EXPERIENCE IN A HURRY

by Nirmaldasan

(my experiences in some eveningers between December 1990 and April 1995)

Journalism, says Mathew Arnold, is literature in a hurry. And newspapermen in the services of any eveninger are sure to agree. My particular experiences in a couple of eveningers were gained in a hurry and invariably shared by my sometime colleagues in a spirit of rare camaraderie and as a matter of routine.

At this point I must hasten to add that all scribes are in a hurry to meet deadlines. But for those in an eveninger, it is a sprint against the clock. This is fairly obvious as the edition is brought out within half a dozen hours. What happens between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. is anybody's guess.

My first task was to browse through all the morningers (both English and Tamil) and mark up some or more stories for either rewriting or translation as the case may be. Rewriting was never a problem. What is in the active voice, I simply change to passive and vice versa. But translation work is something that kills the creative instinct. On the days I happen to be shrewd, I manage to dump it on a colleague, saying, "The boss wants this done," concealing the fact that it was I whom the boss had singled out for the thankless task.

Other perfunctory tasks that had to be performed were monitoring the teleprinter, sorting out stories filed by news agencies and answering a spate of phone calls least related to the editorial. I also had to deal with advertisement material and do some copy-writing when the need arose.

And it came to pass that the boss discovered in me the poetic virus. Consequently I was assigned poetic tasks - to sing the praise of the powers that be. I think I shamelessly did a good job of it too.

Besides editing press releases and taking down reports over the phone, I had to read a clutter of proofs. Now and then a printer's devil would appear on the page and cock-a-snook at the boss.

Reporting assignments came as a real relief to an otherwise tedious schedule. Giving headlines, though in a hurry, was also a pleasure. A relatively good heading of mine to a story about Doordarshan (DD) and STAR TV is "DD twinkles better than STAR".

So this has been mine experience and the lot of any newspaperman in an eveninger. But in a morninger, we have a delightful paradox. As we race to meet the deadline, we simultaneously cool our heels...

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