Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Media Matters-9: What to read, especially if you want to understand the media (First part of a two-part series)

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


By Ramesh Prabhu

I have been fortunate over the years to have met and worked with many enterprising journalists. None, to my mind, is more enterprising than Krishna Prasad.

I was first introduced to Krishna Prasad, or KP as he is universally known, sometime in 2001 in Bengaluru. The media company I was working with at the time had hired him to come up with a template for the technology and business daily that was to be launched later that year. KP not only designed a classy tabloid; he also trained the journalists who had been recruited to produce it.

KP, who has been hailed as one of India’s finest young journalists, is today at the top of his game as editor in chief of Outlook, the weekly newsmagazine founded by his mentor, Vinod Mehta.

I am particularly pleased to have made KP’s acquaintance because, like me, he also believes you are what you read. And he is also clear on the point that reading is a vital factor in the success of a media professional.

Many years ago, KP had come to Commits for an interactive session with our students. (He has also been a speaker at the college’s annual seminar.) Afterwards, for our students’ benefit, he graciously handed over to me his recommended reading list, which, in the interests of serving a wider audience, I have reproduced below (the comments introducing each category are by KP) with his consent.

I have had to trim the original list for reasons of space, as well as to add some books which I have found to be especially useful and some books which became available only recently. My choices are marked by the prefix “RP”. If you would like to go through the list KP gave me, here’s the link: What To Read.

Here then, in a two-part feature, are the books you must read – especially if you want to understand the media.

Like the movie Citizen Kane (which is the fictionalised account of the life and times of the publisher William Randolph Hearst), one of the all-time great novels is also built on journalism: Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. But here are a few other works of fiction centered around journalism:

1. Psmith Journalist, by P.G. Wodehouse
2. Fourth Estate, by Jeffrey Archer (a veiled story of Rupert Murdoch)
3. Pelican Brief, by John Grisham
4. (RP) Towards the End of the Morning, by Michael Frayn
5. (RP) Broken News, Amrita Tripathi
6. (RP) The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman
7. (RP) Bunker 13, by Aniruddha Bahal

WALKING THE TALK: Outlook editor in chief Krishna Prasad, who was a speaker at the annual Commits seminar in February 2010, is a book-lover at heart.

For those who love words and the use of language,there can be nothing more gripping than reading “style sheets”: these are the in-house guides and manuals that newspapers and magazines use to achieve uniformity and standardisation. The Economist Style Guide is universally regarded as the best and most entertaining, but there are a few others that you might like to read.

(RP) It is impossible to overestimate the importance of learning how to write well by following the tips and advice of those who have been there, done that. And since grammar and punctuation have a vital role to play in good writing, you should read books that will help you on that front, too.

1. The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White
2. The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage
3. On Writing Well, by William Zinsser
4. (RP) How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times, by Roy Peter Clark
5. (RP) The English Language: A User's Guide, by Jack Lynch
6. (RP) Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark
7. (RP) The Art and Craft of Feature Writing: Based on The Wall Street Journal Guide, by William E. Blundell
8. (RP) 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing, by Gary Provost
9. (RP) The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English, by Roy Peter Clark
10. (RP) On Writing, by Stephen King
  • In the next installment of “Media Matters”: The second and final part of “The books you must read if you want to understand the media”
THINK ABOUT IT: “Why did you become a journalist?”
“Better than working for a living.”
― Leslie Cockburn, Baghdad Solitaire

·        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


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