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EDITORIAL: The Backroom Boys

To many, the day is never complete without going through the day’s paper with their morning cuppa and for those who have entered the autumn of their lives and have retired from service, the cross word puzzle or Sudoku or Jumble or any other feature that tickles the brain, carried in almost all newspapers today, offer the perfect outlet to pass their time and at the same time relax for some time. Thanks to the burgeoning 24X7 news channels that are beamed into our living rooms, news is no longer only about what happened the other day or anticipating the likely outcome of a situation or a development or political commentaries, but comes packaged with a good dollop of entertainment.

In fact this is what news has become to be understood all over the country, especially when it comes to the electronic media. It is not only your expertise, diction, knowledge of the subject that counts, but also your appearance and the glow of your skin. The BBC had to recently roll back its decision and even tender an apology after it gave the marching order to one of its anchor, because they thought she was showing too much wrinkles. Great thing that the lady here was born in the ‘civilized West’ or else she would have been just another former employee.

However do not be taken in by all the stiff neck ties, the carefully ironed and buttoned shirt as well as the matching shirt that goes along with the tie, for not everything is as it seems to be. Behind the scene, there must be a number of disheveled reporters and sub-editors trying to meet the deadline, for breaking news, has taken a new definition altogether. The print media may not have gone the whole way as the electronic media, but it certainly is not the way it appears to the layman, who in most probability will only have the slightest idea of what goes into producing the day’s paper.

The reporters, the pressmen, as generally known here in the local parlance, are the front office of a newspaper, metaphorically speaking. No doubt they have to go to places where even angels will fear to tread and they have to brave the hot summer sun or the chilly winter breeze, but they are undoubtedly the glamour boys or girls of the news establishment. Their clout is immense and the value or assets of a reporter is measured by the contacts he has managed to establish in the right places, the higher the rung, the better. It not only takes intuition and nose for news but also the ability to earn the trust and confidence of his sources and in today’s world, where hypocrisy and bootlicking is the order of the day, this is quite a tall order.

Adaptability and the willingness or rather the ability to rough it out is another aspect that is needed of a good reporter. Basically, it is the reporters who are the public face of a newspaper establishment and it is they who supply the material for a newspaper to hit the stand the following morning. This much, we are apt to believe, the public has some idea about the working of the media houses, but far away from the public domain, there is a totally different set of class, who go by the name and designation of Sub-Editors, who have to slog it out at all hours.

It is the need to acknowledge the important role played by these boys that the president of the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union, Khogendra Khomdram, was referring to during the 29th Foundation Day of the daily eveninger Kangleipakki Meira on January 13. Detailing the job of a Sub-Editor will run into pages, but their primary duty is to make a piece of information interesting and readable. In other words, they need to polish all the stories filed by the reporters from the field, make it presentable, find a suitable caption and if necessary do some necessary research work, when the need arises, which is often.

In other words, it is a highly taxing job, which requires not only mastering the language of communication but also putting it across in a style that makes it both easy and interesting to the readers. This is just some part of the work, for Sub-Editors are expected to go through all the press releases, and we receive many in a day, go through them minutely, study their veracity and ultimately transform it into a news item. Proof reading, including the several advertisements also invariably falls on the lap of the Sub-Editors besides choosing photographs for the pages they are assigned to, such as the one who takes care of the National section, the International section and the Sports section and top it off with the job of page layout. In short, not only a firm grip on the language of communication used or and the ability to play with words, a certain degree of creativity is also of prime importance.

Readers may ask, ‘˜Then what does the Editor, the boss in the news room do. ?’ Well we cannot say for the other papers but here the Editor also does what the Sub-editors do, with the added responsibility of deciding which news should be the lead story of the day, the caption, writing the Editorial for the day and giving the final signal for the paper to go to the printing machines. In short he is the man who conducts the newspaper. The details of the working style of any newspaper, which we have just noted, is an extension of the observation made by the president of AMWJU that some recognition is long overdue for the boys who work behind the scene, anonymously without all the hooplas surrounding their counter parts in the field. It is a point that needs to be seriously taken and acted upon, for if the reporters on the field are the food gatherers then the Sub-Editors are the chefs whipping up a meal, and making sure that it is palatable.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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