There are many individuals out there, who, otherwise being sensible, live in the sincere belief that journalism involves a lot of creativity and imagination.
And the biggest professional challenge for any journalist is when he runs into the aforementioned types. At such moments, it will be impossible for the journo to disabuse his or her interlocutors of their notions, and keep them down and quiet.
How can a journalist tell people that journalism is akin to the tail in an animal: You can’t think of the animal without it, yet hardly has any practical purpose, if you get to think about it.
So, rather than redefine that journalism is not about creativity, journalists have got down to redefine creativity, which is to say the previous sentence as: journalism wags on the dog of society. (Reader warning: Don’t attempt such dangerous sentences at home without the supervision of a journalist who has trained himself on mixing metaphors and smothering similes).
There are many areas of journalism that are now being redefined beyond recognition.
A sincere newspaper correspondent’s job does not stop with breaking exclusive information to the public. His or her job also entails ‘interpreting’ information in a manner that will confirm why journalism lags so much behind when it comes to career choices for youth.
If a press release lands on the news desk saying, for instance, ‘Tatas to enter ship building industry’, a veteran scribe, who knows that such reports would not be read by the sub-editors, whose job is to punctuate the copy and check for proof errors, will try to ‘sex up’ the report. The senior correspondent, who has been in the field for over two decades, will know how to ‘tap his sources’ in the industry, and go beyond the obvious of ‘Tatas to enter ship building’, which is what his counterparts in other papers will write about. Having spent long years in the trade, the hardened journo figures out that the company personnel, human beings as they are, can be reached on the phone and their numbers can be found on the press release. This kind of understanding and professionalism comes only to those journalists who are true to their craft.
So after making several calls and fixing up an appointment at a convenient bar to discuss the news details further, the senior pro will eventually come up with a report that will at once make everyone sit up and take notice: Tatas not to take wings, says no to entering aviation sector’. (Related story: Kingfisher’s Vijay Mallya says cheers).
The one good thing about this particular related story, ‘Vijay Mallya says cheers’, can be handily used for any news report and it won’t look out of place. Man mows down mother-in-law (related story: Vijay Mallya says cheers). Karunanidhi shifts Republic Day to Dec 31 (Related story: Vijay Mallya says cheers).
See, I told you, no!
Then there are press conferences. It is here a seasoned journo, thinking on his nifty feet, makes a smart move that will confirm why he is deemed seasoned. After enduring the endless drone of the man who addresses the press conference, the journo, upon the end of the formal meeting, quickly gets into position and corners the main speaker for a private chat. The speaker may have nothing more or anything new to add to what he said at the press conference. Yet, the journo, by virtue of striking a personal conversation with the man in question, gets to file a news story that the trade will call as ‘breaking news’ or ‘exclusive’, something that will play a part in fixing his position in the office hierarchy, which is the sole touchstone to decide who gets to go on the next freebie foreign trip, sponsored by companies that for some reason believe that taking scribes abroad will get it good publicity.
Anyway, a typical news story runs likes this:
Sun rises in the east: Met Office
The weathermen today said that the sun will rise in the east, and urged the public to look in that direction when doing their morning surya namaskarams. Talking to reporters, XYWZ urged the people blah, blah, blah.
Such news reports are thoughtfully tucked in a quaint corner of the paper to ensure that no human gaze falls on it. On the other hand, a typical ‘exclusive’ new story will scream for attention with a lot of extra emphasis to ram home the idea.
Explosive details about earth emerge
BPO industry over the moon
‘The Sun has no time for the West’
In a finding that will make those living in the East of the world, especially Indians, rejoice, the weather bureau today categorically asserted that the sun does not rise in the west.
It is a development which makes it clear that after the economic recession darkness is about to set in the west (related story on the impact on the IT sector on page 7).
Highly placed sources (on condition of anonymity) in the weather bureau, in an exclusive chat with this correspondent, also confirmed that east is the direction that is opposite the west.It may be recalled that this newspaper was the first to break the news, after a sting operation using a highly sophisticated Compass, that south and north are two directions (see box item on page 12) along with east and west.
In a related development, the city’s night life went into top gear as the party animals got down to celebrate what is now deemed to the epochal event for the cultural cognoscenti (Also read, ‘what actresses do after sundown, and Vijay Mallya says cheers’).
Now, you may all wonder why journalists should resort to such redefinition of creativity. Well there are suckers out there reading things that come with the tag ‘Breaking News’. But anyway going by what has been appearing in the media, people may be forced to drown their sorrows in pints of lager, and Vijay Mallya may indeed be saying cheers as his business zooms (See related story: Breaking news).