Revolution first, paratha after (A short letter from Bangalore)

February 16, 2011

Day three in Bangalore and I’m already worried that I’ll accomplish nothing by the time I leave. Rather, I’ll accomplish lots of things, but it won’t be enough. Any newsroom is a world to itself, and the people in it have a million motivations and differences, and when you’re working with all of them, only individual contact and contact in small groups will do if you want to share the stuff you know that might benefit them, whether it’s here or somewhere else down the road.

At least I was able to spot a trend. Monday was about speeding up the copy flow from the reporter to the editor to the public. No, we didn’t solve it, but we spent time on it — that is, I and a small group of other reporters. Tuesday was about unusual obstacles that should have nothing to do with journalism, but which block reporters from doing good journalism. Again, problem not solves, but I did write it down and I’m discovering that I like the idea of dealing with IT people to solve problems that will lead to better journalism.

And there was day three. I’ve been asking people in the newsroom to send me stories… stories they wrote and got on the wire, and stories that are in their raw form before they go to their editing desks. I want to find the unclear statements, the writing gaffes, the holes in the reporting — and then pore over these things so that the next time, all will come out all right. I may not be the best practitioner of these things, but I know them when I spot them. Then, we can talk about them together, and see how we would write those stories for a wide audience.

I have received a ton of stories. I could read them all day, and all night. And I will. And from my notes, we’ll put together a program that will make business reporting more fun and more interesting, and as we have more fun doing this kind of work, so will our readers benefit from fresh writing, fresh reporting and news that the competition does not have.

After all this talk, I realized that I had not eaten in hours. Nine hours a day here for me is not enough. Fortunately, we have our cafeteria on the floor. The Reuters reporters don’t seem hot about it, but a firang like me constantly spots lovely dishes. I had the mixed parantha with a side of pickle. No raita for me because it’s yogurt and I can’t handle more than a tablespoon of that. The parantha tasted better after I raised hell with my friends in the newsroom about doing revolutionary things to journalism. I still could have used some more pickle, though…

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