family, Sinha says it’s more than worth it to be able to do it all.

“There’s really no such thing as “balance.” You just do everything you can to the best of your abilities and hope it measures up on a daily basis,” Sinha said.

There’s no plans for the Hindi speaker to return to school for a professional degree. She says perhaps at retirement. If so it’ll be literature or creative writing.

Outside of climbing her career ladder Sinha enjoys sleeping in, dancing, traveling, music and attending comedy shows. Her favorite places are where the sun shines and water is near.

“On a beach with the sun bearing down, sound of waves and a book in my hand. Or exploring the architecture, history and sidestreet cafes of a downtown city,” Sinha said.


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