“Interactivity” has been the buzzword in the English media for over a decade now.
Readers have always written letters to the editor in the past, but now they also do film reviews, shoot and caption pictures, draw cartoons, ask and answer questions from other readers, take part in citizen journalist shows, post realtime comments by SMS and Twitter, and so on and so forth.
Much of this interactivity—intended at giving the news consumer a sense of participation in the news production process—is at the front-end.
How about some interactivity in the rear of the shop?
In an era when television, the internet and the mobile phone deliver news realtime, Vishweshwar Bhat, the new editor of Kannada Prabha, the Kannada daily belonging to the New Indian Express group, pulled out a new trick out of his hat in the past week.
Using his blog, Facebook account and Twitter feed, Bhat invited readers of Kannada Prabha to suggest “fresh, crisp, bright, punchy” headlines for the Union budget, railway budget and the State budget for the following day’s paper—and printed them in the paper with due credit.
At 6.30 pm on February 24, Bhat invited suggestions for an 8-column banner headline for the State budget. He received 126 comments by the 9.30 pm deadline he had set.
“I hadn’t expected such a response. None of the contributors were fulltime journalists but their headline writing skills were on a par with that of professional sub-editors,” wrote Bhat.
While the winning headline made it to the front page of Kannada Prabha, tens of other entries with the names of contributors found mention in the sidebars on the inside pages.
Photograph: The March 1 front page of Kannada Prabha, carrying an eight-column banner headline suggested by reader Ravi Sajangadde for the Union budget. The editor’s note at the bottom-right of the page explains the headline and acknowledges the reader’s contribution.