May 23, 2006

A reporter inhales skepticism

We have, in this blog, raised such a ruckus (Capt. Murthy, Mr Rao and I, not necessarily in that order) over a certain Star of Mysore story that I can understand if you feel we are over-doing it. But then seeing Capt. Murthy’s ‘chutpati’ comment to a ‘Media Muddle’ blog post, I thought of adding my spoonful of ‘ghee’ to the blaze by plagiarizing something I read on the attributes of a responsible journalist and responsive journalism.

Every reporter inhales skepticism. You interview people and they lie. You face public figures, diligently making notes or taping what is said, and they perform their interviews to fit a calculated script. The truth, alas, is always elusive….The newspaper reporter’s daily struggle is against deadlines and column inches, time and space.

The italicized lines in bold have been nicked from NYT book review by Pete Hamill, of David Remnick’s ‘Reporting’. The author was a Washington Post reporter before he became ‘New Yorker’ editor. And during his apprenticeship at the Post Remnick often covered homicides, giving it his all, only to be told by a night editor: “Two paragraphs. Slug it, ‘slay’ ”.

Another lesson that Remnick learnt: the best reporting doesn’t simply look at the world; it tries to see beyond the obvious surface. The reporter goes places the average reader never visits; the reporter must make that fragment of the world understandable with details….He goes places, talks to many people and comes back to tell his readers what he has learned. And like any reporter who learns from what he experiences, he knows that the world contains very few saints.

Modesty remains a primary virtue of any good reporter….As a writer Remnick practices a classic journalistic style: concrete nouns, active verbs, graceful sentences, solid paragraphs, subtle transitions….As a writer he treats the reader as an informed, intelligent equal. As an editor, he wants to make the writer’s work better.

Those who happen to read this post would do me a favour by spreading the word about this piece of plagiarism to any reporter they might know, or anyone they know, who might know of a newspaper person.

1 comment:

Vijendra Rao said...

The angst that Capt. Murthy and GVK have expressed on the issue is palpable. I hope others following this debate are able to touch it, too. The issue in focus is no trivia.