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Unearthly Hour

At the Wall Street Journal, my friend who's just had a stint at this Mecca of journalism, says every story is edited and edited rigorously even if the story comes from a top editor. Simple logic: a story even if it is re-written for the nth time will still show flaws when seen by another pair of fresh eyes. Not a reflection on the writer's skills but speaks a lot about the practice at WSJ. And that’s the truth about writing -- there is always room and more room for improvement and collective thinking. So that's the journal for you, the benchmark of the highest practice in journalism today because of its writers and the desk, both of whom work in unison to create the brand it is.

Reporters in India are a set of personalities. Uptight, rigid and conventional about changes to their copies. Pointing changes is something they cannot wallow in their stride. The result: loose ends in sentences, jargon, overly flowery language -- are all passed in the name of 'writer's voice'. Bad stereotyping, but of late, my experiences have been pretty up the drawn. If every journalist was a born writer, desk hands would be redundant. There would have been just bellboys and reporters in the newsroom then.

Seasoned writers develop their own voice but that voice, too, comes with aid, lets not forget. Reporters would think otherwise. So, let’s call this professional discrimination. The discrimination is deep seated in many places. And that is the reason why we cannot do a WSJ much as we want to, because the standards set are by the ones who do not deviate from the average.

The bright side: the news business is getting more and more exciting in India than it was a decade ago. There is the flourish of all kinds of media outlet. There are people from all backgrounds and that gives the profession its colour and gossip. Some raw ones enter the profession with the clich├ęs “to contribute to society” and what not! Boy did I not too start with the same fervour? Soon it all boiled down to chasing deadlines, while service to society went for a toss. And oh the byline craze? Till death do us part, that craze is here to stay. That applies to all rungs in the hierarchy. Megalomania. Bingo!

It’s 3:30 am. I am waiting for my story. And I am a pretty disillusioned soul just now!


Snigdha said…
the desk at wsj is very very good. you simply cant leave rewriting to the desk here, india, because, sub editors are as bad at writing, editing and thinking as reporters are. i agree that reporters are megalomaniacs and most of them would not get a job in a decent newspaper or magazine elsewhere in the world. but exactly the same also holds true for desk hands. and things wont improve till people stop playing the blame game. we all suck. the sooner we see that, the better for all of us. but then journos are rarely sensible people.
annie said…
Interesting read!!
Snigdha said…
hey indie, long time no post. all fine?
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