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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Plagiarism is a taught philosophy

Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as the "wrongful appropriation," "close imitation," or "purloining and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions," and the representation of them as one's own original work.

Let’s go little deep and think why this is imbibed in our minds and we don’t feel bad about copying or imitating any one. Since birth, social conditioning of mind plays a greater role in our life. You are taught to call “BLACK” colour as black; thereafter you identify that colour because its termed that way and everyone calls it by the same name. Suppose a child disowns these conditioning and denying accepting it says for him black colour means RGB that is 255% red, 255% Green and 255% blue, or he may define that as something else. Will we accept that child as normal or as above intellect? No! We won’t, because he is refusing to accept the conditioning, who so ever tries refusing these so called protocols and parameters, we call them eccentric or lunatic. We are occupied and framed with typical thought process and life styles, where we are made believe that what our father thinks is a great thought and what our mother says or thinks is compulsorily to be followed. They cite examples of their elder daughter or son, who blindly follows so many such people of this society, whom the parents think as idols. This is the birth of remote plagiarism in one’s life.

Your name, your surname, your identity, everything is availed by so many even before you are born, but some where your parents forget to give credits to the possessor. We act, we think, we are influenced by many and act like many; rarely we realize that we are an independent individual. Suppose if you realize your independence and refuse to follow others, then you are considered either outcaste or awkward. Social conditioning comprises all of the messages and beliefs that you are programmed with over the years of your life. It comes from various sources. Due to Social conditioning we are grown with low self esteem. Your mind is like raw clay, it absorbs everything that is in your environment. It doesn’t matter if you agree with what’s happening in your environment, it doesn’t matter if you HATE what’s happening. Your mind will absorb whatever is in your environment, and you will become more like your environment over time – and you have no choice in this matter.

This kills your self confidence. Because rather than looking to who you are from inside to determine yourself worth, social conditioning drills you into the habit. Social conditioning on the other side tells you that how you should live, how you should think, how you should be like. Social conditioning also tells you that if another guy has some qualities, you should respect him and try to follow his path. The absolute key to having confidence is to define yourself based on your own standards, move through the world by your own compass NOT by the standards of social conditioning. An average number of members in our society are hypocrites and they unwontedly become moral custodians of your life, you accept them or refuse but they are going to ruin your minds with their rules over your life and freedom.

Plagiarism is beginning of these atrocities. You are asked to copy answers from the black board exactly as your teacher has written, then you copy answers from the brilliant student of your class, and you are compared with the child and asked to follow him/her, in rarest of the rare cases you are asked to be yourself and be what you are. Since birth plagiarism on different level are imbibed in you. Students are the one fondest of plagiarizing and they have their own reasons for it. First in the list is the lack of time. Students do not know how to manage time. They are not aware of the extent of work and put it off until the last minute lacking time for original work while others do not trust their own capability. Instead, they get insecure of the work of those professional ones. As they read the professional’s work, they think that they lack knowledge to come up with as good as their work. And all students aim for a high grade. They tend to focus with what grade they will receive. They do not care whether they learn something from it. Others tell that not only they are doing it. They are tempted to do so since other get a grade or are not punished by doing so without any effort. Even those very responsible students tend to plagiarize. It is because they are afraid of getting a low grade. For them it is unfair that other will get a higher grade by plagiarizing. It seems that their effort is useless. The students did not even find time to analyze their topic since their professor did not require for a presentation of it. Students should put in mind that what’s more important is how they develop their own style of writing and how they understand the topic.

Moreover there are certain things for example; TOP TEN HACKERS in the world. There will be same answers everywhere. There will be same names and same descriptions, and same info widely available, now whom to trust? Suppose if a writer refutes saying ‘oh suck; they are not the top ten, I don’t think they are extraordinary any ways’, then the readers or the community members will say, look how stupid is this person. When hundred writers endorse these ten as top then why she has to prove them wrong? If I have to write about “Indira Gandhi”, and I have not seen her, then I have to rely on limited sources those who know her or those who have already written about her. Only difference I can create is by modifying existing info. Paraphrase does not always prevent plagiarism. You must change not only the word itself but also the structure of the sentence of the original without changing its content. Paraphrasing is also to lessen the quotations in your paper. It is also more advantageous to put the facts from other sources which you know will support your own ideas to make it more valid. Remember, even a small part copied without citation is plagiarism. You have committed plagiarism anytime you borrow from the original source

Generally it is easy to find information about every topic on the Internet and most of us are dependent on online sources. Some are smart enough to modify the content and enhancing new look to the original. But when you are not smart you have to be extra attentive about keeping track on source of information and thoughts and about giving proper credit to the authors of the sources you use. So instead on looking at the point why it happened or in what circumstances this occurred, Plagiarism is not accepted in any ways, but there is no check on these issues. Copying some senior's project and submitting it is common in schools and even no one raises any objections against it; no one is made aware about the seriousness of this subject at school level.

Moreover, this is an easier method of completing every task, and unknowingly done mistake. Cases of plagiarism in India are not restricted to students but even authors, journalists, professors, film producers, music directors, lawyers while making drafts and documents and published researchers have been found guilty of this practice. In the recent past such acts are being practiced by scientists and archaeologists too. There is no specific law or constitutional provisions to this issue. And maximum times, this happens out of extreme passion for someone’s writing, you try to follow them, their style and remain one like. You cannot call it a culture, India has less cases of plagiarism. Look at USA and UK there are so many high profile issues over plagiarism.

No country can ever boast about not having plagiarism issues.

Monday, July 18, 2011

There is lot of row over the RAW

What will the poor Supreme Court judges do? They are doing an excellent job in forcing the executive to do what it needs to do. When constitution was framed, the authors did not realize that the executive will not function or will avoid willingly doing what it is normally supposed to do, in national interest. Now, when SC has to push for everything, they are likely to make a mistake once.

This one mistake appears to have been made by drafting Director of Raw in the SIT. Director of Raw is functioning under the Governmental control and he should not be called directly to account for his deeds, always through proper channel. It would have been okay for Supreme Court to draft a retired director of raw to SIT or to any other consultative body. It is hoped that the learned SC will rectify this.

Rajendra Babu was in the drafting team of our constitution. Simple man, learned man. In our school text book there was a chapter written by Mahadevi Verma where she mentions that she was requested by the wife of Rajendra babu to bring a “ soop” ( used commonly in village homes) along with her when she comes calling. The framers of the constitution belonged to a different generation where people never even thought of that the persons down the line who will put it in practice will fall to such low level in morality.

When the morality of the politicians has fallen so low and everybody is trying to grab the maximum and deposit it in secret accounts overseas, the supreme court is to be worshiped for giving a thought to misuse of funds via the RAW and that is why perhaps they included the director , but, they are also human and so made a mistake in including the serving director in the team.

I was told by a panditji who was close to Charan Singh family that after becoming PM, he was asking obsessively the concerned persons, “ Yeh batao, Indra Gandhi ka paisa kahan hai”. No wonder, soon he lost the chair. Same thing happened with VP Singh. Narsimha Rao continued and Chandra Swamy had free access to his residence. Now, here is a respectful caution for Anna Hazareji and Baba Ramdeoji.

These days there is so much money in politics to be made that everybody is pushing their sons and daughters (and even the daughter in law in case of Mulayam Singh) to become MP or MLA. Look at Sushil Kumar Shinde. He did not do any “ drashtipat” on Adarsh files before putting his signature but he is not that simple, he did not forget to make his daughter an earning politician. Look at Vilas Rao ji, he is more interested in cricket than in the national upliftment through his ministries. All these persons have been the Chief Minister of Maharashtra and look at poor present chief minister lamenting that for full 15 minutes he could not get in touch with his top brasses. This is happening even after several bomb blasts in Mumbai in the past. This is unpardonable.

There is an urgent need to put our own house in order. What is the function of the governor? Why do we waste so much money on this office? If we cannot do away with this office, let us demand that a meritorious police or army (defence service) officer or merchant marine officer be made the governor. At least he may have an iota of conscience and will at least try to do something.

Innumerable times it has been said that we must work to very drastically reduce election expenditure because without this, there will always be the need to stack cash and all efforts to purify our system will surely fail. We saw a spectacle in parliament, money being tossed around for a quite a while. What happened to that? What happened to Madhu Koda and his associates, who held high offices in Maharashtra government, is anyone looking to unscrupulous builders in Mumbai and navi- Mumbai?

The citizens, at least those who are educated, do not know if RAW is raw or has it been cooked. Agreed, everybody need not know but at least the learned Supreme Court be allowed to know.