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PJ Randhawa: Journalist

Posted on : 05/03/2021 09:31pm
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Please tell us about yourself


What makes a great crime reporter? Tremendous courage and passion for reporting the real and pressing issues, true and honest integrity in the profession. Such is one reporter, Prabjot Kaur Randhawa, who is South Dakota’s first Sikh broadcast journalist.


PJ Randhawa was born in Manitoba, Canada, to Sikh parents of Indian origin. After receiving a Masters degree in Journalism from Chicago’s DePaul University in 2011, she began her career as a news reporter at KOTA TV in South Dakota, an affiliate of ABC. Success came in the wake of her being promoted to morning news anchor. Her segment reached out to a large populace in 5 states!(South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana). Randhawa has also worked with other news giants such as The Chicago News, Fox Chicago, WGN and PBS.


“It felt like jumping into a pool where you’re just overwhelmed with sensations,” says TV investigative journalist Prabjot “PJ” Randhawa (CMN MA ’11) of how she felt when she was announced as the winner of a Mid-America regional Emmy® Award in the health and science category.


“I was told it takes several years of being nominated to win, and I only had one nomination. So I really didn’t expect to be called on stage,” she says. But her report on prescription drug errors for NBC affiliate KSDK in St. Louis impressed Emmy voters and viewers alike. The scope and dangers of the problem caught Randhawa and her team’s attention, and interviews with pharmacists confirmed that they were being pressured to fill more prescriptions an hour or be replaced with pharmacists who would.


Tell us about your work


Randhawa’s investigation revealed how many large chain pharmacies are putting profit over safety, by requiring pharmacists fill more prescriptions per hour. The end result, Randhawa uncovered, is that a surprising number of people go home with the wrong medication- which can be fatal. As part of her report, Randhawa questioned the head of the Missouri Pharmacy Board and discovered they are taking no action to monitor these corporate pressures, or ensure the safety of the public. 


“I feel an obligation to uncover instances where corporations put profit over public safety. As a Sikh, and a Journalist, I believe it is my duty to uncover practices that can hurt or take advantage of the public. My strong belief system, rooted in the teachings of Sikhism, reinforces my personal drive to shed light into the darkest aspects of society. I want people who read or watch my stories to come away with information that can benefit their families and enrich the quality of their lives,” said Randhawa. 


How and why did you get into crime/investigative news reporting?


I’ve always been painfully shy (smiles). I never thought I would pursue a career in front of the camera. I wanted to remain behind the camera when I began studying journalism in graduate school. But I became inspired by the subjects I was covering. I researched, edited and wrote stories, and I felt I knew them better than anyone else. That deep involvement released a passion for storytelling (paused), and in the same sense; reporting. It gave me a boost of confidence and suddenly there was something more important than my shyness. I felt like it was my responsibility to present the stories I was working on accurately and clearly (paused) with confidence. Luckily I had a very supportive family who had been encouraging me to step in front of the camera for a long time.


I report on crime and investigative topics because those are some of the hardest stories to tell. Through my reporting, I try to make sense of some of the darkness I see in the world.


Talk to us about your undercover journalist experience, if any.


My first undercover experience was infiltrating an anti-gay hate group in Illinois. Their views were shocking and hard to hear. I listened to their perspective and tried to understand it. More importantly, I had to understand it to report on it accurately. I learned you have to be a good listener to go undercover.


I’ve been undercover in smoke shops, beauty parlors, and malls. Not quite as exciting as my first taste. There are a lot of legal and ethical issues to consider when going undercover. It’s not a technique that I use very often.

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What would you consider as your one best gig or achievement thus far?


My favorite gig has been investigative reporting (smiles). I was never truly satisfied when I was doing daily reports on random topics. Living in small town South Dakota, I reported a lot of small events (paused) like a rodeo, store opening, or new buildings. I always wanted to know more, find a deeper relevance to the issues I was covering. Now my natural curiosity has an outlet. The most satisfying part of my job is when I can get a viewer’s money back for them, or get a government agency or business to address and fix a problem people are having. We can’t always fix the problems we report, but we strive to shed light on them at the very least.

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