What made you choose this field?
Performing arts is embedded in my family. My parents brought me up in a way that there were no stones unturned - music, poetry, Kathak, and sometimes I would be the anchor girl in cultural programs. When I grew, up dance was something I could not continue, however music, poetry and anchoring shows were something I had to do often. My mother pushed me to host a TV show for children in ATN Bangla and this was my first appearance in mass media. Later on, I started hosting a talk show in ATN Bangla called “Je kotha Kew boleni” and finally, I auditioned for the English News in ATN Bangla. Once I was selected, I took it up very seriously. Yasmin Mahmood, a pioneer English news presenter of BTV when I was just a little kid, is my role model. I happened to meet her during my college years on a regular basis, and her example as well as my mother’s insistence, and a big push from my husband gave me the courage to opt for this profession.
Describe your journey into broadcasting.
My journey into broadcasting began with ATN Bangla, and in a very short time, I started loving what I was doing. ATN English news presenters were the first wave of English presenters in private channels. I consider myself lucky to have been a part of that history. I then shifted to Boishakhi and was promoted to senior news presenter. As I matured, I fell in love with this profession. I served in Boishakhi for five years and then left in 2016 to pursue higher studies in Rutgers University, USA. In New York, I am working with Time Television NYC. This is my tenth year in this profession.
Once you are in the hot seat, you have to forget the rest of the world
What are the challenges for women in broadcasting?
Women and men both have challenges in this profession, especially in Bangladesh. My first challenge was that I had to present English news which then, 10 years ago, seemed like an unnecessary thing to many of my colleagues in broadcast media. Today, we have many channels airing English news. In the age of globalisation, English does enhance the capacity of the newsroom people and empowers the broadcast community. I would like to add that men face more challenges in this profession because, in our country, women are given first preference for broadcasting.
A mother to three, academic and broadcast journalist. How do you juggle everything?
The credit goes to my husband. He has been my four leaf clover! Though he is also engaged in a 24/7 job in the government, we made sure our children are not deprived of their share of time with us. As an academic, I am a team player and this makes my life easy. In both teaching and broadcast, it takes time to prepare for the performance. Once you are in the hot seat, you have to forget the rest of the world. The news at hand becomes the focus. Since my husband and I are both in professions that need a calm, cool approach, we have a lot of respect and understanding of each other’s careers.
What's the best part of teaching?
I teach Media and Communication in Independent University Bangladesh (IUB). The best part of teaching is you learn from your students. I am amazed by the creativity of the students and I feel proud when one of them achieve their dreams. It brings immense satisfaction when you find one Arif is confused in class but excels in sports news in one of the leading channels, or when one Ashna tops in a leading advertising firm, when one Rafi makes films with big budgets, or one Asif leaves to pursue higher education abroad.
What is your area of research?
My areas of interest are diverse but I take an interest in political communication, mostly on democratic institutions and their role in shaping political culture. I also take an interest in American foreign policy and global policy affairs. I am also more interested in strategic communication and policy research. Theoretically, I am more interested in the politics of globalisation.
What does Jessica like to do when she's off duty?
Off-duty! To my children, it's like candy floss and popcorn time. We go for a stroll or watch movies, we are addicted to Mattias Team Edge and WDW (Why Don’t We). My husband and I are early risers and so we make sure we watch the sunrise over a cup of tea – this is an everyday ritual for us.
What's your message to people interested in this field?
To all the newcomers - have the passion for it, have some humour and of course, some style!