Daily Archives: 5 April 2007

Have computers made journalism any better?

The little bell that struck when you reached the end of a line… The sssseeeeech of the carriage being rolled back after a line… The kreek-kreek-kreek of the roller being rotated to adjust the alignment of paper… The ink-stains on the fingers while replacing the ribbons…

The clickety-clack of typewriters is long gone from our newsrooms. As indeed are the monsters who evoked awe with their sheer typing speed. And the composers whose typewriters sounded as if they were composing songs on their machines, not paragraphs of prose.

But to a generation brought up on the typewriter and its close cousin, the teleprinter, the sight, noise and magic of striking type on paper—furiously if the head was bobbing with ideas, slowly if the boss was hovering around—is a memory that no new technology can erase.

In The Iron Whim: The Fragmented History of  the Typewriter, Darren Wershler-Henry, a professor of communication studies in Ontario, says the typewriter has been invented at least 52 times. Mark Twain was the first major writer to deliver a typewritten manuscript.

Reviewing the book in The New Yorker, Joan Acocella writes:

Something else to think about is the effect that the computer, with its astonishing capabilities, has had on us as writers. Take just one example: the ease of moving a block of text. Highlight, hit control X, move cursor, hit control V, and, presto, that paragraph is in a new place. Of course, we were able to move things in typewritten text, too, but all that business with the scissors and the tape made us think twice, and maybe it was wise for us to hesitate before changing the order in which our brains produced our thoughts. In recent years, I have read a lot of writings that seemed to say, “This paragraph is here because it seemed an O.K. place to shove it in.”

The advent of PCs has made journalism easier, but has it made better? Do we write too much, too carelessly, without too much thought? Did the typewriter slow us, slow our thoughts, allow us to compose our thoughts with care? Did we write much better before tech happened, or is it all nostalgia?

Read the full review here:  The typing life


‘Today’s cricket journos are chamchas of players’

The ongoing cricket nautanki (as Aniruddha Bahal calls it) has its own media sideshow. Following Ajay Naidu‘s oh-I-am-so-hurt-by-Greg Chappell interview with Sachin Tendulkar in The Times of India, Aajtak had a studio discussion on the whys and wherefores of Indian cricket last night.

Rajan Bala was waxing eloquent on the distance that players kept from reporters in his day.

On the other hand, he said:

“Today’s cricket reporters are chamchas. The cricketers are chamchas of reporters, and the reporters are chamchas of the players because they are required to write on the colour of underwear of the players. In our time, we didn’t have to write on the players’ underwear.”

In his magnificent memoirs A Hack’s Progress, the legendary investigative journalist Phillip Knightley writes of his short stint with sport, as the London correspondent of an Australian newspaper.

Within days I faced the dilemma of all sports reporters—do you write what really goes on and then get so frozen out by the players and officials that you never get another story, or do you keep your mouth shut, write anodyne nonsense, and enjoy being accepted as a non-playing member of the team.

When Knightley sees an Australian rugby player ask a businessman’s beautiful wife at the bar, “Hey, darling, would a quiet fuck be out of the question?” Knightley doesn’t write the story. When he sees a famous forward in bed with two seasoned women, and ten players and two journalists as the audience, Knightley doesn’t write the story.

“That is the way it goes, then and now. While sports writers give the impression of being only too willing to criticise sportsmen, it’s all froth and bubble—they never write the most interesting stories because they have to live and travel with the people they write about.”