A Man of Words

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With over three and a half decades of gargantuan experience in journalism, public relations, advertisement and management, veteran media personality Dr. Ashok Kumar Panda needs absolutely no introduction. Dr. Panda is a no-nonsense man who believes journalists should always focus more on giving back to the society in reasons more than one rather than only being  committed to their professional assignments. Also an inspirational speaker to various public and private organizations, he is a beacon of inspiration for many young journalists and management students today.

Hailing from Rourkela, Dr. Panda’s flair for writing got him into the world of journalism. “Growing up I had a soft corner for writing. I was greatly influenced by my elder brother who was inclined towards writing. So I began contributing articles for various newspapers, journals and magazines,” says Dr. Panda, also the recipient of Chancellors Cup for being the best English debater of Sambalpur University in 1975. Over the course of time Dr. Panda’s love for writing grew stronger and he aspired to carve a career in any profession related to writing.

Despite a Master’s degree in Political Science from Berhampur University, Dr. Panda decided to follow his heart. With a long term vision to become a journalist, he completed Bachelors in Journalism & Mass Communication from the same university and was awarded the gold medal for securing the first position in the department.

Subsequently, he joined the Times of India Group as the correspondent of the Economic Times in Rourkela. Reminiscing his early days in journalism, Panda says, “When I joined the Times of India Group I was very excited. Though the salary was meagre, it was my passion that pulled me into the world of journalism. I was assigned to cover stories concerning the Western Odisha region. Whenever my stories got published, I couldn’t contain my happiness. This boasted my confidence to stay focused on my profession,” says Dr. Panda who was from the first batch of the post-graduation department of journalism and mass communication, Banaras Hindu University.

Dr. Panda recollects an interesting incident when he got a taste of his own medicine. “One thing I learnt during the initial days of journalism is that one has to be very careful about a reporter’s deadlines. I once remember visiting Brajrajnagar to cover a story on paper mill’s Union strike. When I had an interaction with the mill management, I thought it would be too early to cover their story. So I decided to return to Rourkela and waited for a while just to see what would be the outcome of the strike. But to my surprise I found that the very next day a story on Brajrajnagar paper mill strike got published in the Economic Times. I was completely confused and agonized and disappointed at the same time. I was neither asked by the management to give any explanation nor I ever dared to ask them regarding the faux pas. I realized that no matter how important the stories are, the reporters should ensure the stories are covered and submitted on time,” he said with a laugh.

In 1991, he got transferred to Calcutta and briefly worked for the business page of the Economic Times (named Tender Times) before returning to Bhubaneswar to join as the branch head of the Times of India group in Bhubaneswar. He stayed with the Times Group till 2008.

Other than being a faculty to a number of media and management institutes, he also conducts workshops and training programmes at regular intervals in NTPC, Coal India, SAIL, Indian Oil Corporation, Indian Railways, Public Sector banks and BSNL among others. “I got into corporate training in the mid-80’s. It was quite disturbing to find that there was a dearth of good corporate trainers those days. I too was getting a lot of inquiries on corporate training programmes. Since I always had a flair for public speaking as well, I made up my mind to partially dedicate myself in conducting workshops and training programmes for various corporate and public sector organizations,” says Dr. Panda who has conducted over 100 such programmes across the length and breadth of the country.

In 1987, Dr. Panda got a scholarship from Rotary International and he was a visiting fellow for one academic year in the University of Oxford where he got an opportunity to attend one of the sessions by Nobel Laureate Prof.Amartya Sen. He was also a visiting scholar in the University of Minnesota, USA for a term. As part of the scholarship, he made a thesis on ‘Communication as a Critical Medium in Development Planning in India’. Dr. Panda achieved doctorate degree from the Berhampur University in 2011.

Dr. Panda is also the Editor of the book ‘Turn Around India’- published by Himalaya Publishing House, a thought provoking book with innovative reforms for creating economic awareness and building team spirit among Indians, particularly the youth.

In 2010, he took over as the Chairman of the Public Relations Council of India, Bhubaneswar Chapter. Earlier this year, Panda made the state proud when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Public Relations Council of India at the 12th Global PR Conclave in Pune. Besides, he is also the Chairman of ISTD (Indian Society  for Training and Development), Bhubaneswar, an institution that organizes training programs all over the country covering selected areas of HRD with special emphasis on training of trainers, training goals and objectives and training tools and technologies. He also continues to be the chairman of Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Rourkela Kendra. Thereafter he joined The Sanmarg, Bhubaneswar in 2009 and currently he is the General Manager & Editorial Coordinator of the leading Hindi newspaper daily.

Among all his assignments, Dr. Panda finds corporate training and motivational speaking fulfilling. “I enjoy the most when I’m interacting with the masses. The positive vibes and the broad smiles that I see on the faces of my students and clients after my motivational classes cannot be put into words. I wish to immerse myself in doing so till my last breath,” he points out.

Besides, he was a visiting professor in the Department of Mass Communication for two and half years in the Ravenshaw University. He was invited as a resource person to Beijing by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, London to address the Family Planning Association of China on the topic- Population and Development. His paper on Media and Techno Culture in the Indian Social Science Congress was also well-appreciated. He was invited as an expert to Curriculum Development workshop organized by the university grants commission for making syllabus in Journalism and Public Relations in Indian universities. He was the Zonal representative for east India of Asian media information and communication centre, Singapore for nine years.

Dr. Panda laments lack of passion for journalism in youngsters these days. “Today, it is very hard to find passionate journalists. Nobody pays attention to generate news in the interest of society. Journalists need to increasingly understand the importance of striking a balance between the readers and management of media house they are working for. Journalism is a noble profession yet can be extremely demanding one at times.Credibility, transparency, honesty, commitment and belongingness for the country and their work place are certain traits that today’s journalists should cultivate within themselves,” he advices.

Asked about his hobbies, Dr. Panda was quick to answer. He says, “Books are my best friends. When I’m not working, I love spending time with them. I always look for opportunities to interact with intellectuals wherever I go. This helps me to learn or explore something new because I believe acquiring knowledge is a never-ending process.”

“Frankly what I’m today is only because throughout my career I have been devoted, committed and honest towards my profession,” he quotes.Dr. Panda has no regrets in life. Having spent several glorious years with his friends, colleagues and students, he is now chasing to fulfil his only wish to fully concentrate on teaching and corporate training for the rest part of his life. “Throughout my career, I’ve dedicatedly worked in the field of journalism. Now there is a strong desire to fully shift my focus to teaching and corporate training. I’m also planning to write a book on important life lessons by the name Purpose of Life,” he says before signing off.

He has a piece of advice for the youngsters aspiring to make it big in their lives. “First, always emphasize on what you want to do rather thwhat you want to become! Second, be inclusive in your thoughts and pay attention to the marginalized and subtle voices of the society! Third, always encourage the harmony of ethics, morals and values in yourself to become a positive person in life.”

By Subhojit  Panda

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