Category Archives: Advice and Guidance

Umberto Eco has a piece of advice for journalists

How long should news stories and features be in an era of short attention spans? Does serious stuff have an audience when there are a million diversions? Should we only give what readers and viewers want? Is it all about boiling it down for the lowest common denominator?

The questions facing journalism are eternal.

The Italian writer Umberto Eco, 80, provides a simple answer in The Guardian, London:

“It’s only publishers and some journalists who believe that people want simple things. People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged.”

Europe, maybe. In India too?

Read the full article: People are tired of simple things

Also read: ‘Reader is king, reader is CEO’

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What they don’t teach you in journalism schools

To the long list of infirmities journalists are justly notorious for—roving eyes, loose tongues, failing lungs, pot bellies, bad livers, body odour, etc—it is time to add another, uncouth behaviour.

Young or old, male or female, upmarket or downmarket, journalists now chew gum, jarda, etc as if they are all trying to disprove the 36th US president Lyndon B. Johnson who said of the 38th:

Jerry Ford is so dumb he can’t fart and can’t chew gum at the same time.”

Let the record state that the offending journalist in question in the news reports above belongs to Press Trust of India. Let the record also state that it is not judges who get maha-pissed off at the sight of constantly moving jaws: editors, too.

Images: courtesy Mail Today, The Times of India

Right or left, some hometruths from the old pros

Chandan Mitra, editor-in-chief of The Pioneer, speaking at the annual convocation of the Pioneer media school, in New Delhi on Monday:

“Despite the advent of new mediums of mass communication or news dissemination over the years, print journalism is still a vital force and journalism is defined by the print media…

“Students are free to opt for any form of journalism—television, Internet or radio—but to attain in-depth knowledge of the profession, newcomers should join newspapers or magazines at initial stages of their career.

“Internet has brought a big change in media and has made the job of a journalist easier, but it makes you laid back. Every time, one cannot rely on the Internet because it is not credible. It also overloads you with information. Therefore one should stick to a newspaper and TV news channels and read it thoroughly.”

N. Ram, editor-in-chief of The Hindu, while receiving the honorary degree of doctor of social sciences from the University of Wolverhampton, in Madras on Monday:

“In India, the long-term competition between the self-serving and the public service visions of journalism is on and it breeds tension, confusion and, at times, conflict….

“Ensuring commercial viability and addressing the vital need of being accurate, informative, insightful, educative and relevant is an extraordinarily difficult balance to strike. Many of us believe there is a middle path, a golden mean that can deliver good results.

“News media needs to work out a template of editorial values and principles and a concept of social responsibility they can live up to and also live with.”

ARUN SHOURIE: The three lessons of failure

Bouncing back from failure isn’t easy, but some people do, as an Economic Times on Sunday cover story shows this week.

The former journalist and Union minister, Arun Shourie:

WHEN I FAILED: “I am the only editor to be dismissed not once but twice from The Indian Express.  The first time, Indira Gandhi, put such pressure on [Indian Express owner] Ramnath Goenka that even a tiger like him made a goodwill gesture out of me. But he did call me back and I was delighted to go back. But then he had a series of strokes. Those who were trying to swallow the company thought that S. Gurumurthy and I would be the obstacles. And therefore, they first removed me, and then Gurumurthy.”

WHAT I LEARNT: “My first learning is never look back. Or else you will suffer the fate of Lot‘s wife [in the Book of Genesis, Lot’s wife ignores the advice of the angles not to turn back when fleeing the city of Sodom, and turns into a pillar of salt]. My second learning: put your difficulties to work. There are very few difficulties that cannot be put to work. This is easier if our goal is inner growth. Third: always have three careers going at the same time. And carry each one lightly.”

Also read: The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant. Abusive. Dictatorial’

A columnist more powerful than all media pros

How Arun Shourie became the Express editor

Ramnath Goenka: Courage of the 2 o’clock kind

How Dayanita Singh became a photographer

The renowned photographer Dayanita Singh in an interview with Nadine Kreisberger, in the Indian Express‘ Sunday magazine, Eye:

“I was 18 and had gone to a Zakir Hussain concert. I was prevented from taking photographs by the organiser. I was angry and let Zakir know about it. He suggested I photograph him while he rehearsed the next morning. He then invited me to join him and his musicians while they travelled for a few days.

“That was it.

“I realised then that no other profession could give me freedom from social norms. But photography is just a tool. My references and inspirations come from literature, cinema and music. Photography is simply the vocabulary or medium I use to explore the world I find myself engaging with.”

Self-portrait: courtesy Peabody Museum

Also read: Pablo Bartholomew: cynical and proud of it

‘Credibility is like virginity and it has been lost’

The veteran journalist, columnist and author Kuldip Nayar in The Sunday Guardian:

“Credibility is like virginity. It exists or it does not. Unfortunately, some top names in Indian journalism have lost their credibility…. They behaved like power brokers and crossed the Lakshman rekha between legitimate news gathering and lobbying. It is like the fence eating the crop.

“How they will extricate themselves from the mire is difficult to say. The sad part is that they have brought a bad name to the profession. Politicians are jubilant because they can now say, ‘Physician, heal thyself’…. With what face can the profession point a finger at those who are found wanting in integrity?”

Read the full column: When journalists turn brokers

Also read: Hindu and HT were the worst offenders in 1975

External reading: The Niira Radia tapes and transcripts

Pablo Bartholomew: Cynical and proud of it!

Long years in the profession—watching vicious vipers making merry—should leave most professional Indian journalists deeply suspicious of the human species.

Yet, rare is the journo honest enough to admit he has become a cynic in the process.

“Sceptic yes, cynic no,” is the cop-out answer.

Not so Pablo Bartholomew.

The renowned photographer uses the C-word with admirable candour in a Proust questionnaire with Nadine Kreisberger in the Sunday Express:

Q: Through your photography, you can sensitize people to all sorts of realities – do you see it as part of your life purpose? Do we all have a life purpose?

A: I don’t think so. I went into reportage as a need to find work and recognition. But at no point did I feel that I was there to be a “crusader of truth”. There are many truths and media plays many kinds of role in it.

And I am so frustrated with the media. Because I am not sure it is a vehicle of change it could be.

For instance, I am known for this one image from Bhopal. And in a way it is a responsibility I don’t want to have. Because the gap between what that image represents and what actually happened to the people makes me feel very sad. If I could have really been a conduit, then things would have changed. So somewhere there is a heaviness I carry.

Especially recently when the story all reemerged. There is so much talk. But I don’t think anything will really happen. More money may be spent but how much will really benefit the people? I tend to be very cynical.

My cynicism right from my teenage time has actually been my savior. In a way, it has been my spiritual path!

Photograph: courtesy Photographers in Conflict

Read the full interview here: Pablo Bartholomew

Also read: Bhopal, Raajkumar Keswani and Pablo