Ed­i­tor’s pet

The big­gest skill a journo ought to pos­sess is how to save his job.

Alive - - News - by Subroto Mukher­jee

Early to bed and early to rise is sup­posed to make us healthy, wealthy and wise. Agreed. But early to bed might also be the rea­son for the high birth rate and the pop­u­la­tion mess we are in today.

Sure, early to rise can lead to suc­cess in life. In fact, if you don’t rise and shine early, you stand no chance shin­ing at vo­ca­tions like milk de­liv­ery and news­pa­per de­liv­ery.

Too bad I have al­ways been a late riser. But then I never cher­ished any am­bi­tion to de­liver news­pa­pers.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a journo when I grew up and write for news­pa­pers.

You know there are those who can see your fu­ture by tarot cards. Well, my par­ents didn’t need tarot cards. One look at my school re­port card told them I wouldn’t amount too much in fu­ture.

“If you fail to pre­pare,” my par­ents wisely told me, “then you are pre­par­ing to fail in life.”

Sen­si­bly I heeded that. Since jour­nal­ism was my goal, I be­gan to take a lot of interest in es­say writ­ing. But my lazi­ness stood in the way. For in­stance, if I set out to write a 3-page es­say on a va­ca­tion trip, it would end up a neat 3-liner: Reached sta­tion late. Missed train. Re­turned home.

Yes, dur­ing those school days, there used to be a lot of peer pres­sure. Not only were my peers (fel­low stu­dents) do­ing far bet­ter than I was, it was aw­ful to have my par­ents peer­ing over my shoul­ders to see what I was writ­ing, read­ing or do­ing.

Usu­ally, I was spend­ing my pre­cious time very use­fully by learn­ing how to be a re­porter and re­port sto­ries in the most pic­turesque way — from my favourite young re­porter Tintin!

I scraped through school. I scraped through col­lege. And then be­gan my ar­du­ous ef­forts to scrape up an ac­quain­tance with ed­i­tors of news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines — at least those who were mag­nan­i­mous enough to spare a few min­utes to make my ac­quain­tance.

One ed­i­tor checked out my sam­ple pieces of writ­ing and said ‘great’. I came home de­pressed. Why was I in dol­drums even though the ed­i­tor had paid me a com­pli­ment? Be­cause, in those days, who­ever called my work ‘great’, never called me again!

In those days, I had a girl­friend who urged me: “Go get a job. I want to see a guy with money.”

And she was be­ing so truth­ful, I tell you. The mo­ment I went off to see if I could get a job, she went off to see a guy with money!

Is it any won­der then that you ex­ude love for a girl, and then you ex­ude lava?

Any­way, dur­ing my round of news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines seek­ing a job, one pub­li­ca­tion lamented that I lacked ex­pe­ri­ence. Hey, nat­u­rally, I had just got out of col­lege.

So this is what I did. Be­ing an im­ma­ture young smart-ass, I jazzed up my re­sume a bit – ha, ha, if you know what I mean.

It so hap­pened that my next visit was to a shoddy film magazine which de­served all the credit for fic­tion, the way they lib­er­ally em­broi­dered their sto­ries with imag­i­na­tion.

As the ed­i­tor glanced through my re­sume, he frowned, declar­ing: “Well, I am read­ing your re­sume but frankly I don’t be­lieve a word of it!”

The in­cor­ri­gi­ble smart-ass that I was, I shot back: “Same here, sir. I read your magazine but I don’t be­lieve a word of it ei­ther!”

Need­less to add, I was thrown out. Luck­ily for me, thrown out of the door and not out of the ed­i­tor’s 3rd floor win­dow.

Okay, to cut short my long, woe­ful story of re­jec­tions, I did fi­nally man­age to get a break as a trainee on a seedy tabloid, which gave ev­ery sign that it was on hold but about to fold.

There I be­came the ed­i­tor’s pet. I mean, the way I felt I was be­ing chained to my desk like a pet till I got all the day’s work done.

This was the ed­i­tor’s favourite pep talk to me: “We have to work very hard, you know. So this pa­per has a long life.”

And I’d grum­ble to my­self, “If I have to work so hard, I won’t have a very long life!”

But I have to say that at this tabloid I picked up the basics of jour­nal­ism. That, in re­port­ing a story, a good re­porter asked the fol­low­ing ques­tions: who, what, where, when, how and why?

In fact, I re­call the first story I was hastily sent to cover. Out there I asked some­one im­por­tant: “Who, what, where, when, how and why?”

That person glared back scorn­fully at me and fumed, “Don’t you journos know any­thing?”

I also learnt what to go af­ter, what made news, what peo­ple wanted to read. Art, cul­ture, lit­er­a­ture, in­tel­lec­tual and ed­u­ca­tional is­sues — poverty and hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sues — they were all a big, sti­fled yawn. Who cared for them?

It was sen­sa­tions that made or broke a tabloid. To give an in­stance of this. If a new book was launched — no big deal. But if some­one launched his shoe in the di­rec­tion of some VIP — hold the press! Here comes the thrill of the cen­tury! At heart I was an ide­al­ist. I be­lieved that as a journo you took a lot of notes that made for in-depth sto­ries. But you didn’t take notes that made for a stuffed wal­let.

I be­lieved I could change things for the bet­ter, change the world. I still be­lieve this. Though I have to con­fess that these days I spend more time not chang­ing the world but sit­ting be­fore the TV set chang­ing the chan­nels.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.