India Uncut

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Drawing the reader in

Chandrahas Choudhury writes in to make a clarification about a remark he made about the opening paragraph of the Telegraph article I cited in my post, "Easy to kill, hard to die". He writes:
Many readers would have doubtless construed my remark as an ironical one. Well, it was, but it was not meant to be entirely disparaging. In fact, I must confess I feel a kind of ambiguous admiration for a reporter who has attempted to pitch his opening sentence at such a level ("That love is a deadly passion, a matter of life and death, was demonstrated once again early this morning when Rahul Dev Pandey(20) shot dead Beena Kumari..."), and make some general remark about human nature rather than merely report some particulars of human behaviour in a flat unemotional manner. It is true that such a remark would perhaps look more appropriate on a comment piece about the matter rather than a report, but it is not incorrect per se, and in fact it strikes one as a rather literary opening - a good short story, for example, might begin with this sort of opening hook to draw the reader into its world.

In fact, if one reads the whole report, it contains an impressive specificity of detail that is again a characteristic of literature, though ideally it should be an ideal for reporting too. The only line I would absolutely fault is the one that contains the phrase "the tall and handsome young man had pulled the trigger", though I think also that there is a certain unintentional comedy about the "he shot at himself but missed the target" which you pointed out, and which a sub-editor should have tweaked.

Indeed, when I was in Kolkata for a week last December covering a Test match, I found that a lot of Telegraph reports were written in this style, and every day there would be two or three stories I would feel like saving as clippings because they seemed to be attentive to little details, and the quality of language was rather better than some other mainstream papers. I wonder how this approach is expressed theoretically in the Telegraph's guidelines to its reporters.

Would your readers care to express their thoughts about this style of reportage? Indeed, one complaint I have of India Uncut is that your readers, dazzled by your charm and zany wit, don't seem to argue with you enough.

Erm, ok! Well, they don't argue with me because, muhahahaha, they can't. I wish they could, though. Nevertheless, if you, dear reader, wish to respond to Chandrahas's question on styles of reportage, please do write to him, and I am certain a future post on The Middle Stage will be forthcoming on this subject. Feel free to cc me.
amit varma, 6:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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