Book Review: Stop press: Journalism and the art of storytelling

Book Review: Stop press: Journalism and the art of storytelling

By KANISHKA SINGH | | 5 December, 2015
The novel can be read as an overarching critique of journalism.
A new novel, written by two veteran journalists, casts a critical eye on the world of Indian media during the 1980s and 1990s, when journalism became a career, writes Kanishka Singh.

The authors of this book, both veteran journalists in their own right, have sewed up tales and experiences of their fellow journalists to shape them into a fictional narrative. Beyond News follows the turbulent lives of three reporters — Sanjay, Sajal and Anjan — who work for a newspaper. They are friends, driven to excel and uncompromising on their ideals. The novel is an account of their personal and professional trials in a nomadic life that is beset by indifferent senior scribes and editors. It talks about the grey side of the media which is bitter and hard to gulp. Essentially, the book is a harsh critique of the world of journalism in the 1980s and 1990s India.
The story shows that journalism has turned from a mission to just another job. It explains that the world of journalists has become corrupted by favours, flattery and exploitation. The novel talks about a face of journalism that is miles away from its perceptible image of just another glamorous profession. It beats down on journalists who practice nepotism and on media houses that force scribes to write and present things to suit their business interests.
The narrative moves at a slow pace. The plot is well thought out and the subplots, though not too detailed, add necessary elements of surprise to occasionally break the monotony. The novel speaks of human emotions explicitly, something that grips the readers throughout. The writing is simple and would appeal to a wide range of readers. Although it is brought out well in the Indian context, it becomes preachy at times with lengthy discourses about sacrifices and clichéd romantic exploits.
Beyond News is filled with several fictionally portrayed incidents inspired from real life. It provides a flavor of the dangers that a reporter takes on in search of a good story. The protagonist Sanjay grows from a novice to a journalist noted for his impartiality and fearless writing. He comes to command great respect from colleagues, family and in the power circle. The road to success, however, would not be easy for him. The authors use his characters to metaphorically comment on the hardships in a regular journalist’s life. Sometimes he is forced to compromise on his ideals, like accepting ‘gifts’ which gives him sleepless nights and sometimes he has to plant a story on directions from his editor.

The novel is an account of personal and professional trials of three journalists who live a nomadic life that is beset by, among other things, indifferent senior scribes and editors. It  talks about the grey side of journalism, which is bitter and hard to gulp. Essentially, the book is a harsh critique of the world of journalism in the 1980s and 1990s India.

Ambition forces him to agree to do several things but it gives him sleepless nights. When transferred to a smaller bureau in his hometown, he finds life to me more settled. He befriends ‘Sajal bhai’ and Anjan in the bureau who help him settle into the new environment. Sanjay opens his heart to Sajal and strikes a bond with him. He reveals how he left his beloved Neeta in Delhi. A Kashmiri by descent, Neeta is exceedingly independent at the same time traditionally sacrificing. Sanjay, coming from a Bihari family, finds it hard to explain to his parents that he wants to marry Neeta but ultimately manages to convince them.
His parents, in a stereotypical meeting for an arranged marriage with Neeta’s family, ‘measure up’ the prospective bride and her family. They finally agree to the match and Neeta as a typical daughter in law proposes that she will leave her past life and start living in Jamshedpur to take care of Sanjay’s house and his parents and maybe find a job to keep her busy. In the pursuit of realism, the authors end up corrupting the essence of a powerful character. She follows Sanjay wherever he is posted and proves to be an orthodox Indian bride who is expected to leave everything for her husband. A journalist by profession, Neeta seemingly doesn’t have any big ambitions in her life. Also, Sanjay’s father plays the role of a guide but appears sporadically to give a poetic monologue of life lessons.

After a series of difficult experiences, professionally, personally and financially, all three friends leave the profession. Having lives a life filled with thrill, passion and determination, they leave what they held most dear to themselves. Overall, the authors accomplish what they had set out to do, educate the readers about the different shades of a profession that people look up to with lit eyes. As a fact, readers view newspapers as a genuine means for intellectual satisfaction and enrichment and they have successfully highlighted a ‘part’ of the world that is completely against the ethos of true journalists.

Where there is light, there must be dark. But the authors have brilliantly lifted a shadow from a critical part of the media world. One of the refreshing things about the writers is that they don’t leave you feeling cheated. The sequences are structured aptly and it gives the reader a good idea about the perils of a journalist’s life and his struggles that get hidden behind a silver veil. The book is an average read. On the upside, you do want to finish reading it when you pick it up first. Not necessarily because it catches your imagination, but because it reveals a life that not many people have access to.

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