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Fortun(ate)

And so the journalism training from a top editor of one of the word’s best business publications Fortune began with much fanfare. I missed almost an hour of the first day’s session and much of contributing editor Sheridan Prasso’s introduction. Missed because I overslept… The thought of another journalism class, after so many years, put me off to sleep. I know all about the inverted pyramid, the five Ws and one H, developing a nose for news, etc., and a little more than these basics. I shouldn't be bored I told myself, after all life is a continuing process of learning and that we are all like a small child playing with pebbles in a vast sea of knowledge. Armed with those wisdom, I found myself sneaking an entry into a quiet room of avid listeners.

True enough, I knew all that was being talked about and discussed. I mean, frankly the rules of journalism does not change with geographical settings. There is a set of guidelines as to how one deals with a story -- it has to answer the who, why, when, where and how of it. But Sherie said that magazines differ, in that they ask a further ‘So What’ after all these have been answered. Well, you have to agree, because its not a 150-word newspaper item we are talking about, but a minimum 1,200 words for a two-pager indepth story. And reporters obviously cannot beat round the bush. So you have a theme on which is based the story, arguments and counter arguments, accuracy and fairness backed by authentic sources, expert analysis and so on.

Where journalism differ is from publication to publication in the style it adopts and the ethics it follows. For instance, certain ethics in some publications rule that journalists should not accept gifts or such like from anybody, for reasons obvious. The high standards are set, so you have the Pulitzer prizes for dissemination of information with objectivity (not coloured by one's prejudices) and for telling unique stories to the world in the most simple of language. Sherie says BusinessWeek magazine, the most-selling magazine in the world, where she was Asia editor, is written keeping the sixth grader in mind. Talk of reach of target!

In all this, I was more curious about Sherie. And how a woman had reached the top helm in business journalism where very few had succeeded. I wanted to know all about her and how she wrote her stories and how she scheduled her work and time and, of course, whether she was married, had a boyfriend etc.:). So, for me, it was more of observation -- of her attire, mannerisms, persona, an inquisition in the way I would profile a personality of interest. As she eased herself and interacted with the rest of the journalists, I asked her what she thought of us. Expectedly, she said we were a very talkative group (each time she took up a point, the whole group would delve into lengthy discussions and hijack the topic from her). I am sure she must have found us so unbearable and noisy.

After day two of the session, I have not been able to glean much. I did have a personal session in which I asked her advice about some upcoming projects I have in mind. I got some useful tips. Well, I am looking forward to next week's sessions and pubbing planned to unwind after the heavy doses of classroom work. I can tell you this much, few can dare penetrate her calm exterior, for beneath that calm exterior lies an intelligent reserve.

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