Thursday, January 29, 2015

An enlightening — and refreshing — piece in Brand Equity on what young people can teach their elders in the business

And it comes with a well-written and lively introduction, too.

Here's a sample:

"...whoever said the millennial is fickle or needs constant validation and expects 'Look maa, I drew within the line!' to be followed by a treat and a cuddle or that they are as loyal as a mercenary is nucking futs."

Read the article, by Delshad Irani, in its entirety here: "Back To School: What ad veterans have learnt from the younger lot".

What a contrast it is to an earlier post on this blog: "What's with the attitude, Gen-Y?"

Your feedback on both pieces is welcome.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Media Matters-7: Good readers make good media professionals

This was published on the Education Page of Dubai's Khaleej Times today:


By Ramesh Prabhu

Everyone who knows me knows how crazy I am about books.

I have been reading books since I was five or six years old. And like many of my generation I began with Enid Blyton’s children’s stories and progressed rapidly to the thrillers and crime novels of Alistair Maclean, Arthur Hailey, Desmond Bagley, James Hadley Chase, and Agatha Christie. Along the way I discovered that sublime humorist, P.G. Wodehouse.

I have bought a lot of books in my time. In fact, books call out to me (I think), which is why I have many books at home that I have bought but not yet found time to read.

I also buy books intuitively. To give you an example, five works of non-fiction that occupy the pride of place on my bookshelves — Here At The New Yorker; Remembering Mr. Shawn's New Yorker: The Invisible Art Of Editing; Just Enough Liebling; How About Never — Is Never Good for You?; and The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight — were purchased because they have a connection to one of my all-time favourite magazines, The New Yorker, and because they are about writing, about journalism.

I often employ a similar approach when buying fiction. Once, after having read and enjoyed Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell, I brought home the whole series — nine books featuring the iconic Inspector Kurt Wallander. And when a new Wallander was released recently, I bought that one too.

I believe you are what you read. I also believe you have to be a good reader if you want to be a good writer. So at Commits, I am always trying to get my students to read the wonderful books I have helped to stock in the college library. I also lend books from my collection. And many students seem to like the books I recommend. That is why I was especially pleased to receive this e-mail one day from an ex-student, Sumith Sagar (Class of 2009; pictured below):

I wanted to tell you that I have started reading books earnestly. :) Reading has become a serious activity now. I read all kinds of books — economics, management-related, novels, short stories, and many more — in both English and Kannada.
I wanted to thank you for making me read the first book of my life. I still remember the day you gave me that book: The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. Frankly, I did not understand much when I read it. But then you had the patience to sit with me and ask what I liked and did not like about it.
And I can never forget Tuesdays with Morrie, one of my favourites. I must thank you for giving me that book because bad books can make one stop reading completely but you kept it going by giving me exactly what I wanted to read.
You might be thinking, “Why is Sumith writing about this to me now?” There is a reason. I came across an article which made me remember you (that does not mean I do not remember you otherwise) because it was you who made me read books. I would like to share that article with you and let you know how happy I am to have read that first book given by you.
Here is the link: “My Father’s Son”.
We will discuss the books I read when I come to college next.
Thank you once again, Sir.

“My Father’s Son” is veteran journalist Prem Panicker’s account of how he happened to fall passionately in love with reading. The post is also a Father’s Day tribute by a grateful son. Here’s an excerpt:

“Several times, in course of my twenty-odd years as a journalist, I have had people write in and tell me that they thought a particular article I had just written was well expressed, or passionately written, whatever.

“And, each time, my mind would flash back to my father. To how he taught me to read and, in the process, inculcated in me a love for words and for writing. And in my heart, I would feel an immense gratitude for that moment in time when he locked up all my beloved comics and left Doctor Sally [one of P.G. Wodehouse’s great comic novels] on the living room table.”

“My Father’s Son” is a treat to read. And it is also a pleasing paean to the power of reading.

Sadly, book-lovers, according to my young nephew and fellow bibliophile, Ajay U. Pai, are labelled “nerds” or “bookworms”. He told me once that Generation Next is drifting away from the dreamland created by books. “Nowadays no one wants to read and be termed a nerd and humiliated in class,” he lamented. “Can we ever reverse this trend and live happily ever after in our world of books? Is this possible?”

Yes, it is possible. I know many young people who find reading a strain, or worse, a bore. That is probably because no one encouraged them to read when they were children, and when they were growing up there was little incentive to spend time on books given the distractions of the computer, video-game, smartphone, and television (distractions that did not exist when I was a child).

But I have found that people who are averse to reading even in their twenties get to love books once they realise that reading can make a difference to their lives and careers.

We learn from my student Sumith Sagar’s experience that it is never too late to begin reading books.

Clearly, if you want to be a good media professional, your writing skills will be crucial to your success.

Now here is master storyteller Stephen King, in the brilliant On Writing, stressing the importance of reading and the connection between reading and writing:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

And here’s James Ellroy, the author of L.A. Confidential and other bestselling crime novels, on the same subject in a Q&A published in Time magazine. He was asked how he had acquired the knack for writing such colourful lingo. His answer (in part):

“I spent my early life reading, reading, reading, reading, reading, and reading.”

Ellroy was also asked if people are born good writers. His answer (in full):

“No. You have to read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, and read. As you read, unconsciously you assimilate the rudiments of style and technique. And when it comes time for a person to begin to seriously write, they either have it, or they don’t.”

I have been saying something in similar vein to my students, but Stephen King and James Ellroy have put it much better than I ever could. While both are referring to the writing of fiction, I believe what they say applies to all forms of writing, and that is what I emphasise in my journalism class.

Which brings me to the question that bothers me big-time: Why do so many young people give short shrift to reading?

Many youngsters today want a career in media. That really makes me happy. However, for the life of me I can’t figure out how someone who doesn’t like reading can become a good journalist.

If you don’t want to be a journalist, I have no quarrel with that. But I also believe that if you can think and write like a journalist, you can succeed in any media field. Which is what I tell every batch at Commits. And if you want to write and think like a journalist, close reading is vital. A devotion to words is essential. A love of books is fundamental. Reading should be like breathing. Then the writing will follow. And it will flow. Unhesitatingly.  Copiously. Gracefully.

If I were a betting man, I would stake my entire library on it.

THINK ABOUT IT: “Reading usually precedes writing. And the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer.” ― Susan Sontag, American writer and filmmaker, teacher and political activist

BOOKED FOR LIFE: If you want to be a good media professional, you must make time to read. (Main picture: Shweta Ganesh Kumar, author and former television journalist now based in Manila, photographed by her husband, Sagar Rajgopal, while on vacation in Myanmar.)
  • Coming up in the next installment of “Media Matters”: How reading non-fiction pays dividends
·        Ramesh Prabhu is professor of journalism at Commits Institute of Journalism & Mass Communication, Bangalore. Commits offers a full-time two-year MA degree course.
·        “Media Matters” welcomes questions from readers who would like to know more about careers in journalism. Please send in your queries to


Thursday, January 15, 2015

An idea whose time has come? India Today's new opinion website tells you how long it will take you to read an article

Time-starved readers (and who isn't time-starved these days?) will rejoice. Each article on the recently launched Daily O, the India Today group's "open to opinion" website, comes with a label: "2-minute read", "4-minute read", and so on. Presumably, this nifty little time-saver will help you decide which piece you want to read, which item you should skip.

Good idea? Bad idea? In any case, an idea whose time, I think, has come.

PS: There are even "zero-minute" reads. Check them out here.

An excellent profile of the journalist who turned around the fortunes of Star TV

In the latest issue of Open magazine, Lhendup G. Bhutia profiles Uday Shankar. Read it here: "A political reporter from Patna today runs India’s top TV network".

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Media Matters-6: Why we became journalists (Final part of a three-part series)

This was published on the Education Page of Dubai's Khaleej Times today:


By Ramesh Prabhu

This is the final part of a three-part series which explored the motivations of a few young women and men who have chosen to become journalists.
Reporter, CNN-IBN, Thiruvananthapuram

Being a journalist has been my passion since my schooldays. I feel that every individual has certain commitments to society and this is the best way to fulfill mine. When I took up journalism as a career, I knew I would not be able to transform things overnight but my thinking was that if I were able to change one person’s life for the better, I would be able to achieve my goal. And I am glad to report I have been successful in helping bring about change in a few people’s lives.

Why television? From the beginning, I have been fascinated with the thought of being on TV. I believe a story can be best told with visuals. I started my career as a print journalist, however, which is when I realised that both mediums have their own advantages and disadvantages. In print, we can write in-depth stories, but that is not the case with television (except for current affairs programmes). And in this era of breaking news, I feel that sometimes TV journalists tend to indulge in sensationalism, so I consider myself lucky to be working with CNN-IBN, which gives more weightage to credibility.

The best thing about being a journalist is that there is no monotony in my job. Every day I meet new people; each day is different. The risks and the uncertainty attached to this profession are what make my life so interesting today.
Editor/Anchor (Personal Finance), ET Now, Mumbai

When I was in college, television journalism became very popular in India, especially during the coverage of the Kargil war. I was also heavily influenced by global journalists like Anderson Cooper and Richard Quest. In addition, honestly, the decision to take up journalism as a major was to battle the impression that medical science and engineering or an MBA were the only options worth considering as a student.

When I completed my post-grad course, I wanted to work with radio. But Indian radio stations are not allowed to do news, and the content tended to be very Bollywood-focused at the time (it still is). So television it was, but I didn’t choose television as much at it chose me. I was extremely fortunate to have received a job opportunity with CNBC TV18 and I have been working with business news channels ever since.

My first assignment with CNBC TV18 was on a show called “Insurance Intelligence”. I was to report on the insurance sector, something other colleagues in my team found dull. But I fell in love with the sector immediately. My work with insurance led me to discover my larger aim, which was personal finance. I have come to realise, over the last 10 years, that helping people navigate and understand money is my true calling.

There are two things I love most about my job. First, I love understanding something complicated and passing the information on to my viewers. In TV parlance we call this “cracking it”. When there is a complicated financial product, or a product that is designed badly so it causes more harm to investors than good, I love being able to explain to my viewers the problem and the corresponding solution. 

Second, I love receiving e-mails from viewers telling me that I helped them make a change. It gives me the purpose I need to go on doing what I do.
Till recently a reporter/sub-editor with Bangalore Times, now relocated to Sharjah


I sort of wandered into journalism. I actually wanted to do English Literature after school, but there were no Honours courses in Bangalore, which is where I wanted to come after I left Kuwait. So I did the Journalism-Psychology-Optional English B.A. course at Christ University. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I was done with undergrad, so I did the M.A. at Commits to figure out what I wanted to do, and that’s when I decided to pursue print journalism professionally.

It was Commits that helped me figure out how to be industry-ready. I knew all the theory from the course I had done at Christ College, but since I hadn’t done any internships I always preferred to fly back home during my vacations since the internships were not mandatory I knew I wasn’t ready for the real world of journalism. At Commits, I gained the confidence, more than anything else, to go out there and apply the skills I had acquired based on the mandatory internships and the sessions we had with people working in the industry.

At Bangalore Times, I worked as a desk editor. Like at most features publications, we desk editors are required to write stories, edit them, and supervise page layout. This means that you don’t think about a story only in terms of the questions that need to be answered or the information that the reader should get, but how they should get it in terms of design. You think about how the story should look, which is very important these days because, as we are always being reminded, it's about packaging. And, of course, a desk editor is always a better writer.

I’m more of a desk person than a reporter, so I really like the production aspect of journalism. I like taking a story whether it’s mine or someone else’s and working on it so that it is as complete as it can possibly be. Of course, when I did get out there, I got to meet interesting people and hear all sorts of stories that took me out of myself. But I still preferred retreating to the relative safety of the desk.
Sub-editor/reporter, The Afternoon, Mumbai


Journalism was not a childhood dream. I don’t think I ever said, “I want to grow up to be a journalist.” That came much later in life, when I did my master's degree. At some point, while reading the news, it occurred to me, reality is quite bizarre without the fiction. Keeping track of everyday happenings, identifying the people doing exceptional work in society and telling their story, keeping track of our leaders and exposing their true intent in the job they are doing... when I learnt of all of this, I knew that I would like to make a career in journalism. The creative process of laying out the paper, selecting news based on its importance and value, striving to tell two, three, sometimes four sides of a story... the reasons are many.

At this time in our country I find that being a journalist and being exposed first-hand to how a media organisation works, not only in the newsroom, but especially the influence of upper management on the working of the newsroom, is giving me great insight. The background research that goes into adding value to a story is also something I find very interesting. And because the news that comes through my newsroom is solely based on Mumbai and some surrounding districts, it has increased my knowledge of the present city as well as the city it once was.
Independent journalist, Mumbai

I was 17 when I decided that I would not pursue a traditional career. I was interested in story-telling, but never really thought that writing could be a serious career option. It was a chance meeting with a family friend that changed my perspective about journalism. She was working as a copy editor with a newspaper in Bangalore. I was she who explained how interesting her line of work was and how it could be a rewarding career for a youngster. I had three options in front of me then: journalism, academics, and public relations. I chose a career with words because it was more creative compared with the other two.

Today, even though a lot of the work I do is routine, like visits to the press club and coverage of the same issues (budgets, government policies, school and college admissions), I definitely get my high from learning new things and meeting new people. Creating shareable, emotional, and well-researched stories often forces me to think out of the box. I have also picked up skills like the ability to look for interesting details about a person or an event, rather than merely focusing on the brief given by the editor.

THINK ABOUT IT: “I believe that good journalism, good television, can make our world a better place.” Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent of CNN and host of CNN International’s nightly interview programme “Amanpour”

·        Ramesh Prabhu is professor of journalism at Commits Institute of Journalism & Mass Communication, Bangalore. Commits offers a full-time two-year MA degree course.
·        “Media Matters” welcomes questions from readers who would like to know more about careers in journalism. Please send in your queries to

Monday, January 12, 2015

Media Matters-5: Why we became journalists (Second part of a three-part series)

This was published on the Education Page of Dubai's Khaleej Times on December 30, 2014:


By Ramesh Prabhu
In the previous installment of “Media Matters” (December 16), three young journalists explained why they joined the profession. Today let us listen in as a few more youngsters discuss their reasons for choosing journalism.
Digital Editor, Quintillion Media (till recently a television journalist with CNN-IBN)

I loved to tell stories when I was a kid. When I grew up I realised that when I blend my imagination with a pinch of reality, in the form of words, it gave me a certain kind of bliss. I guess that was the beginning.

Later, when I had to choose a vocation for myself, I started interning at multiple newspapers. I loved what I did, especially when I saw my articles in print. The processing of news in a newsroom fascinated me. So here I am!

Becoming a television journalist happened by chance. I was awe-struck by the CNN-IBN newsroom when I had gone there for my internship, which was arranged by my college. At the news channel, my work as an intern was appreciated and I was inspired and encouraged by many journalists there. I understood that I could learn a lot from working there full-time. So when I got the opportunity to go back there after completing my master’s course, I grabbed it with both hands!

Today I am thrilled to be a journalist. Which other profession gives you so much variation and excitement – and an adrenaline rush – almost every day? No day is the same. A story can change someone's life, and we journalists have that power.

Financial journalist, Cogencis (formerly with Financial Express and InformationWeek); winner of the PoleStar award (see photograph) for business/IT journalism

I decided to become a journalist right after Class 12. Though I was in the science stream, my parents, fortunately for me, did not force me to take up engineering just for the sake of a degree. Instead, since I had an inclination towards writing and public speaking, my father decided to enroll me in a graduate programme in media. After that, as I gradually got exposed to the subject, I realised journalism was the best fit for me as it would let me do what I am really interested in.    

Business journalism happened more by chance than by design. I got my first journalism break in The Financial Express, a leading business daily in India, and that’s how it all began. But now I believe this is what I am best suited for, as it is like a white-collar journalism job. You avoid some of the “unnecessary” hassles you may face, say, on the crime beat, yet you are a full-fledged journalist, free to break any news including a corporate scam. It’s a big world of business and the implications of what you write can be bigger.

The most interesting thing about being a journalist is that no two days are the same. Every day is a new day and you are only as good as your last story. You begin afresh every day.
Reporter/Sub-editor, The Asian Age, Mumbai (formerly with Deccan Herald, Bengaluru)

Journalists are watchdogs. We help to keep people informed. This responsibility combined with the fact that we can present even seemingly mundane things in a way that readers would find interesting is another merit of this profession. Also, I have a healthy curiosity about everything under the sun, so digging for stories, researching, and presenting them to readers is a challenge I enjoy.

I think the opportunity to look at things from different angles is the most interesting thing about being a journalist. After all, something perfectly ordinary, if looked at from a different angle, can become an interesting news story, which means even if several reporters are working on the same topic, many different news stories can be produced for the benefit of readers.

Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez has written that journalism is the world’s best profession. I agree 100%!
Independent business/IT journalist

I chose journalism not only as a career, but as an opportunity for personal growth. Most people crave for an interesting conversation, and journalism gives a chance for interesting conversations every week. I learnt to ask any question without being judged.

This job exposed me to a variety of people, broadened my mind, and fed me with energy. While my friends complained about feeling restricted by a cubicle, I was learning something new almost daily. Of course, there are mundane tasks in journalism too, but the door to try something interesting is always open.

I entered the field with barely any knowledge about technology. As I started talking to people, I realised enterprises are at war for recognition, clients, and revenue. It seemed just as alive as politics and I got hooked. Besides, my job included interviewing industry leaders and achievers. Just talking to them is so inspiring that it pushes me to do more.
Reporter, CNN-IBN, Bengaluru

I drifted towards journalism during my undergraduate course in microbiology. A chance to be part of the College Editorial Board of The Times of India’s “Education Times”, in a way, made me realise that this is what I wanted to do.

It was at Commits that working on TV stories and producing news bulletins gave me hands-on experience. The print journalism classes helped me develop an eye for detail. I also got some of the best internship opportunities that ultimately converted to a job.

TV journalism happened by chance. I started liking TV after working on news bulletins at Commits. With TV, a story can be told in a way that creates an immediate connect with the viewer. When I did my TV internship, I hoped that one day I, too, would be part of such a newsroom where the energy is infectious. However pressured you are, the adrenaline rush seconds before going “live” is compelling. It always reminds me of the countdown to a rocket launch. Like the gurus in our industry say, no two days are the same in journalism.

THINK ABOUT IT: “The most powerful teacher on the planet is media... In fact I believe journalism and storytelling are education.” ― Gary E. Knell, president and CEO of The National Geographic Society, writing in this month’s edition of National Geographic magazine

·    COMING UP IN THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF “MEDIA MATTERS”: Third and final part of the series, “Why we became journalists”

·        Ramesh Prabhu is professor of journalism at Commits Institute of Journalism & Mass Communication, Bangalore. Commits offers a full-time two-year M.A. degree course.
·        “Media Matters” welcomes questions from readers who would like to know more about careers in journalism. Please send in your queries to

"100 books that can change your life": A magnificent issue from Outlook

I have read 35 out of the 100 featured here. What about you? How many have you read?

Check out the full list, and other fascinating feature articles, here: "100 books that can change your life".

And, afterwards, learn about the book that should have been on the Outlook list but isn't: "Reading this book will change your approach to life".