[tRIAd] recently referred to an article a cartoon who I know very indirectly wrote.(You could read [tRIAd]’s piece here) Managed to get hold of the original article and found that it really had no new information. It set me thinking about what my boss, whenever he descends on us from his ivory tower, says about our lack of story ideas. ‘News is all about rehashing’ he says. Find a different angle, find a different quote, a different perspective that’s all there is, because apart from crime, fickle politics and current events, everything has already been done before.
I totally agree with him because this is the third year in a row when I am doing stories on the Mumbai monsoons. I have done countless stories on vegetable price rises, the ‘urbane’ issue of Mumbai’s stray dogs and how could I forget the ever visible and ‘attractive’ potholes. These are the issues our target audience wants to know about, I am told whenever a flicker of doubt creases my journalist’s brow. This is what the SEC A and B want to watch. And since I know there is only one rule in this world, I agree and have so far been successful in getting something new everytime to a perfectly same story. (But then I have been around for only a short while now I guess).
Rehashing is a diktat every media organisation follows. But there are some media persons who do take the term quite literally. I happened to pick up one of those women’s magazines after almost half a decade. And surprise, surprise, there was still the same advice about haldi-chandan ubtan, how to fool/snare a man with your non-existent original beauty and other random advice that wouldn’t make any sense to the male readers of this blog. I was shocked and actually picked up some more back issues to check if things ever changed. Well they never did.
Another breed that believes in complete rehashing is the Talk show crew and those that write the so-called socio-psychologically relevant articles (I have written those too at one point of time, but more on that later). A typical talk show has the typical faces. One starched sari figure, one flamboyancy incarnate personality, one moderate type and an arm flailing, screeching moderator. And the topics? (Think SEC A and B please) Should girls wear jeans? How much pocket money should children be given? Are the rich really criminals or are they being wrongly targetted? Are our values (huh?) crumbling? The current news trigger might be different each time, but the topics, the debate, the opinions they never change (and to think we used to be advised in school to watch this crap to broaden our thinking). According to me talk shows are quite a waste of air time, what has ever been achieved by them anyway?
The socio-psychological articles are also the same. Throw in some management jargon, some self help jargon and connect everything however obtusely to Freudian theories and voila, an ‘insightful’ article is at your service. Something similar to what [tRIAD]’s cartoon wrote. And the best part about these rehashed things is that they are damn easy to do. There are always the ‘Dial-a-bite/quote’ social commentators, psychiatrists and socialites. You can dream of a story idea during your so called ‘power nap’, call up these people and get your story ready for the next day. How simple is that! Of course, some journos just love these philanthropic bite/quote machines. The man in the ivory tower parties with them so he has to keep them included in what his media house does. Of course, he tells the staff at times that he is tired of the same faces (after losing a game of poker to them, I guess). So the staff does try for fresh faces at times only to be then told that the fresh face did not match the expectations of SEC A and B. So its back to the we-scratch-each-other’s-back brigade. Aah the ease of redoing a done to death story!