Man bites dog. Is it still news?

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I remembered yesterday of the time I was coordinating four weekly newspapers – in four different cities across Punjab state – from my Chandigarh office.

The job involved extensive road travel, endless meetings, tight deadlines , assigning duties, proof-reading copy – all without the aid of mobile telephones, computers, the Internet or even pagers.

And, in spite of that, the four editions were put to bed before time every Wednesday only for me to return to work the next morning to see the copies just before they were trucked out.

Now, more than two decades later, I am still in the profession I still love – but there is a difference.

Travel is restricted between Manama and Isa Town, or Seef, or, at the very most, the airport and Amwaj. I am also no longer coordinating but writing the news – also something that I have, will and always enjoy.

There is another thing missing – the rush of adrenaline and excitement that comes from covering events and writing news reports; sharp, impromptu meetings; the sudden change of schedule or the constant arguments between editorial and advertising on the amount of space each one would get.

The very noisy newsroom – with one out-shouting the other – the constant chattering, the abundant use of invectives and editors hovering around and looking over your shoulders making sure what goes into the newspaper is mostly NEWS is also a thing of the past.modern_journalist1

These are modern times – technology has ensured one need not even move from one’s seat to get the latest news. And news is not what used it to be, more so in this part of the world, where news is not what someone wanted to read, but what someone wants to sell.

It has also ensured editors know exactly what’s going on without moving from their seats, and reporters are no longer expected to move around in the field to build contacts, because everything they need to publish can seemingly be done on the phone. Most of what goes in the newspaper is publicity material, not even soft news. Hard news is dismissed as briefs. Some journalism this!

Those were also the times when reporters, if spotted in office before late afternoon, were summoned to the Editor-in-Chief, admonished and given a dressing down. Now if one is not in office before 9am, the reporter gets a shouting! Funny.

Those were also the days when cub reporters had copy thrown in their faces by rather cruel-looking editors and senior journalists were treated with respect, for their years of experience and invaluable contacts (sources). Now cub reporters throw tantrums and carry an attitude.

Those days are gone. Journalism today is like a flat coke, no fizz.

We are now enslaved by the gadgets around us, and our egos – something that has changed the very ethos of journalism.

But, is everything lost?
Ask the boss.

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