7 December 2019 09:54 AM

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SUBROTO MUKHERJEE | 26 NOVEMBER, 2019

Editor’s Pet

I believed I could change things for the better, change the world…


Early to bed and early to rise is supposed to make us healthy, wealthy and wise.

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 to 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 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 the editors of newspapers and magazines -- at least those who would spare a few minutes to make my acquaintance.

One editor checked out my sample pieces of writing and said 'great'. I came home depressed. 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 telling the truth. The moment I set off to get a job, she went off to see a guy with money!

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, being an immature young smart-ass, I just jazzed up my resume a bit.

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!"

I shot back, "Same here, sir. I read your magazine but I don't believe a word of it either!"

Needless to say I was thrown out.

But 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. Once 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. Like if a new book was launched -- no big deal. But if someone launched his shoe in the direction of some VIP -- stop press! Here comes the thrill of the century!

At heart I was an idealist. I believed that as a journalist you took a lot of notes that made for in-depth stories. But you didn't takes 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 must confess, these days I spend more time not changing the world but sitting before the TV set, changing channels.
 

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