Khakra

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sepia Mutiny's journalism effect

"Wire stories don't have Jhumpa Lahiri quality text," a PR friend told me recently. I was telling her how Bengali's had great family relations but bad food.

I looked back at her blankly. "Do you expect every breaking story to be a Jhumpa Lahiri book?"

"No, but you guys can write better," she replied.

She was driving me nuts. "Do you expect Shakesperean text from a reporter who gets 15 minutes to write a story?"

"Atleast you can fix it," she replied, with no sign of giving up.

"I get only one pass to check a story for structure, errs and inconsistency. Even Jhumpa Lahiri can't perfect a story in that time." I said, hoping she'd go away for a pee or something.

Welcome to a day in my life as an editor.

Our news unit's full of easily excitable and talented folks who thrive under pressure. News is constantly breaking, we're on call 24/7 and there's barely any time to enjoy a sit-down lunch. The newsroom is humming: phone calls flowing in, wires tracking news, editors reminding reporters that an error could cost them their job. A wire job usually holds a short leash.

The're something sexy about breaking news. It's fun being a journalist, but we're feeling a pinch from the bloggers who break news and provide a spin on it too. Sepia Mutiny beats any news source with its humor spin and sources. A standard question between a desi colleague and me: "Did you read Sepia Mutiny today?"

Sepia Mutiny worries not just me, but other journalists. It dishes out meaty, selected info much quicker than us, without a formal editing process. It rips traditional journalism apart, getting rid of the journalist as an information provider and the editor as a gatekeeper. Sepia Mutiny in a way is killing journalism, or redefining it, however you want to look at it.

They also show news isn't limited to big conglomerates, unless they turn into one someday. You and I can publish news. Readers will figure out the trustworthy and untrustworthy bloggers over time.

CNN's taking a Sepia Mutiny-type approach with I-Reports, where a video camera in hand makes anyone a reporter. CNN says: You shoot breaking news, we'll carry and you can tell people "I reported for CNN." It's an interesting experiment, and the site has great stuff to surf through.

CNN's initiative says something -- journalism is open to everyone today. Journalists try to keep up, but a person standing next to you with a video camera as competition is a scary proposition.

In generic terms, journalism isn't specialist work like engineering or medicine. Adapting to work requires a few years in the profession. The real value as a journalist comes in skill versatility, contacts and specialties -- regional, science and others -- something that ultimately lands you in a think tank.

Traditional journalists are trying to adapt to the world created by bloggers and podcasters. Learning to blog, hold video cameras and edit videos, and podcast. No matter what, the race is to get information out quicker. Traditional journalism is crumbling, which is good news. Free information to people.

I saw that coming years ago, and regrouped to focus on specialties. That's my future, though I can't say the same about some other journalists I know.

2 Comments:

Blogger Amardeep said...

Hey, thanks for the kind words! But you know, 70-80% of what we do is dependent on the hard work of working, professional journalists. (The other 20-30% might be wholly original content) Bloggers are at least partly parasitical -- though I like to think it's parasitical in a good way.

7:15 PM  
Blogger chick pea said...

In generic terms, journalism isn't specialist work like engineering or medicine. Adapting to work requires a few years in the profession. The real value as a journalist comes in skill versatility, contacts and specialties -- regional, science and others -- something that ultimately lands you in a think tank.

medicine specialized? bah flying biscuits...;)..

versatility no matter what you do 'in real life' i think is necessary to be in the think tank of life..

5:18 AM  

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