Friday, November 02, 2012

Day 1 Bombay Literary Festival

(From Left: Peter Griffin, Naresh Fernandes, Benjamin Law and Annie Zaidi)

Ah, well, we will use Bombay instead of Mumbai.After all, the Tata's (organiser's) headquarters is still Bombay House, isn't it?

Litlive 2012 has had a, sort of lukewarm reception so far. Most events are going to half empty seats. One hoped a better interest in the proceedings from Bombaywallas. Or, was it lack of advertising and promotion? One sees a measuredly cynical reation to the festival from  the crotchety old lady at Victoria Terminus. No coverage, no programs of the day, and no hype that only the wily old lady can generate. 

Ah, well, there we go again. 

We walk into "The Definite Article" where our friend Peter Griffin is moderating. Other friends in the panel include Annie Zaidi and Naresh Fernandes. (We get acquainted with Naresh only this day though we are in touch on Twitter.) The subject is Long Form journalism, though the discussion also veered into Twitter journalism.

Peter's taxi caught fire on the way to the festival. He came late, his usual air of calm unruffled, coiffure (he has waist-length hair) well maintained.

Annie started off by saying that these days a 750-word article is considered long form. A gasp went up from the audience. Anyway, the statement set the tone for the discussion. Annie mentioned Dilip D'Souza's blog and kind of journalism, which we also follow. Dilip does these longish articles on his blog and then wraps it up with a long-form article for the medium that has commissioned his work. His work is always very perspicacious and his research is exhaustive. So, Dilip has Annie's approval as the appropriate long-form journalist. She knows, she has done a good many long-form articles when she was with Frontline.

Has Twitter made us write less? This is what Peter has to say. No. With twitter people are writing and reading more, all the time. "I skim a lot, read a lot, may be, in small parcels." 

Benjamin Law is a writer from Australia and we have heard about his book Family Law, which people say is immensely funny. We haven't read him yet but mean to. He teaches long-form journalism and is of the view that the whole face of journalism is changing. Newspapers in Australia are downsizing and he says by the end of this year many newspapers would be cutting on staff and expenses preferring to go dital, as Newsweek has done recently. He says people will depend more on digital news and existing newspapers may be converted into  weekend newspapers carrying views and analyses. (Oh, that would mean an end to an hour of bliss on the terrace with the morning cuppa for us.) People will look for news from the digital media: Twitter feeds, news aggregators, social media, online newspapers, etc. 

So what does all this portend? Is long-form journalism dead? No. It's still alive in the online form as here it is not constrained for space. An online journalist can write as much as he/she likes, besides he/she can also blog about it. Naresh is strictly against blogging. He is of the view that one should write only when one gets paid for it. Also, as Annie pointed out, there are magazines like Caravan in India which are oriented towards long-form journalism.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

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