I still don’t know why I became a journalist – sure, I wanted to write, but then, all writers don’t enter journalism to satisfy their creative fantasies. As a business journalist (BJ), who’s done a bit of this and a little bit of that, I know I will probably remain an also-ran in the pantheon of scribes – known to a few people, unknown to many. BJs, such is the nature of their job, are rarely the ones who dig up the dirt. Even the one instance where they could – at least in the Indian context – they were outsmarted by the promoter himself, B Ramalinga Raju of Satyam (in)fame.
BJs therefore, largely confine themselves to news about tie-ups, break-ups, who’s gonna go bust, who’ll lick the dust (truth is, we really derive sadistic satisfaction when we see big business floundering). There are rarely investigative stories from our tribe – more often it’s news about impending events which is carried not so much as to inform the reader but to indulge in a game of one-upmanship with the competition. Journalism of courage, change the world, did I hear? Yeah right, and I also believe in the tooth fairy!
By contrast, our peers in political journalism (PJ) are much better recognised. Everybody and their uncle and aunt wants to know what’s happening in the parliament. Elections and politics still matter a great deal to the people, not just in India, but everywhere across the globe. Have you ever seen a social gathering discussing stock prices of the Sensex 30 or Nifty 50 companies? But they will sure as hell discuss inflation, the political party responsible for it, the corruption of the ministers and the leaders, etcetera.
But the guys (and gals) who have the most ‘glamorous’ jobs in hackdom are the war correspondents (WCs). In times of conflicts, across continents, come hail or shine, the WC is there, right in the thick of action, bringing images and voice to people around the globe who can’t get enough of the live action of missiles cruising in to their targets, of bombs and gunfire.
To be sure, WCs don’t lead an easy life when in action – they do run the risk of becoming a statistic themselves, and there’s no guarantee that the bullet or shrapnel bearing their name would only come from the enemy. Ask the families of Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh – I am sure except for their parent organisation, none would even recall who they were or what happened to them.
But for those lucky enough to survive and live to tell the tale – literally so – they can strut about like a rooster with a plume. They may not do it deliberately – it just happens, probably due to the adulation of the viewers. Remember Peter Arnett, from the first Gulf War in 1991? The guy who stood doing his piece to camera even as the scuds and the patriot missiles rained around him. Arnett went on record claiming to have received letters from women professing not just undying love for him but also a desire to bear his children!! Well, it was Arnett’s claim and there’s no way of verifying if that was the truth of did he just get caught in his own hyperbole.
Not saying every WC is a Peter Arnett, but admit it, when you’ve been out there reporting from amidst falling debris, you do tend to get those admiring second, third and umpteen glances – and that’s the glamour I was referring to.
PJs run a close second while BJs, like yours truly, bring up the distant rear – come on, even the business pages of a general newspaper are buried at the end, somewhere between what’s happening in the world and what’s happening in the world of sports. That should tell us BJs just where we are in the pecking order!
So am I jealous? Probably too strong a word – envious, yes. Would I want to exchange places? Am suddenly not so sure. But then, I have surprised myself earlier at times.