Category Archives: Advice and Guidance

The grass is always greener on the other side

Former New Yorker and Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown:

“Young journalists [should] go work in India. There are so many great newspapers in India. I go quite a lot, actually. It has a very vibrant newspaper and magazine culture. There’s a lot of energy in Delhi, a lot of newsmagazines. It’s a very literary culture, it’s great.”

Illustration: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Read the full article: Young journalists should go work in India

Also read: ‘Magazines, like mushrooms, should grow in the dark

‘I would redesign the New Yorker

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‘Better to be over-fair than not give full picture’

Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter and author of The Cure, Geeta Anand, in an interview with Meher Marfatia in Housecalls magazine:

Q: Are there are any rules for rookie reporters coming wide-eyed into the field?

A: I’d dvise young journalists to write the truth as it is, not like a movie screenplay. Never lie about your article’s intention… or be tempted by the slightest embellishments to it. There’s no shying away from saying what you have to, but not before loads of research. Go first to the ‘other’ side while starting a story. Better to be over-fair than not give the full picture. Stick with balance, nothing in life is black or white anyway.

Photograph: courtesy gogomag.com

Media fellowships for tuberculosis research

PRESS RELEASE: A Madras-based non-profit organisation has announced fellowships for journalists to undertake an indepth study of tuberculosis.

The organisation, REACH, working in tuberculosis prevention, awareness and care, has announced the REACH-Lilly MDR-TB Partnership Media Fellowships.

The fellowship programme will provide journalists from local language newspapers across India with support to undertake in-depth analysis of various aspects of the disease.

Those interested can contact REACH at +91-9791017202 or email reach4tb@gmail.com.

Completed applications must be submitted by May 31.

‘Dubai is a haven of information for journalists’

Dubai is a recurring theme in the ongoing tragicomedy in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Shashi Tharoor, who has to give up his ministership, was a consultant with a Dubai firm before taking the plunge in electoral politics. His close friend Sunanda Pushkar lives there. The new head of the Cochin IPL franchise Harshad Mehta is a resident of the city. Etc.

Plus, there are is the betting and matchfixing angle with a Dubai edge.

K.P. Nayar explains in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“For a journalist with a ‘nose’ for information, Dubai is one of the most open places in the world. Once a newsman has won the trust of an Arab, howsoever sensitive his position may be, he will share information with you which will be wrapped in multiple layers of secrecy in most other countries.

“In my decade-long experience in Dubai, people share information with trusted journalists in the full knowledge that it will not be written about — until after decades, as in the case of this narrative. Unless, of course, the journalist is seeking a one-way plane ticket out of the Emirate.”

Read the full article: The edge of a precipice

Photograph: courtesy Follow the money

‘Indian media doesn’t value factual reporting’

Of all the documentaries built around the November 26, 2008 siege of Bombay, none has quite matched the buzz created by Dan Reed for Channel 4.

Partly because it was the first of the lot; largely because it contained eyepopping footage including of the lone surviving terrorist Ajmal Kasab (in picture) being interrogated.

In an discussion held in Delhi, reproduced by MOB (Milk our Bovines), Reed, 47, modestly shines the light:

Question: You managed access to some highly classified data that no one in India had access to. How come no Indian media got their hands on it?

Answer: Over the years I have found that being an outsider confers a strange advantage when approaching a seemingly impenetrable story….

The key was just persistence, an open mind, making friends with the right people, and above all believing (cheesy though it sounds) that you can do it – because as we all know if you believe it strongly enough, others will too.

I certainly don’t think the Indian media was incompetent, but very, very few journalists I met had the rigorous high standards, the passion and the persistence necessary to do first-class work. I believe this situation has arisen because many newspapers and TV stations in India simply do not prioritise factual reporting and rigorous research.

“Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?” is an attitude by no means confined to the Indian media, but it is certainly prevalent there. The majority of the 26/11 stories I checked out in the Indian press contained major inaccuracies or errors. But then there were a few journalists whose work was nothing short of brilliant and who helped me a great deal.

S. Hussain Zaidi (in picture), the brilliant and fearless Asian Age bureau chief in Mumbai (and author of the outstanding Black Friday book), became a close associate of mine on this project and his shrewd assistance, inside knowledge and encouragement were vital to its success.”

Photograph: courtesy Dan Reed/ Channel 4

Read the full interview here: The truth behind the Mumbai attacks

William Safire’s 18 steps to better writing

It’s not known if William Safire, who wrote the “On Language” column in the New York Times Magazine for 30 years till earlier this month, was conversant with the ways of social media, but it is safe to presume that he would have been horrified at how his demise last night was coveyed to readers subscribing to Jim Romenesko‘s media notes via Google Reader.

“NYT ‘On Language’ columnist Safire dies at 79”

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Of course, Safire, the author of “the nattering nabobs of negativism” and “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history”, would get the joke, but you get the picture?

Neatorama has a compilation of Safire’s rules for writing:

*  Remember to never split an infinitive
* The passive voice should never be used
* Do not put statements in the negative form
* Verbs have to agree with their subjects
* Proofread carefully to see if you words out
* If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
* A writer must not shift your point of view
* And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
* Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
* Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents
* Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided
* If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is
* Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors
* Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky
* Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing
* Always pick on the correct idiom
* The adverb always follows the verb
* Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives

Read The New York TimesWilliam Safire obituary

Also read: George Orwell‘s six rules for better writing

Sir V.S. Naipaul‘s seven rules for writers

The difference between fiction and journalism

DapperfuentesMexican writer Carlos Fuentes, whose next book is a journalistic report on drug trafficking and political corruption, has said he sees the press as the backbone of history, and fiction as the necessary contrast which gives meaning to the work of the press:

“For fiction to be fiction, the press must be true. When novels turn truth into fiction, it is true to itself, but when the press turns truth into fiction, it is unbelievable and reprehensible. Fiction’s truth is imagination. Journalism’s imagination is truth.”

Photograph: courtesy Warner Lecture series