Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hello Mr PM? What did you have for dinner last night?

Of all the things I hate about my job (and there are several: they pay me peanuts, they pay me peanuts, they pay me peanuts) there is one I absolutely abhor. And that’s having to call up random celebrities and asking them embarrassingly personal questions such as what they like to do on their weekends, what’s their favourite cuisine /drink/vacation/brand of shoes, hair gel, shampoo… what kind of music they like listening to while negotiating killing traffic on the road and what’s their partner’s favourite sexual position. Ok, not the last one, but I’m sure we’ll get there some day.

I don’t understand why lifestyle journalists are made to make such fools of themselves. You are expected to just call somebody you don’t know from adam, simper a bit, repeat the name of your newspaper thrice (unless you work for the TOI or for my paper in Calcutta), be told rudely that the person you are calling is busy shooting/partying/attending another fashion show or whatever, asked to call up later – which, in the terrible unfairness of things, you just have to do unless you want to join the unemployed millions. There is nothing in the world as humiliating, ignominious, demeaning and frustrating as having to do this week after fucking week. How I cringe and blush and swear – but I just have to make that call and sound sweet and charming and interested.

Looking at it from the celebrities’ point of view, what must it feel like to be called up in the middle of the afternoon and asked about the ‘turning points’ in their life? (Yes I just did that to another hapless Bollywood type actually Arshad Warsi I quite like the guy think he’s very cool and he was very sweet on the phone but that doesn’t make it any less embarrassing the guy was in Goa for heaven’s sake!) Do they get a kick out of it? Do they have a chart for every day of the week, keeping count of how many journalists called to ask inane questions? Do they make fun of us after they’ve been thoroughly sweet and understanding on the phone – turn to their friends and say ‘what suckers’? I suspect they do. I would.

Now I know this has a larger purpose and is not merely a tactic devised by editors to divest young, idealistic, swollen-headed journalists of their egos. Not only do celebrity quotes act as great space fillers and breakers on the pages, you also get to decorate the said pages with pictures of pretty people. And I admit, when I’m reading other magazines and newspapers, my eyes automatically wander to the bit where we have John Abraham expounding on the merits of his latest brand of shoe polish or whatever. I just resent the fact that I should have to do this – that too in the middle of working on a tough story on Bangalore’s retail history and suchlike. I mean, surely I’m above this? But no, even my colleague who’s spent 10 years in the company and gets all these difficult stories no one’s even dreamt of has to stoop to this.

I know these reader fellows might like this stuff (though you won’t get a single soul to admit this, but believe me, they’re lying) but must the deciders of newspaper content submit some of their best talent (ahem) to this kind of ignominy and discomfiture? And whose life would be enriched by knowing that Rina Dhaka likes wearing white cigarette pants embellished with crystals? Why don’t these reader types also get a grip on their lives and stop being so celebrity crazy and take out dharnas and all to make newspapers (at least mine) stop publishing such tripe, especially when most of them keep cribbing all the time about how frivolous the content has become and all that?

P.S. Was just told they don’t have a picture of Arshad Warsi so I’ll have to get someone else. Tell me why I should go on living.

18 Comments:

At July 06, 2005 6:00 PM, Blogger Dream Debutante said...

Ha ha, what is it about peanuts and monkeys.... I know there is a connection between the two dammit!

I should be working working working but my head is hurting hurting hurting (very Wordsworth, innit?) I wish I was the heroine of a Victorian novel who could have just "retired gracefully to her boudoir and awaited the arrival of the ill-mannered lord of the manor to come home and rip her bodeeece. And then they fall in love but realise they are already married so they don't have to go through all of that again..."

 
At July 06, 2005 6:16 PM, Blogger samit said...

heh, lovely post.
incidentally, in a week i will have spent a year out of office.

 
At July 06, 2005 9:14 PM, Blogger Tridib said...

My heartfelt condolences. And one thought only PR-types have to haul all that shit!

 
At July 07, 2005 1:38 PM, Blogger The Wall Flower said...

Sweetie that is just life after all. And believe me life never changes whether you are done 10 years, 12 years or damn 20 years. And life never changes no matter which 'sunday mag' you work for either. The torture has begun yet again, and from this week on it will be twice over coz the great Bombay launch is happening!!! Arshad Warsis of the world zindabad

 
At July 07, 2005 1:38 PM, Blogger The Wall Flower said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At July 07, 2005 2:31 PM, Anonymous AB said...

Ha ha you have hit the nail on the head:)

 
At July 07, 2005 5:17 PM, Blogger human bondage said...

dude, u wanna loose ur job ? what will thou do if ppl stopped reading graffiti ( now dont attack the spelling ... ) anyways, atleast i'm dying for one of those forcasts that rohit bal makes once in a while ... the in-colour this fall (do we hav a fall season in india ?? )...

 
At July 08, 2005 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can I PLEASE have your job????
This is not a joke on you, 'lifestyle reporter'...but on me, the 'galli galli' reporter. My bureaucratic sources would be happy too. They would rather have me ask what they had for dinner rather than what they did with all the tax payers' money. (Frankly, I am too bored to even ask them about the latter...but they seem to live in perpetual fear that I might just get interested....and so they would rather have me on the other side of the door.)
The point is, PR chu chu comes attached with journalism, whether it is for features or city reporting. I guess we just have to learn to live with it. Smile please.

 
At July 08, 2005 12:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... getting the hang of things in blogworld...that anonymous was ME, Shubha....if you hadn't guessed it already!

 
At July 08, 2005 3:46 PM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

Shubha: That 'PR chu chu' totally gave the game away, I'm afraid.

 
At July 08, 2005 11:12 PM, Blogger Jabberwock said...

The Bagchi has 10 comments! The Bagchi is a star! The Bagchi will have to be very careful what she says from now on! We become celebrities and we sell our souls.

 
At July 25, 2005 4:33 PM, Blogger kaushik said...

This is interesting. I spent a few minutes with the Bagchi maruading her about the content of "her newspaper". And I was surprised to find her defending the same. And now I see this post.

I bet many are not interested to read about Rina Dhaka's pants but many would certainly like to read about a particular gentlemen who at one point of time in his life had to drink the spit of his uncle and finally managed to land up in London 20 years later to make a name in his chosen field.

How about it Ms. Bagchi....

 
At August 24, 2005 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes, we actually don't have pictures and hope desperately that you will manage to get hold of one!!

 
At August 17, 2006 10:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

they pay me peanuts

Nonetheless, it's better than doing "honest work" -- Journalism is considered a high-status occupation, and so many people want jobs in it, which depresses wages. Low-status occupations must pay better (relative to the difficulty of finding people who can do the job).

Do they make fun of us after they’ve been thoroughly sweet and understanding on the phone – turn to their friends and say ‘what suckers’?

No, because the incessant exposure of themselves in the popular press increases their fame as stars and the sales of their movies, etc. In the US, stars hire PR agents to find journalists who will publish this sort of story about them.

I know these reader fellows might like this stuff (though you won’t get a single soul to admit this, but believe me, they’re lying) but must the deciders of newspaper content submit some of their best talent (ahem) to this kind of ignominy and discomfiture?

Newspaper editors need to create newspapers that readers will buy. As one newspaper editor remarked during the "Monica Lewinsky" scandal in the US, "People keep saying to us that we should publish less about Monica Lewinsky. But we have the web sites. We know which pages people click on."

 
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