There are special issues of magazines, and then there are special issues of magazines. But has any recent special issue of any magazine, anywhere, been as ambitious, as big, and as compelling as the Vanity Fair special section on Africa?
Having U2’s Bono as a guest editor may be a small concession to celebritydom, but the fact that a mainstream magazine has the courage to devote page after page, and many thousand dollars, on such a seemingly “boring” topic is a tribute to the magazine’s vision.
Among the many features it runs is one on how DNA research confirms that every human on earth has African origins. Including, of course, VF editor Graydon Carter (map above), whose “maternal ancestors were part of the second wave of migration out of Africa and into the Middle East, some 45,000 or 50,000 years ago. Perhaps 10,000 years ago, the members of this group were among the first agriculturalists in the Middle East’s Fertile Crescent. As the population grew, Carter’s ancestors branched out in several directions, with his dominant ancestral strain coming from northeastern Europe.”
Back in the old days, a dog-eared copy of Wren & Martin or The Chicago Manual of Style—and maybe a sub-editor who had spent all his life on one chair in the office—were the only recourses to language for a budding reporter or sub-editor. Not any more. Tens of journalists and journalism educators now maintain blogs on matters relating to language and style. John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun lists a few.
“I advise young journalists today to learn how to use a digital video camera, and to get used to working in multimedia. Nearly every story I write today, and every book I undertake, I do in conjunction with a documentary filmmaker. This results in a documentary version of the story, which can be marketed to TV but also compiles the audio and video needed to produce a Web presentation .
“If a dinosaur like me can do that, just think what a creative young mind raised in front of a video screen and keyboard will come up with. I literally can’t imagine.”
One day, some day, you will write better. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has a short piece on how he went from being a bad writer to a good writer after taking a one-day course in business writing, which taught him to:
Shooting the messenger is a national hobby in most countries. Most times peace is restored once the heat dies down. But when the authorities stand up in court and say the media is to blame, it is time to take it a bit more seriously.
Several districts of Rajasthan were gripped by vandalism last month when the Gujjars went on the rampage, demanding their inclusion in the list of Scheduled Tribes. The Supreme Court called the violence resulting in the destruction of property a “national shame”.
Now, the Rajasthan Police chief A.S. Gill has told the apex court in a sworn affidavit that the television channels were to blame. “The manner of telecast by 24X7 news channels perhaps was a contributing factor in the wide spread of violence to places beyond those at which blockade call was given,” Gill, Director General of Police (DGP), Rajasthan, said.
According to a report in the Indian Express, the police chief compared the Indian media’s role with that of the US media in the aftermath of the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedy and pointed out that the US electronic media refrained from telecasting images of any dead body.
He asked the court to take a serious view of the issue “relating to the impact, effect and ethics of the local and national media with reference to these events and incidents” and he underlined: “The telecast did not in any manner contribute in bringing about peace, harmony and amicable relationship between the citizens and the Government.”
Exaggeration and distortion are main charges levelled against the media, but the fact that the TV stations kept repeatedly showing pictures of the violence with the “Live” label on top has got the police goat.
SUNIL K. POOLANI writes: This is to inform you that the literary magazine that we were planning, Urban Voice, is just out. The first issue has contributions from: O.V. Vijayan, Anand Patwardhan, Ramachandra Guha, Derek Bose, Robert McCrum, Shashi Tharoor, Margo Hammond, George Orwell, Anil Nair, Suma Josson, Zainab Kakal, Deepa Agarwal, Meena Kandasamy, Sudeep Sen, Majid Naficy, Meher Pestonji, Abha Iyengar, Namit Arora, and Srikant Jakilinki.
A magazine of this genre needs active support from people like you and we long for it. A single issue will cost Rs 150 (US $10 including postage) and I would appreciate if you could subscribe to this mag for a year at the cost of Rs 500 (US $30). You could make the cheque / demand draft in the name of ZZEBRA and send it to me at the address given below. And if you are based abroad and would like to do the transfer of money electronically, I can provide with the details.
Sunil K Poolani
Publisher and Managing Editor
4A, Diamond House
35th Road, Linking Road
Bandra, Mumbai 400050 India
Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press has come up with the nine rules of modern journalism. Some of them may not apply in the Indian context, but overall, it’s pretty accurate, if not funny.
1. Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted; then, after the afflicted become comfortable, afflict them again. This should provide an endless supply of news stories.
2. Be balanced. No matter what anybody says, find somebody to say the opposite. If a scientist claims to have a cure for cancer, find somebody who says cancer does not exist. If a man says “My name is Fred,” make sure you find somebody who says “No, your name is Diane.” Etc.
3. When deciding which tragedies deserve the most prominent coverage, use this simple math: 10,000 foreigners = one cute white American chick.
4. If the President of the United States is accused of violating the law on the same day that an African country erupts into civil war and an especially gloomy economic report is released, and you must decide which one is your lead story, ask yourself this: Did the local sports team just win a big game?
5. Internet, Schminternet. It will be gone in five years. People will always love reading a newspaper — and so will you, our intrepid reporter, once you accept our buyout offer.
6. When working at the New York Post, make sure your story includes all six W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why and With What Kind of Lubricant.
7. When appearing on television, insinuate that all newspaper reporters are biased. When writing for a newspaper, imply that all television people are boobs with no credibility. When at the bar afterward, complain that nobody trusts journalists anymore.
8. Keep each of the following on speed dial: a wacko religious leader who believes that God loves all his children, except the ones who skip church once in awhile; a gun nut who put semiautomatic weapons on his baby registry; an anti-weapons nut who thinks there should be a 10-day waiting period before buying steak knives; a legendary, highly quotable politician who has not been sober past noon since 1991, and a self-designated leader of each of the following minority groups: African Americans, Asians, Latinos, American Indians, homosexuals, transsexuals, fat people, skinny people, people with absolutely no distinguishing physical attributes, and foot fetishists.
9. When threatening to kill other human beings, make sure they do not live in your coverage area. I knew I should have read to the end.