Short Takes
World of words
Randeep Wadehra

The Special Correspondent
by Dilip Awasthi Viva Books, N. Delhi. Pages: viii+190. Rs 295.

The Special CorrespondentTHE late British journalist David Murray had once defined a reporter as "a man who has renounced everything in life but the world, the flesh, and the devil." That was in 1931. There has been a sea change in the profile since then. Yet, essentials remain the same. Today, despite professional courses run by academic institutions, a reporter feels that he is on his own.

In this indispensable handbook for young journalists, Awasthi begins with a universal truth, we are all born journalists, with each one of us having a unique style of telling stories. Only some of us get the chance to hone this latent skill and become professionals. Again, says Awasthi, young journalists normally learn several aspects of journalism through experience rather than under their seniorsí guidance. Hence this book, which is also "my revenge on those seniors who love watching sagging young faces so that their one-upmanship remains intact."

However, Awasthi has not written in anger. It is more of an experienced professionalís thoughtful gesture towards greenhorns. He advises them to "do things simply" as "Academics always present us with the mountain view of a molehill." So, while gathering news, use your eye rather than nose, advises the veteran. He has thoughtfully divided the chapters under such headings as "Structuring of news stories", "The art of interviewing", "Writing the story" and "Packaging the story" etc. The writer Desmond Macarthy once aptly remarked that journalism is all about being "more attentive to the minute hand of history than to the hour hand." This could be your mantra to achieve success.

Practising JournalismPractising Journalism
edited by Nalini Rajan Sage, N. Delhi. Pages: viii+358. Rs 450.

Arthur Miller described a good newspaper as "a nation talking to itself". In other words journalism initiates debates that enable the society to introspect and generate light. But, at the same time, those who are into the profession also need to take a look at the shifting paradigms of value system governing the profession. This is precisely what this collection of essays attempts to do. Here, the journalist is not a mere reporter who is detached from what he is witnessing and mechanically reporting the unfolding events. Since there exists a symbiotic relationship between journalism and social sciences, an element of conscience-driven involvement is introduced into a journalistís role. So, is journalist a social scientist now? Perhaps yes, perhaps not. But, as Dilip DíSouza points out, facts are sacrosanct and ought to be cross-checked and reported without the garnish. The debate in this invaluable tome is lively, informed and thought provoking. The contributors take a look at the challenges facing the profession in the shifting social, political and economic environment. While reading its contents one canít help recalling the British media baron, Lord Beaverbrookís exhortation, "Go out and speak for the inarticulate and the submerged." Buy this book.