Here is a list of useful books and websites. I'll keep adding to this list as we go along and you get back to me.
Firstly: Basic Journalism by Rangaswami Parthasarathy ("RP").
This is the first book I recommend to all my students of print journalism as a "MUST BUY", since I started teaching at the Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Pune, opposite Roopali, in 1987 at the nudging of my senior colleague Kiran Thakur, who was then bureau chief at UNI, Pune, and now retired as Head of the same department.
As a colleague, Prasannakumar Aklujkar, keeps reminding me, even though the technology of writing and editing keeps changing rapidly and we get newer and sharper software packages by the day, the skills and techniques of editing of a sub-editor remain more or less the same since the days when scribes put pencil to paper.
For example, thinking-rethinking; grasping and understanding; writing-rewriting; correct spelling and punctuation; the inverted pyramid; sequencing; writing precise and simple leads or intros; an eye-grabbing headline; crisp and concise description; and above all, clear thinking that leads to clear writing (George Orwell). So, it's RP for you.
Another book that I picked out for you, my dear students and friends, from my personal collection is The Economist Style Guide.
While I disagree with most of the free-marketeering contents and right-wing opinions of this newspaper (not magazine), I recommend this lucidly readable weekly without reservation ONLY for its prose style - a mastery of clear and precise description. (Another colleague, Ashok Gopal, would recommend it for its science and technology pieces.)
Viva Books has brought out an Indian edition, so buy a copy. This style guide is also accessible on the Internet, if you register with The Economist. You ought to practise the advice given in the Introduction, if you aspire to rise above the hacks. And the warning by John Grimond in "A Note on Editing" about "de-sophistication" is worth every word.
Keep a look-out for style guides of various newspapers. Go to amazon.com and you'll find cheap used copies of great style guides from the Associated Press (AP), Reuters, UPI, The Times of London, etc. The Statesman of Kolkata also has a superb style guide. Tell your favourite "small is beautiful" bookshop (not "big is ugly" chain-store) to keep an eye for and get second-hand copies of these style guides for your shelf.
The first website I direct you to is: http://www.journalism.org/.
This is the website of the "Project for Excellence in Journalism" set up by the Pew Research Center, USA. Navigate around it like some ancient explorer and you'll discover gems to last your lifetime. A stunner is the "Advice to Students", which I have copied out for you below:
Bill Kovach, Senior Counselor of the Project for Excellence in Journalism
"A curious mind and a broad liberal arts education are by far the best qualifications for a career in journalism.
The best foundation begins with an undergraduate liberal arts education that exposes you to a wide range of disciplines of study and helps you supplement your native curiosity with a habit of critical thinking. Whatever course of study you follow, be sure to include a strong foundation in ethics. Then consider study at a university that offers a graduate degree in journalism.
You can begin to develop your skill in the "craft" of journalism by working on a college newspaper or radio station; a television station that features a college report; or working as a college correspondent for a local, regional or national news organization. As for experience while still in school and immediately after graduation, think about immersing yourself in a local experience. Working in a community in which you must look the people in the eye about whom you report before and AFTER you have reported on them can provide very important lessons.
And, throughout all this, read. Read everything you can, including classics in fiction that can help you begin to understand human nature and the human condition. Develop a habit of critically following the work of other journalists and find models for your own work.
- Joe Pinto.
Sunday, 10 October 2008, Pune.