Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tabloids Journalism- a different charm

Today I saw the status message written by Vikram Chandra which read: Too much tabloid material? Too much “judge jury and executioner" activism? Falling credibility? Bias? Or is the media doing just fine?

This was quite hilarious to read. We have two types of newspapers, one broadsheet and the other tabloid. Tabloid newspapers are those having pages half the size of those of a standard newspaper, typically popular in style and conquered by headlines, photographs, and sensational stories. In the sense that is light, quick and often amusing. However, it’s full of gossips. Tabloid journalism requires humor and special skills to analyze the story. Actually the broadsheet newspapers get published early in the mid night and reach the stalls in the morning, whereas most of the tabloids reach stalls during the time of tea break. Generally most of the news is published in broadsheet newspapers and hence the readers expect some follow ups of the stories or something light to read during tea time with puzzles, crosswords, sudoku, columns and juicy news. I remember when I switched my job from Free Press Journal (broadsheet paper) to Afternoon (tabloid). It was every day’s challenge for me to create news looking at them in different fashion. In India we have thousands of journalists working at broad sheet desks but it’s rare to have skills potential as Tabloid culture. I feel blessed because I could get an opportunity to work at both the sides, but to be honest; working for tabloid was a real tough job.

When I was working at Afternoon Despatch and Courier as a journalist, my senior asked me to make a lead story on Sonia Gandhi’s visit to Maharashtra. I made news as she visited the place, met all ministers and blah-blah-blah...My editor Mobin rejected the story and gave me a good lecture. Finally he understood my problem that I was not well versed with the tabloid culture. He walked out of the office to smoke. The deadline for submitting the lead story was nearing and hence there was loads of pressure among all of us and even Mobin. Although he was tensed, at the same he was relaxed. I have a habit that whenever if anyone rejects my work or are not satisfied with my duties, then I make it a point to learn and understand from the aging confidence of my seniors. And for that no matter how much humiliation and hierarchy I have to face. We all need reason to love something and no reason to hate anything and everything. This is what the biggest setback of human nature. There are many journalists chocked due to lack of guidance at premature level, many grown out of nothing and few fought the odd and made their way to peak.

Anyways I went out to him and asked, “Sir tell me how to make interesting lead when there is nothing beyond what I have written.” He was enjoying puffs. Looking at me he asked, “Where was this minister? Where was that officer?” We had a very funny conversation and while talking I just told him, “Sir today CM went to Spa and groomed himself because Madam was visiting them. Everyone was looking good, groomed and well dressed.” And then there was a spark in Mobin’s eyes. He just tapped on my head and said let’s make the lead. I was surprised to see his reaction, and followed him to desk. He made the story and gave a big headline “Ministers Visited Spa and parlors to impress Madam” and a nice cartoon was prepared representing madam standing with all hunks around trying to impress her.

Oh my god, it was such a hilarious story and made everyone laugh. Entire desk was happy and I was very joyful as it was my by line on front page. I was amazed. My happiness knew no boundaries at that time. Then he explained me the art of tabloid journalism and writing. Basic thumb rule of this journalism is to give a story out of actual story but maintaining its authentication.

Next Day I went to the court because Sadhvi Pragya Singh and Maria Susairaj were supposed to be brought for trial. That day my way of looking at stories was completely different. Every news headline had the same story about they been brought to court and what was judge’s verdict and defence statements. The news started flashing on news channels. There was no angle remained to flash.

I reached desk, analyzed the entire situation and recollected the scenario. When they both were brought to court, that time Maria and Sadhvi Pragya Singh were smiling and they were escorted by so many police officers. Both were looking gorgeous and relaxed. I asked for pictures to my camera man, made head line “laughing at law” and gave big happy picture of them on front. My editor was very happy; his reaction to my story was like an award to me. Next day we got lots of feedback, my stories got noticed, people started reading my work and I got acknowledged. For one long year from 2008 to 2009, I ruled the front page with my by lines. However, this displeased many of my peers. Since to be on front page is a dream of every reporter, they were unhappy that somewhere I surpassed them. Comparatively, I could learn the basics of tabloid culture a little faster then others. I got promoted, got handsome pay package. With lots of liking form readers, I became the favourite of management and senior editor. I used to feel special, and that’s the reason when I was promoted as City Editor at such young age, many old Sub Editors were due for promotion started going against me. They blogged, complained, wrote anonymous letters to management, gossiped about me. I don’t blame them; they did it out of insecurity and frustration. When they blogged against me, I would have gone legal but my granny told me keep this as example, channelize your anger in right direction. Leave them, at their old age they have no other option to attack your integrity, you have long way to go. She was right I just neglected it and walked my way.

Anyways today I own same name and banner Afternoon, and that too is a tabloid. Today, I can even boast saying that we are the only parallel media house. There is no substitute to sincere efforts, and it’s not necessary that people will always praise you. This is competitive world; if one encourage you then ten will be standing to chop your legs. You have to balance in odd and even. Media has equal amount of fame and defame.

The Sun, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Star, blitz on Sunday, Mumbai Mirror, Mid day are few famous tabloids across the globe, which has fascinated me the most. Good tabloid editors expand upon small news items that appear in the back pages of broadsheet newspapers. In fact, one of the notable differences between a tabloid newsdesk and one at a serious newspaper is that tabloid journalists don't go much outside the office on field. Once a desk finds a story that can be twisted, he calls his sources family members or authorities involved with the story to get quotes. Using those quotes, the writer can make headline out the story and make it more about the people involved than the events themselves. This is a feature of the tabloid writing style. Celebrity news is a tack of the tabloids, and sources are the vital factor of this side journalism. Each tabloid journalist maintains an army of sources, including police Havaldar, informers,security guards,stylists, PRO,personal drivers and even corporate officers who will call the writer whenever they have new information to flash. Some times these informants are paid various amounts for their information, depending on the quality of the news and which celebrity it involves.

Coming to Tabloid journalism, earlier it was called yellow Journalism. But gradually, while the society became more permissive and paparazzi started ruling, it gained legitimacy and got the new term as Tabloid Journalism. It can be anything, from a rape to murder, to celebrity to politician to anything and everything. However, it has strong rules and regulations over ethics and morality.

Let me reply Vikram Chandra’s status message: Too much tabloid material? YES now even electronic media is very much believing in Tabloid culture because viewers enjoy something beyond news value. If you want to read follow ups and don’t want to be bothered too much over news, news and news; then Tabloid is the best solution and time pass material for you.

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