Editor's Note: At this year's SAJA Gala Awards & Scholarship Dinner, three of the most senior South Asian Journalists in the United States were asked to appear on a panel called "View from the Top". Two of them - Madhulika Sikka, executive producer of NPR's Morning Edition; and Raju Narisetti, managing editor of the Washington Post - are winners of this year's SAJA Journalism Leader Award, given for outstanding leadership. The third speaker, Jai Singh, won the SAJA Journalism Leader Award, in 2003, along with Rena Golden, then head of CNN International and the late Peter Jennings.
Interview by Pia Sawhney, summer intern at International Crisis Group and a documentary
film director. She is pursuing a master's degree in public policy at the
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
At 19, when Jai Singh talked of a career in journalism, friends and family discouraged him, calling his choice impractical and esoteric.
"I was an anomaly," Singh said in an interview from his office in New York City. "When I started my career, there weren't too many Indians studying journalism. My parents worried whether I would be able to put food on the table."
Singh, managing editor at The Huffington Post, has done better that that. He has weathered a turbulent tide that has roiled the industry over the past decade, and found new ways to blend his penchant for storytelling with emerging digital platforms.
Singh began as a reporter at The Eagle, the newspaper at American University. He was the paper's editor. After graduating from college, Singh worked the cop beat and tracked City Hall ledgers in Washington, D.C. Then he took a left turn, joining an early digital publication in 1984 incubated by Reader's Digest magazine. The outlet produced stories in electronic format. He later became Editor-In-Chief of the technology news team at CNET.com where he was responsible for overseeing reports published in real-time.
"I knew, while I was at CNET.com, the internet would take off," Singh said. "I didn't know exactly how or when, but I knew it would happen."
Since then, he has been part of the evolution of online journalism. He firmly believes that developing successful online reporting models are simply a matter of time.
Singh took the helm at The Huffington Post in April of last year. His job is to focus on expanding the site, which he hopes to do by adding curated material from experienced
journalists, who might help grow the site's reach. At the same time, he deals first-hand with broader questions about the business of news and its sustainability, albeit his perch is more privileged in many ways than editors at other international news organizations. The Huffington Post, from its modest beginnings as a leftist, progressive blog, now has mushroomed into a well-trafficked, left-of-center news site, where writer-reporters self-manage articles online.
"We are hiring at the Huffington Post," Singh said, a position vastly different from many traditional news organizations. He is optimistic about the future of journalism, believing that original reporting will face a second win in the digital age. He bases that belief on the notion that younger audiences will demand greater and fresher sources of news online."There are digital natives and digital immigrants," he said. "Those of us who came of age during the rise of the Internet are immigrants -- but 10-year olds with iPhones and cell phones are natives online -- they take to this stuff like fish to water."