Daily Archives: 15 November 2006

Which is the best headline you have seen?

I remember a couple of them off-hand. One is actually the title of a book by former Newsweek editor Edward Behr: “Anybody here been raped and speaks English?” This is a line Behr stmbles upon when he is covering the Vietnam war and captures the essential difficulties of journalists who can only speak English. Even when they land in trouble, all they are looking for is people who will speak their language.

There was a lovely headline in New York Times some years ago when it did a story on the kind of profits the Walt Disney company was making and the kind of envy it was invoking in other competitors. The headline simply said: “In Hollywood, Mickey Mouse is a dirty rat”.

Which is your favourite headline? Tell us.

Small tsunami in Japan; not many dead

OK, we are jumping the gun here and revealing tomorrow’s news today, but the magnificently named Shantila Maria Barnes has a nice headline in a world brief in tomorrow’s paper: “Small Tsunami”.

The headline brought to mind a headline writing contest that sub-editors at The Times, London, (no less) used to apparently have to keep themselves awake during the night shift. The contest was to write the most boring headline. The clear winner one night was: “Small Earthquake in Chile; Not Many Dead”.

For those who haven’t a clue of the Andean nation, it has a quake a day. Like, Japan does or used to when we were school children which was why they built their homes in paper, or so we were told..

A front page does not a newspaper make

Just what should go in a good paper, is a question we grapple with every morning.

By any yardstick, we have done well today as we have done for several weeks now. There is more “positivity” on the front page (like the spastics plane ride), more “empowerment” (like the plane fare hike story), more fun (Zune launch) than any other paper in the City.

Plus we have a fine exclusive on a student being beaten up for refusing to play a role in a school dramam, and an exclusive interview with Siddaramaiah in which he calls Deve Gowda and family the choicest names.

But a front-page alone does not a newspaper make, and many of us are livid that we miss the most obvious reader-friendly items. We have missed a cute item from Madras on the daughter of a tycoon taking travel agents in that most marvellous city this side of the Suez canal for a ride. We have missed a telling item on animal skins being seized from an IAS officer’s residence. Worse, we have missed a story on phone rates.

That these are agency items makes the misses that much more inexplicable. Are we having some trouble with our agency wires? Or are we missing stories in the hustle and bustle of making a page? Or, horror, are we not doing enough while manning the gates?

The most happening paper in the world?

One of India’s two best editors—keep guessing!—says The Independent, London, the paper started by a journalists’ co-operative, may probably the most buzzing publication in the world. This frontpage, forwarded to us by the venerable Dr Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi, on the bombing of Lebanon by Israel shows us why.

T.J.S. GEORGE: Immaturity breeds incompetence


It’s not often that T.J. S. George speaks his mind on journalism. At least, not in public.

Founder-editor of Asiaweek magazine, editorial advisor to the New Indian Express group, and the author of numerous books ranging from music (MS), to words (Enquire Dictionary), George is the ultimate wordsmith but also, paradoxically, a man of few words.

In a rare interaction with the Mysore District Journalists’ Association (thank you Amshi Prasanna), George took questions from journalists and journalism students on Sunday morning.

Among the key points he made:

# There is a lot of immaturity in Indian journalism; out of that comes incompetence.

# Journalism is getting less and less important in Indian media, and content is no longer king.

# Money-success has become the be-all and end-all of newcomers in journalism.

Is anybody having fun in journalism anymore?

“Journalism is about playing around, doing mischief, having adventures, taking risks, undermining the powerful, and chortling darkly the whole time. The best work has generally come from people with a certain upbeat, rollicking, world-is-my-oyster spirit.” But “journalism” is now just a synonym for “desperation.”


5 qualities journalists can pick up from a pencil

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY forwards a self-explanatory piece of prose from Paul Coelho’s “Like a Flowing River: Thoughts and Reflections”, marked for him by Madhavan Nambiar, additional secretary, Ministry of Information Technology:


A boy was watching his grandmother write a letter.

At one point, he asked: “Are you writing a story about what we’ve done? Is it a story about me?”

His grandmother stopped writing her letter and said to her grandson: “I am writing about you, actually, but more important than the words is the pencil I’m using. I hope you will be like this pencil when you grow up.’

Intrigued, the boy looked at the pencil. It didn’t seem very special. “But it’s just like any other pencil I’ve ever seen”

“That depends on how you at look at things. It has five qualities which, if you manage to hang on to them, will make you a person who is always at peace with the world.

“First quality: you are capable of great things, but you must never forget that there is a hand guiding your steps. We call that hand God, and He always guides us according to His will.

“Second quality: now and then, I have to stop writing and use a sharpener. That makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards, he’s much sharper. So you, too, must learn to bear certain pains and sorrows, because they will make you a better person.

“Third quality: the pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes. This means that correcting something we did is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps us to keep us on the road to justice.

“Fourth quality: what really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside. So always pay attention to what is happening inside you.

“Finally, the pencil’s fifth quality: it always leaves a mark. In just the same way, you should know that everything you do in life will leave a mark, so try to be conscious of that in your every action.”