Me? A journalist?

Apart from the interesting thoughts the comment on my last post provoked, I was caught by the part which said that I, as a journalist, have a responsibility to report, not to comment. I definitely agree with this point. In fact, in our news-writing module at my course here, we are drilled on how to keep comments out of the news piece. Any adjective, any word that might give away our personal thoughts are slashed out mercilessly from our copy. So I think that was a fair assessment on the commenter’s part.

However, it made me want to express where I see myself a few years from now career-wise (whether, of course, I end up there is another matter altogether, n’est-il pas?).

I do not plan to enter the world of news-writing. I do not plan to work in a newspaper (unless it’s a supplement part of said newspaper). I do not plan to cover world events. I do not plan to report. It has been so far, not my cup of tea. (Please note that I keep saying ‘plan’!!!)

Right, so now you must be wondering: ‘What the hell does she want to do???’

This: I want to work in magazines. I want to be able to write news but spin it into a feature. I want to interview people, not necessarily “celebs”, but PEOPLE. Real people. I want to comment on things. I want to write features of all kinds, I want to write real-life features. I want to write human interest stories. I want to share my views on the world. I want to write things that would ordinarily not end up in a newspaper. I’d like to write over 2,000 words of text for an elaborate feature. I want to be a journalist. Working for magazines.

I love magazines. I love their look, their feel and their ability to communicate with their readers. I love how loyal readers can be to their magazines, for indeed, once that connection is made…a magazine is ‘yours’. I have a few magazines that I feel a personal relationship with and that’s what I want to do with my career: write for a magazine and have readers relate to what I’m writing.

I know many people think that writing soft-copy (a.k.a. features in magazines and supplements) is not worthy of notice, or perhaps not as prestigious as writing in a newspaper. I say (and pardon my French): BALLS TO YOU.

It is just as hard in some cases, and perhaps harder to spin out features and to make it catch reader’s interest. You don’t only have the ‘What? When? Why? How? Where? Who?’ to think about. There’s more. Intros. Stand-firsts. Heads. Sells. Audience. So much more.

Magazines… wow. That’s where I see myself in the future. I sure hope I get there.

Quote of the post: A harsh reality of newspaper editing is that the deadlines don’t allow for the polish that you expect in books or even magazines. – Bill Walsh

Discrimination in the Media [Part 2]

The lectures we had last week were interesting, to say the least. There was a particular lecture that focused on how the media changed after 9/11. My thoughts after sitting through that lecture:

There’s absolutely no doubt that after 9/11, people (and it started with the Americans; no offence y’all) wanted someone to blame. That they decided to blame Muslims was an unfortunate result of their need to place blame somewhere. Also, it didn’t help that the Bush government hyped things up so much, especially with regard to the WMD’s that they never found. An interesting nugget of information that I picked up from the lecture: Since 1981, the USA has been involved in invasions of a multitude of countries; no year has gone by without them sticking their fingers into some country or the other. It was just a matter of whether people realized it. Now, every time someone commits an act of terror or kills someone and IF they happen to be Muslim, everyone goes “Muslim terrorist”. I’m sorry, but when the Virginia Tech massacre happened back in 2007, no one mentioned the religion of the killer. I am 100% sure it would’ve made an even bigger deal if he was Muslim. No one said “Christian terrorist” did they? There are loads of examples of the current discrimination in the media, that if a killers’ religion happens to be Muslim, they attach that to the entire incident. Religion – and I repeat this – cannot be the cause for any act of terror; religions do NOT promote violence. People do. If someone really wants to commit an act of terror, they can twist ANYTHING to suit their needs, including a peaceful faith. For example, earlier this year, girls in Bangalore were attacked by a “Hindu” group for being in a pub. Even IF they thought the girls were committing a crime against their religion, did it justify them dragging them into the streets by their hair, kicking them, beating them and throwing them to the ground? No.

I do want to point out that I am in no way trying to undermine what happened that day in New York. It was a terrible thing. An atrocity and there’s no reason to forget it. I know I won’t forget 26/11. However, I don’t blame Muslims or Pakistanis for 26/11. I blame the people who actually did it. Their actions in no way reflects on people from their religion or nationality.

Something else that I’ve always wanted to say, and while it’s been said many times and by many people, it needs saying again: Governments need to be more responsible as they are, in my opinion, the ones who spread the fear, that gets picked up by the media and then exacerbated amongst the public.

When are governments and the public going to realize that this sort of hatred and fear is just worsening situations and creating divides in a world that needs no more reason to be divided as it is?

Discrimination in the media [Part1]

I read a comment piece on a website today. I’m not going to mention the website, neither am I going to mention the writer. I feel doing so might lend credence to the ignorance and utter hatred perpetuated in that piece. I’m all for freedom of expression. I’m all for telling the world what you think. As Voltaire once (allegedly) said: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

However, spreading fear and inciting hatred against a particular group of people, based on colour of skin, religion, whatever (and in the case of this article, it was religion; isn’t it always all about religion nowadays?)… is wrong. It’s despicable in my opinion and I think people who discriminate based on others religion are not very open-minded.

This article pretty much insults and groups members of that religion under the tag of being potential killers (I kid you not) and eventually going off their rocker and being violent. I’m sorry what? The owners of the website that hosted this hate-filled article (and it can in no way be interpreted otherwise) said they would not fire the author simply because they felt open speech was important to democracy. I understand the sentiment of free and open speech, but … seriously?

Every decade or so in the history of the world, people at large love to pick on a group of people.  They love to bully them, defame them and treat them like lower-class. At one time, dark-skinned people (or blacks; is that still PC?) were abused in this way. At one time, gay people were meted out terrible treatment (and still are, however I believe they enjoy more freedom now than ever before). Now… it’s the turn of another. Another group of people who are stared at, feared and have a phobia associated with them…and because of what? A few people who happened to belong to the same religion who turned out to be killers? How is that fair? If that is the case, we must fear every single person from every single religion, correct?

Terrorism, as the media often mistakenly points out, is not about religion. They need to get that into their heads.

And now…are we going to have to go through decades of hate against this group of people before another option, another bullying opportunity, another group fits the hate-criteria? And then the cycle will continue all over again.

Note: I say Part 1 as I do have a few comments to make on lectures we’ve been sitting through hosted by the University of Sheffield guest lecturer, Christopher Dickey, who is probably one of the few media personalities who doesn’t discriminate against people based on their religion and is fair in his views on matters like these.

Vanity Fair, how I wronged thee!

As a student on the MA Magazine Journalism course, we’re encouraged (obviously) to not only look at newspapers, but also at magazines. My course leader, Ms. Yvonne Illsley, cannot recommend Vanity Fair enough.

I have a confession to make. I always thought it was a magazine full of gloss and fluff and nothing else. That was a pre-conceived judgement without me actually taking a look at what’s inside. Vanity Fair, I am sorry. You are not fluff. You have intelligent features, cool interviews and all this combined with some of the best photographs I’ve seen in magazines lately. The first issue I read was the November issue with Penelope Cruz on the cover. I connected with the feature on 26/11 simply because it was personal to me. I did have a problem with something, a phrase, in that article, but apart from that… time well spent.

I subscribed to Vanity Fair last night, but since I won’t get the December issue in that (as it’s already out)… I went and bought it at W.H. Smith’s today. Here’s the mug-shot. And no, I didn’t buy it only because of who is on the cover. Although that might be part of it… 😀

Vanity Fair - December 2009 issue
Va-va-voom!

Quote of the post: “The secret of successful journalism is to make your readers so angry they will write half your paper for you.”  – C.E.M. Joad

Journalists who want commissions… from their subjects!

As someone who has written for various publications, I have yet to take a commission, or what is in my mind a bribe, from anyone I’ve written about. I suppose it is an ethical concept that might tragically get twisted and bent once idealistic journalists get out in the real world. But this is one thing that I hope I will never succumb to.

What I’m talking about is deliberately asking a subject to commission them to write. I know a photographer who, sadly, hasn’t received much exposure for his work when it does deserve due accolades. A freelance journalist cum PR agent contacted him for work purposes i.e. his photography. After a bit of back-and-forth, she asked, why doesn’t he commission her to write about him and then she would do so?

Now, I have a problem with this. I have a problem with any so-called journalist who tells someone, give me something and then only will I write about you. For me, wanting to write about a subject is enough. Freelancers do get paid by the newspaper/magazine/supplement/website/whatever when they sell them their pieces (unless of course, you have some sort of standing arrangement to not get paid!!!). Why would you ask the person you’re writing about to pay you as well? It sounds like a bribe to me: pay me and I’ll write nice things about you.

I’m sorry but that is NOT how it works.

You write about something because it is worthy or because it deserves to be pulled down or because the story needs to be told and you get paid by the publication you sell it to. That is IT.

In my opinion, people who blatantly ask for bribes don’t deserve to call themselves journalists.

Quote of the post: “The most essential gift for a writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector” – Ernest Hemingway

Shorthand

Let me begin by saying that I cannot believe my first post on this new blog is about shorthand.

I think it came as a shock to me when I started my Masters degree that journalists still needed shorthand. For starters, when I  worked for The Emirates Evening Post and Time Out Dubai, I never noticed anyone using shorthand, Teeline or Pittman. I’m sure some journalists – if not all – in both organizations had the skill, but since everyone was using dictaphones and/or longhand, it simply never occurred to me that shorthand was still a valuable skill.

All that changed once I came to Sheffield. When the classes started, I feared I’d never be able to master anything in what seemed to be a complex writing language. After a month at it, I feel more at ease with the writing and some of it just flows without me having to think.

I’ve also learnt how useful shorthand can be, especially during the interview clinics, where I practise my shorthand every single time. Added to that, now that we have our news patches, interviewing people does seem less daunting.

I leave you with this (there are some mistakes…which I made when trying to write it as fast as possible):

Shorthand
Read this! I dare you!

Until the next time I blog!

Quote of the post: “News is something that someone somewhere doesn’t want published. All the rest is advertising.” – Lord Northcliffe