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Seminar on reporting, writing, editing

For those who had not had the chance of going through a formal training in the basics of journalism, the Press institute of India conducted a journalism seminar that was a sort of eye-opener to the world of news and reporting. The discussion-based programme for budding and junior journalists, and for freelancers, was held from June 26th to July 18th, on Thursdays and Fridays, 11 am to 1 pm.

Although the eight two-hour sessions might not have covered all aspects of journalism, listening to the insightful comments of veteran S. Muthiah, who handled the sessions, was quite an experience for the participants. Titled ‘Know your newspaper – a candid look’, the seminar provided a snapshot of the various aspects of print journalism, which could well be applied to electronic as well as new media.

The course took a close look at the reality of the world of print journalism and, through discussion, considered how a participant could enjoy that world even with all its fault lines. Participants got an opportunity to look at the world not through rose-tinted glasses but to discover what it was really like, through a candid exchange of views. Though the focus of this course was print journalism, much of what is said was applicable to audiovisual and new media journalism. The format for each of the sessions was a 45-50 minutes foundation talk, a 10-minute tea break, and a one-hour open house discussion. The topics that were covered included: 1. The Publisher & You 2. National vs Local Newspapers 3. Filling Newspaper Pages 4. Newspapers & Public Relations Practitioners 5. The Language of Newspapers 6. The Newspaper as a Product 7. Where do we go from here?

“Write to be read,” was a point that Muthiah kept driving home throughout. Mind your language too, he cautioned. “Make sure you don’t get too verbose and rhetorical with your writing style. Keep it simple; after all, you are writing to be read, regardless of what you’re writing – a novel, poetry, or just a news report.” Covering topics such as the structure of a daily newspaper, Muthiah described how ‘features’ and ‘human interest stories’ had grown in popularity. More than wanting to know what was happening nationally or in the world, what happened in your neighbourhood or in your city or state interested most. He stressed that reporters must try and make news as simple and relevant as possible to reach out to the common man, rather than targeting an elite audience. “Above all, be different. Strike a difference by doing stories that would help you carve a niche for yourself,” he advised.

Muthiah urged the participants to focus on vernacular journalism as that was where the future lay – it was language newspapers after all that struck a chord with the common person. Over the course of the sessions, participants freely interacted with Muthiah, who for over 60 years has been associated with newspapers, magazines and features services in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), India, the US and the UK and whose articles have appeared in almost every English-speaking country in the world.