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18 August, 2015

Tales from journalistic folklore

B. Someswar Rao is a journalist with 57 years of experience who closely follows new developments. He hit upon the idea of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding a book on the changing culture of Indian journalism and invited thousands of journalists and mass communication students online to provide inputs, opinion and advice. Few responded. The lack of response did not discourage him. He consoled himself that no one would trust or help a stranger anyway and that they were justified since there were too many fake journalists around. Abandoning the idea of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, he went ahead and produced the book on his own, and gave it an intriguing title. Actually the title was settled long before the book was thought of. He says, way back in the 1950s, on the basis of an early experience in a newspaper office, he had declared, “If ever I write a book on journalism, it will be called A Town Called Penury”.

The book can be described adequately in just one word: gallimaufry. In case you are coming across the word for the first time, its dictionary meaning is "a confused jumble or medley of things". The Oxford Dictionaries website traces its origin to a mid-16th century French word meaning “unappetizing dish”.  My generation learnt the archaic word from C.R. Mandy, a talented Irishman who was the Editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India and ran a widely read column in it under that name.

Is journalism just the “political rag-chewing, hack-writing, mass media banalities and high-pressure sales talk” that editor Sham Lal despised? Or is it the mission it claims to be? Or a bit of both? With these tantalizing questions, Someswar Rao entices the reader. He then goes on to present a miscellany comprising his own recollections and stories he heard from others at one time or another. No claim is made that the book is the result of research. If anyone wants proof or evidence, he confesses, he has none to offer. He readily grants the disbeliever the freedom to treat the book as a work of fiction!

Essentially the book is a collection of anecdotes from journalistic folklore. It also provides a fragmented history of Indian journalism, taking in such modern phenomena as paid news and absentee reporting. 

Acme Books, 
Post Box No. 9433,
Bengaluru 560094, India
Price Rs.250.

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