The challenge in writing about people, especially about someone famous, is that it can become sometimes the legend becomes bigger than the person. The challenge about writing people you are known to is the possibilities of ruinous consequences as it is hard not to tell all the facts, good and bad, while at the same time you don’t want to put your relation at stake. It is an honourable thing to do if you avoid writing about people you know and you are naturally biased to.
Choosing the angle: The choice of which aspects of a person’s life to focus on and hone your efforts on. It is a challenge to gather the comprehensive information and then to filter them and portray the most accurate profile while at the same time, not hurting the people’s sentiments and not sidestepping ethical research. The art of interviewing is to convince the people take you are going to take good care of the information they provide and take them into confidence and afterwards, remain true to your words. In other words, you declare yourself completely and truly so that the interviewee know what you are up to.
Sure ways to get the most out of an interviewee
- Always interview people in their natural setting; ie to say that a teacher should be interviewed in the school, and most ideally in the classroom he teaches in.
- Ask the person to tell more about the story behind something which you perceive as an important lead.
- Ask about people he is aware of who can tell more about him.
- Learn to read between lines and learn where there are no lines.
Writing Commentary and News Report (An altogether different workshop for journalists*)
Gathering the facts and putting them together
Getting writers engaged with different angles.
Analysis and conclusion: It is better to keep your analysis and opinion at the end than otherwise. *Amazing that of all the journalists that are there, only two turned up for the creative non-fiction session.
Ridicule is not a skill way of persuasion.
Blogging is personalized journalism and it can be done well while some are just personal regurgitation. It is democratization of media.
To keep the readers guessing, variety is an art of efficacy. One has to pick his spot and know when to shout and when to praise to be credible to the readers.
July 22, 2011 (Day 5)
Reading and discussions the 2nd write-up
Dasho Kinley Dorji (Off the cuff), Bhutan’s first trained journalist: One cannot overemphasize the importance of writing in Bhutan. When he was in Kuensel, he believed and said that the bigger competitor with Kuensel is gossips (oral tradition). His take on the online discussion forum: The only counteraction against it is education and more open discussion that carry facts and not let the gossipmongers do the dictating. He got a journalism scholarship and thanks good writing instructors in Australia. The curse of big (bombastic) words and writing stories around them. Writing to impress and not to inform and communicate. Editors proudly claimed that only a couple of people understand what they wrote and that was a boast of their prowess. It is claimed that maybe it is the influence of our traditional scholarship that is based on flowing languages. Writing makes you think deeper because when you write, you do research. People who write are mostly government officers and they were mostly taken off from British tradition of niceties and not really substances. So, every government speech looks similar. Keeping writing simple. You don’t have to write big books to be writer, and not certainly writing them in big words. Plagiarism, even when unintended (because people don’t know how to cite and some simply internalize them) is a big problem. The Kuensel literary editor sometimes gets his own story sent in as contributions. Hearing good storytellers improves your own storytelling techniques. The Meme Heyley story has suddenly became a story of GDP for GNH from a story about an idiot. A big mistake is when you lose substance for style.
As a Communication Secretary
1.Education: Being media (including social networking) literate
- Regulation: Regulating undesirable elements.
The common mistake: Bhutan, as many things, borrowed journalistic taste and language of the Indians, which is to shake up a large, cumbersome people and its government, which is secure in its corruption. When that concept and style is applied here, in a relatively milder place, certainly a smaller society, it evokes more passion than needed and it usually backfires.
How workplace has changed
Now work means creativity and this generation of people have the chance to imbibe creativity in everything they do and not take work mainly as a duty. ICT is the way we do things, and e-governance is changing the way we do things.
When you think you are finished…
Read through the story three times, each time with a different purpose.
1. Story structure
- Is the point of the story clear?
- Do the opening, body and the end of the story flow logically?
- Does every word, sentence, paragraph and anecdote advance the story?
2. Sentence Structure
- Have I written simple, declarative sentences wherever possible?
- Are verbs close to subjects?
- Have I written in the active voice rather than the passive voice?
- Have I favoured direct phrasing over indirect phrasing?
- Have I varied my sentence structure?
- Have I kept every paragraph to its proper limit, which is short?
3. Language and word selection
- Is every word precise and accurate?
- Have I chosen Anglo-Saxon words over Latinate words?
- Have I eliminated clichés and jargon?
- Have I eliminated every unnecessary word?
- Have I eliminated every unnecessary number?
- Is every detail correct?
- One has to look for inspiration and force inspiration to come to write. You cannot always rely on some vision or mood to strike. So, the trick is to keep writing and setting datelines that you adhere to.
*A good writer’s job is to make the reader want to read till the end. Every technique that helps in this journey is important.
A compilation of articles in a book format with an introduction by Jim Bettinger to be published on the Workshop theme, ‘Change and Modernity.’
Facebook Page with participants from all the three workshops and any other individual or group who may be interested.