Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Journalism is a state of mind...

By John Cheeran
It was Charles Lamb who wrote that wood has entered the soul. Well, wood makes for a good desk in contemporary journalism. A sub-editor's worst enemy is a reporter who thinks she writes like Jane Austen. And when editor asks the sub to set aside his pride and prejudice, and pray to the god of QuarkXpress and make the page, you have your morning paper.
Editors aver that journalism has changed. Yes, it has, indeed. It is for the reader to decide whether it has changed for good, or bad. In the dialectics of journalism there has always been a room for the tension between reporters and copy editors. When it worked well, well, it served the newspaper's objectives of clarity and information.
This is an age when newspaper managements wonder about what copy editors do at all in the newsroom. Do we need them at all when all these well-heeled and well-taut reporters, write?
The case for copy editors was brilliantly argued by Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, when he wrote his celebrated piece "If You Were Like I," on June 22, 2008. He showed what a copy editor worth his weight in gold could do by leaving room for 60 corrections in a column of 617 words. (optional)
The tragedy of today’s journalism, in India and elsewhere, is that reporters have been allowed to delude that they are writers. Editors have failed to tell reporters that their job is to report, not to write. There was a time when journalism was not writing fiction, but finding facts and asking irksome questions. Those days, a good copy editor could have made sense out of what was thrown at him. Now every a quote a reporter writes is fabricated, and such lazy ones, that the desk pukes at the brazen audacity of reporter retching the same gems.
Brazenness does not end there. When reporters wantonly walk away from the task of providing even basic information such as the person who was spoken to and his or her designation, the desk has been advised to Google it. If not for Internet, reporters would have been asphyxiated by now. It is important to remember that every copy must be edited, including this one. Journalism is a state of mind, and you cannot pretend that you have it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A run is a run…..

By John Cheeran
Small grounds such as Rajkot make anyone a big hitter. In that sense there is little surprise that the likes of Virender Sehwag, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara whacked around bowlers to take both India and Sri Lanka past the 400 mark.
The winner, of course, was India. But, then, you may ask, is this cricket, or a mere spectacle?
The ODI match between India and Sri Lanka had as much excitement as that of a tug-of-war contest between two rustic sides. Both sides stretched themselves to the limit of 50 overs and the tug had to be broken under the heavy load of runs. On Tuesday, that left Mahendra Singh Dhoni standing with the end of the rope.
You cannot be blamed if you were finding it difficult to tell apart whether this was a Twenty20 contest or the traditional 50 overs game. But a run is a run, wherever your pitch is.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Journalism has changed, indeed

By John Cheeran
Everyone says journalism has changed.
Yes, I should know, it has changed. Now newspapers ask readers what do they want from them.
Not so long ago, newspapers led from the front by breaking stories, bringing down skeletons from the cupboards of movers and shakers, unmasking the faces of high and mighty, and by asking irksome questions, and in the process, ferreting out information.
Are editors abdicating their responsibilities by bringing in guest editors and having conversations with people whom the paper considers as High Net Worth Individuals?
I cannot but say that when editors seek applause from the likes of Rahul Bajajs, Ratan Tatas, Nandan Nilekanis, Narayana Murthys and Prasad Bidapas, it is a dangerous trend. A trend of servility that can spell the doom of news gathering as much as the penchant for paid news.
Yes, it is important to get your ying and yang right, but not at the cost of your backbone.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Such a long journey to reach No.1 spot in Test cricket

By John Cheeran
Cricket is very close to the Indian bone, and there is no doubt that India's elevation to the No.1 spot in Test rankings calls for celebration. Statistics quite often conceal more than what they reveal, and though Indian cricketers deserve their glory, they are far from the most feared cricket side in the world.
While it is important to pay tribute to Mahendra Singh Dhoni's boys on their tryst with ICC's Test championship rankings which was introduced in 2001, it would be prudent to pray that the Men in Blue retain the top spot for a significant period of time. India’s Test schedule ahead, unfortunately, does not offer much room for improvement.
Cricket is a sport that revels in numbers. But to measure cricketing greatness in terms of points would be missing the wood for trees.
Does this Indian side led by Dhoni inspire fear among opponents in the way the mighty West Indians, under Clive Lloyd, used to in early 1980s? Even Steve Waugh's Australians were feared and respected by the cricket world much more than the current Indian side.
One thing we have to remember. Rankings mirror incremental improvement in a side's progress and do not measure a certain side's greatness.
Be that as it may, it is important that India win key series at home and abroad, and in the process, win the respect of game's followers. Winning the 2011 World Cup should be a goal, even though critics may point out that it has nothing to with supremacy in Test cricket.
But, then, fear is the key. The respect that follows from fear will separate the truly great from the fleeting number game.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Virender Sehwag, the man with no burdens

By John Cheeran
Those who have spent their adjectives a few weeks ago on Sachin Tendulkar find now themselves paupers to describe the phenomenon called Virender Sehwag.
Sehwag (284 off 239 balls) was master of all he surveyed at the Brabourne Stadium on Thursday. In Tendulkar's backyard, Sehwag has shaken the fundamentals of Test match batting to the core.
It's a brute reminder to all of us that there have been few exciting batsmen in the modern era to match Sehwag for sheer excitement at the crease. Sanath Jayasuriya and Adam Gilchrist included.
The simplicity of Sehwag's batting never ceases to surprise the onlooker. When on song, Sehwag, the destroyer, can only invoke the images of Shiva.
Sehwag, as you all know, is not your erudite cricketer who is deeply conscious of the tradition of the game. It is important to remember that while falling short of the opening stand record of Pankaj Roy during India's Pakistan tour, the guy simply asked the journalists, Pankaj who?
The biggest blessing Sehwag has faced in his career that he has played along with Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. For Sehwag there has been no reason to put on the uncomfortable role of rescuer or defender of one billion people. When Tendulkar admirably carries the burden of one billion, why should Sehwag worry?
Sehwag terrorises bowlers, and in the process, it would not be inappropriate to say that he has put Vivian Richards in the shade.
Not that Sehwag has had his moments of wretchedness in international cricket. Without the unflinching support of Rahul Dravid, Sehwag would not have been made the cut for the disastrous World Cup in 2007. People, including me, did abuse Sehwag for his unrepentant ways at the crease.
Sehwag cannot play but the way he has been made out.
So he continues to confound, exasperate, enthrall and entertain you and opposition, in the manner of a street bully.
Jab thak balla chale, we all should know.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Twists and turns at Brabourne

By John Cheeran
At the end of the first day of the third and final Test at Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai, both India and Sri Lanka have reasons to be satisfied. It was an engrossing day, events doing justice to the ambiguities of Test cricket in full measure.
Of course, Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara finally won the toss. But he has an arduous task ahead of him to win the Test.
Sri Lanka has come up with an impressive first day score, amply aided by the belligerent batting of Tillakratne Dilshan (109 off 160 balls) and a sensible effort from all rounder Angelo Mathews. Sri Lankan openers gave their side an impressive start. But to India's credit, spinners Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha ensured that Sri Lankan batsmen did not think in terms of a total bordering on 500.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, however, will be a worried man. Odds are stacked against India. If Indian spinners can trouble the likes of Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene on Day One, the world's highest wicket-taker Muttaiah Muralitharan should be able to redeem his reputation on Indian soil. And consider that Indian batsmen will have the honour of playing the fourth innings. It is needless to say that India will have to play its first innings big, and in that opener Murali Vijay will have a huge role to play. Murali, who is filling in the leave vacancy of Gautam Gambhir just as he did in his debut Test against Australians in Nagpur earlier, has an opportunity to confound the national selectors.
For all that, twists and turns in this Test have just begun.
John Cheeran at Blogged