Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hogwash journalism 101

If you are a brand new kid on the block in the world of journalism and have been assigned a task of creating a cluster of sensational stories around one absurd piece of news story, how would you go about it? I'm no journalist (or even in a related field) but I had an epiphany recently just by keeping my eyes and ears open. Some insights below.

I would pick one non-story that can be easily take the form of sensational news... something like Abhi-Ash moving out of Jalsa (their current residence) to their new place in Carter Road. Don't fret if the title is all you have and nothing beyond. It doesn't matter if the story is true or false. Try to get as many celebs on their way out from J.W. (this will be hard since you're a new kid), college students, dhabawalas, house wives at a temple, random guy on the bus-stand picking his nose, whoever you can get to comment on it. Just the title along with these quotes will get you the building block of your story. Go ahead and get it published along with some pictures, even over-used pictures. Be sure to bend the quotes to add some spice.

Try to get some reactions from peeps in their inner circle, like Amitabh in this case. But he won't respond to your SMSs or emails or VMs. I'd try following his blog non-stop for 24 hours and being the first one to comment (this is challenging since he gets about 300 comments per blog) about why Abhi-Ash are moving out. If he responds to your comment, great. Take it out of context all your want and you've got a killer story. If he doesn't, it should be recorded as "a response too sad for words". Yes you have to sell your soul in journalism. :p

Next, hunt for some controversial stories even if it is remotely related to this one. Like Salman Khan is moving to Carter road. Why would he move to the same city as Abhi-Ash? He's still not hitched so there's a chance he still has a thing for Ash. Cook something up there combining images of the two looking in different directions and you’ve successfully added drama!

Think out of the box and look for characters that can somehow be linked to the story. Like Anil Kapoor. He recently got invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the LA Dodger’s game. First Indian to do it ever so this is definitely news worthy. While interviewing him (he will do any interview, even yours, if you mention Oscars), ask him what he thinks of the fact that Sonam replaced Ash in the L’Oreal campaign purely because Ash is over the hill (that would just be your opinion btw). Anil will obviously be diplomatic but provoke him slightly and he might tell you with child-like enthusiasm that not everyone's fortunate to be old and popular like him. Bingo, you focus on the word 'old' and get creative with it. She’s 36 for god’s sake ;)

Next, intertwine the story with relevant events. Cannes film festival is coming up and Ash is a regular. Word has it that she's going to be an activist for social and humanitarian causes there. Which basically means, she'll attend one press conf. on the subject amidst gala dinners and red carpets with full cleavage on display. But pick on the social and humanitarian part. Record responses from the press conf. and link it back to the original story somehow.

I would stay away from any stories that have no masala like Abhishek in this context. He's lost his gut but gotten himself a Tex-Mex haircut. Uggggh. So it evens out. Maybe Amar Singh is a better bet. You get the point.

So there, you have your one outrageous non-story spread across 30 days until Ash decides to stay in or move out. Then you move onto the next. Besides penning it, if you can talk the same crap above with conviction backed by good diction, you'll soon be on your way to Barkha Dutta's camp.

Sadly this is what Indian media has come to, lately. And although I haven't cooked up any of the above stories (I swear they've all been in the news lately and don't ask me why coz you got me. You can ask me why I read them and I have no answer :p) I still put it together for your benefit and demand a compensation.

Your total will be $50 and cash only please :)


jus me... said...

it hits home... I'm a journalist, though I don't cover Indian news or even general news and work for a really old organization...
which is probably why I have never been forced to make the choices which other journalists have.
When you have more than 15 news channels which run 24 hours, you need news - catching news at that - to fill those 24 hours.
breaking news takes up 2 hours at the most... what fills the rest?
I'm not defending the reporters. I abhor that sensational journalism which spreads to both celeb news n general news - terrorist attacks included.
But it is the way the river flows...

Pari said...

Eggxactly... it's hard to fill up news to last 24 hours so junk accounts for most of it. Guess that's why the remote has so many buttons.