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Superman’s complaint

Superman’s alter-ego Clark Kent is to quit The Daily Planet newspaper in protest at the state of modern journalism, writes Manas Chakravarty.

columns Updated: Nov 04, 2012 00:12 IST

(The Telegraph, October 23, 2012: Superman’s alter-ego Clark Kent is to quit The Daily Planet newspaper in protest at the state of modern journalism)

The Editor, Daily Planet

I can’t take any more of this, boss. I’m completely worn out. When I joined this profession, I thought I’d do a bit of investigative reporting, write a little and have enough free time to do the things I’m really interested in, like saving folks, fighting the bad guys, making life miserable for Lex Luthor and other stuff of that sort. And it worked wonderfully for many years.

But now, thanks to television and the internet, there’s no money in the newspaper business. I haven’t got a raise in years. Heck, you’ve been using the financial crisis as an excuse to cut back bonuses. I can’t even afford to buy steroids for my muscles.

That would not have mattered, if I could handle the workload. The good old days when you filed a news story once in a few days are long gone. Instead, it’s slave labour. We now have to file news breaks for the Daily Planet website as soon as something happens, update it regularly and, at the end of a long and tiring day, write a final take for the print edition. And that’s not counting the videos and podcasts and TV appearances I have to do, because an integrated newsroom is the rage these days. Trouble is, this integrated newsroom has completely disintegrated me. Yes, I know I’m the Man of Steel and all that, but there’s a limit to what even Superman can do. It’s worse than kryptonite, boss.

What’s more, you’ve been cutting back on staff and I now do the work of 10 reporters. I cover three big beats, interview an endless stream of pompous asses for TV and write exceptionally shallow editorials on topics ranging from fertiliser policy to elections in Papua New Guinea, wherever that may be. Of course, all this is done without any extra pay. Why, the HR department even cut my travel allowance on the plea that I can fly anywhere for free. The upshot is that the long hours, the junk food and lack of sleep have given me cholesterol, neurasthenia and chronic gastritis. Lex Luthor must be laughing his head off.

Thanks to your punishing schedule, I have no time for doing the things a superhero is supposed to do. I could easily have blown away Hurricane Sandy. But I was sitting chained to my desk rewriting press releases while the storm raged outside.

It’s not just me, you know. Other superheroes in newspapers too are leaving. Spiderman has given up photography, gone over to the dark side and joined Goldman Sachs. Tintin has left his reporter’s job and become a professional detective, specialising in divorce cases.

So I’m going up, up and away. I might start a blog, but that won’t pay my bills. The editor of Mint, a great Indian newspaper, has very generously offered me a job. But I’m not sure whether I’ll take it. Batman, The Joker and the mutant X-Men already work there, so there’ll be too much competition. Nope, all things considered, if I go to India, I think I’ll become a crony capitalist. I believe they have a wonderful time.

Yours etc,

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal