Journalism all - encompassing role

- Er. Prabhat Kishore

“Journalism is said to be history written in hurry”- Noted Journalist Sri Ananth Narayan Hariharan advocated. It is news-collection, news-editing, preparation of headlines, editorial writings, proof reading and make-up etc. It is an art, a science, a profession, a mission and is an eternal source of strength. It is a chronicle of news with the comment there on.

The word ‘Journalism’ is derived from ‘Journal’. It is basically news reassurance to satisfy the human facility of a world that is always eager to be comforted with the knowledge.

According to Webster’s third International Dictionary, ‘Journalism is the collection and editing of the material of current interest for presentation, publication and broadcast”. Whatever is published in a newspaper, whatever broadcasted by radio and whatever we see on television- is journalism.

Journalism is the Time, the Guardian, the Daily Mirror and the Sun. It is the news programme nationally on Doordarshan and Akashwani and locally on regional Kendras. Journalism is the TV picture of a man stepping on to the surface of the Moon, seen in millions of home as it happened.

According to Chamber’s Twentieth Century Dictionary, “Journalism is the profession of conducting or writing for public journals”.

David Wamuright defined Journalism as “Information, Communication and the events of the day distilled into a few words, sounds or pictures, processed by the mechanism of communication to satisfy the human curiosity of a world, which is always eager to know what is new”.

What exactly is news!

In order to build a news story, we should ask and try to find out the answers to five ‘W’s and one ‘H’. These six are well known among reporters. What do they signify? Five W’s are ‘What?’, ‘When?’ ‘Where?’ ‘Who?’ and ‘Why?’, and one ‘H’ is ‘How?’. We need not try to answer and put answers all five ‘W’s’ in the ‘Intro’ itself. If we do so it will make the intro a jumble of words and overcrowding of many facts in the opening paragraph itself. This may be irritating to the readers as it may not be very clearly understood what actually the news was. Now it has been widely accepted in almost all countries, that news story should answer not more than three ‘W’s in the opening para, i.e. ‘What’, ‘when’, and ‘why’. If we properly answer the above three ‘W’s we have to put the essence of the news itself in the intro which is easily understood by the reader. Three other questions ‘Who’, ‘Why’ and ‘How’ are of course there, but they may not come in many news stories, where the answers to the last three may be added as ‘follow-up’ after the main ‘lead’.

It is possible that in all news stories the answers to all ‘W’s are not available, but we should exert ourselves to find out, whether, answers to those ‘W’s are available or not. These answers, if we are able to find out, will help to identify the basic elements in the news story. Whatever it may be, we must be very clear in framing the news and intro so that there may not be any ambiguity. Always remember that while framing the news story and lead, our language should be so simple and sentences should be straightforward so that a reader will not be required to read twice to understand, what we have written. If that be the case, then we should know that our drafting of the news has been poor and we learn to draft our news story in simple and short sentences without any clause or sub-clause (as far as possible).

We may find the key of news from the very world ‘NEWS’ itself. It is like this:

N-it stands for ‘news worthiness’, i.e. what is the news value of the story?

E-it stands ‘Emphasis’ , i.e. in the ‘Intro’ have you put the most important part of the story to give emphasis to it?

W-it stands for all the five ‘W’s and one ‘H’ meaning.

S-it means ‘Sources of information’, i.e. have we explained sources of information to give authenticity of news?

On many occasions, reporters unknowingly give the subjective type of reporting. This should be avoided. A reporter should not try to impose value judgement to his report. Suppose, to control a riotous mob the police ‘spend fire’. Now many reporters, deputed to report the incident, would be carried away by sentiments and forget that in reporter’s life there is no value like sentiment. Carried out by sentiments and may be official briefings, the reporter will write ‘Police was forced to open fire’. Why should a reporter be subjective here ? The plain fact was ‘Police opened fire’.

If we say ‘Police had to open fire’ or ‘Police was forced to open fire’, then it indicates that the reporter has taken side of the police as against the mob. Why should we take the risk of antagonising the people on whom police opened fire? We should simply write ‘Police opened fire. But when the top officials while briefing us comments on incidents then we may report that, the SP said, ’Police was forced to open fire’ not otherwise should be write like that subjectivity. We may go only for the objective reporting in such cases. If we are deputed as an investigating reporter, we may be subjective in giving our own opinion about firing.

The essence of intro writing

‘Intro’ is the whole news, whereas ‘Lead’ is the précis of Intro. In writing the Intro, the reporter would always write the most important of the story as the very opening line. He should use short sentences and never indulge in writing long-long sentences with many clauses and sub-clauses. This is the main technique of writing an Intro.

Of  intros, lead & body

Although in the newspaper office, every news has its own style of writing. In fact, news is based on facts. Stories are all imaginary, but it should never be based on imagination. News stories are built on current events. In framing the news story, one main principle must be kept in mind. That is, the news story should be written in ‘Inverted Pyramid Style’, i.e. the most important part of the news story should come into the opening sentences and it should be followed by other secondary important facts, gradually tapering downward.

‘Inverted Pyramid’ Style of drafting of news is not a new innovation. In important newspapers in western countries, research workers in the field of journalism made studies about readers’ difficulties and preference in reading the news stories. They found that most of their readers have little time to go through all the details of the stories. Therefore, they recommend that the most important part of the story should be written as the opening of the news and then the other relatively less important parts should follow the lead. This is done in ‘Inverted Pyramid’ style.

In newspaper offices the first part of the news story is called ‘Intro’ or ‘Lead’. The rest of the story is called ‘body’ of the story. The ’Intro’ or the ‘Lead’ gives most important part of the information of the story and thus it the life of the story. In the lead itself the sensational part of the story should be given in lucid manner, and, in short simple sentences. If we are able to give a good intro, that will induce the reader to read on the body of the story. If we write a good ‘Intro’, almost our entire effort to build good story is done. The follow-up story should continue in the ‘Inverted Pyramid Style’.

We should remember that follow-up is not only an essential part of an interesting newspaper story but it often leads to a more interesting story than even the original story. As for instance ‘Quit India Resolution’ was passed by the AICC in Mumbai on August 9, 1942. This was certainly the most sensational newspaper story of the year or we say of the century because it led to liquidation of British Empire in August 1947 and achievement of Bharatiya independence. But now more sensational follow-up story developed. This was more sensational than the ‘Quit India’ Resolution itself. All Congress leaders had hardly retired to beds that night when they were arrested and huddled together in cars had driven to unknown place. Now the main story was ‘Quit India’ Resolution, but follow-up story of arrests of Sardar, Mahatma and other leaders was yet more sensational.

(Author is a technocrat and educationist. He studied Journalism and Mass Communication at Patna University)



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