Every news organisation wants to move on and present something tremendously new, exciting and with chicken wings these days. The TV channels are running after viewers so that the chicken’n’egg-cart’n’horse-supply’n’demand puzzle is finally solved by providing a camera and a microphone to the archetypal Mrs Chaddha (sorry, the real Mrs Chaddha) and calling the segment ‘Citizen Reporter’ — or something on those lines.
The printwallas, meanwhile, keep scratching their heads until their scalp shines and think of doing something gloriously new that includes something as hackneyed as getting readers to write in. But strange as it may sound, newspapers and magazines, at least in this country, are still embarrassed to let their journo-creatures do something that would make the ‘mostest’ sense in the world: bring the writer into the story and give the story a ‘value add’ (two words that turn on any print media marketing guru). And all one has to do is to bring the ‘I’ into the story. Not the non-capitalised-let-me-catch-your-eye-by-making-a-Sri Sri Ravi Shankar-gulp-your-ego ‘i’, but a full bloated ‘I’.
Today, an Indian journo, when he meets Osama bin Laden, will be allowed only: “When one meets Osama bin Laden, the first thing he offers is a candy bar.” Why, oh why can’t that same journo write — hopefully on Page 1 — “I met Osama bin Laden and the lanky, quiet man offered me a Five Star.” — eh?
Well, frankly, this ‘technique’ isn’t that totally novel. In the 1960s-1970s in the US, ‘New Journalism’ was the name given to, er, journalism, where the journalist was in the thick of his own stories. There were solid, good-to-sublime writers who bloomed in this genre of journalistic writing: Truman Capote, Hunter Thompson, Norman Mailer, etc. Unfortunately, in desi journalism, the Hindu way of things frown upon the ‘content provider’ becoming a content. No one’s really tried it in Indian newspapers in an in-your-face way yet. The usual excuse, of course, will be that no Indian journalist can really write. Right. That smells like an excuse to me.
I hope you registered the fact that I said ‘me’ (and ‘I’) and got printed on this page without being a columnist. I do believe that the (r)evolution has just begun.