Monday, November 26, 2007

My new employer?

Much chuckling and bwahahaha-ing was induced by the designation given on this press invite that came in today:

I suppose it was inevitable. I often meet people at book events/conferences who think of me primarily as “that blogger” and sympathetically ask questions like, “So, are you still only writing for your website or do you work elsewhere too?” Of course, some of these people are non-bloggers who use restricting terms like “blogging community”, possibly think of bloggers as an exotic sub-species that dropped out of the sky a few years ago, and still find it hard to process the idea that journalists can also be dedicated bloggers on the side: hence questions like "How did you get this publication to print your article?" Or there’s the acquaintance, unaware that I was a journo for years before I started blogging, who will come up and excitedly say, “You’ve broken into the mainstream, huh? I just saw your byline in such-and-such magazine.” It’s a bit annoying at times, but mostly fun.

It’s easy to understand too. Before Jabberwock started, things were very low-profile. The dubious highlight of my early career came at Living Media’s daily tabloid, where my main job was to put together the World page, fill it with offbeat stories and sexy photos and give cheesy captions: at one of the weekly meetings, I received an informal citation for my “achievement” in selecting a picture of a model in a tiny black teddy and captioning it “Wah wah black slip”. (That this is arguably still the highlight of my journalistic career is another matter, of course, and one I prefer not to discuss.) I was very bored in those days: once, when I was working the graveyard shift for the group’s 24-hour website, updates from the 2001 Bonn conference – which I wasn't all that interested in – were hogging the front page. At one point, four of the six news items on the homepage were Bonn-related, so I amused myself by giving them straps like “Bonn again” and “Still Bonn”, which didn’t go down well with some of the editors. (Because it was a serious current-affairs topic, apparently.) And then there's the incident of the dummy headline "Please Give Head", which is too painful to recall here.

Anyway, long diversion there. The point is, as a journo I was mostly doing very workmanlike things, stuff I wasn’t inherently interested in, and this coupled with my natural lack of ambition meant that things simply chugged along for a long time. It was only after I started blogging (and simultaneously working on the literary beat more purposefully than before) that people in other publications noticed my work and I got a few attractive job offers and feelers for individual assignments – all of which eventually allowed me to trade in the ball-and-chain routine at Business Standard for a retainership deal that would allow me to write for others and work out of home. Essentially, whatever standing I have as a feature writer/reviewer is more closely
tied to the blogging than to the journalistic work that preceded it. And I continue to put up more extensive versions of my journalistic pieces on this site. So it isn’t surprising that many people who have come to know me only in the past 2-3 years persist in the “what do you do besides blogging?” line of questioning.

But this press invite I wasn’t expecting (especially since it involves an art exhibition - something I've never covered on the blog or elsewhere). I wonder if I should ask Blogspot for a contract now.

[A related post: Jabberwock turns One]


  1. ok, the think i'm dying to know is, what did you keep the invitation on to photograph it?

  2. Hehe, I say you must! :)

    As long as you are behind the scenes nobody notices even if you do a good job....strange are the ways of the world.

  3. I loved the "Ball and chain" routine of BS- reminded me of the good ol' days

  4. Space Bar: that's part of the invitation! You thought I had a table-cloth or something that looked like that? (Actually, let's not get into those questions...)

  5. ah, ok! for a moment there, i was a bit worried. but tell, tell!

  6. can we get a link to the "wah wah black slip" picture too?

  7. What is this Jai? Why are you spilling the secrets of the origin of the blogging community to infidels who merely read blogs?

  8. I doubt if that while penning your article these were your intentions, but you give me hope.

    I am going thru my very own
    "mostly doing very workmanlike things, stuff I wasn’t inherently interested in, and this coupled with my natural lack of ambition meant that things simply chugged along for a long time." and despair!

    I am not a journo, but maybe blogging is the way to go... If you can find motivation to write regularly about something; in your own words for over a period of time. You're bound to be good at it, and finally recognise it.


  9. LOL! One thing I have noticed is that a significant part of Indian blogger community (not including desis in other countries) seem to be journalists or in media-related jobs.

  10. Neha: I don't mean to sound discouraging, but luck plays a big role in these things. I was fortunate enough to start blogging (and get noticed) at a time when blogging was just starting to take off in India, and when the clutter was much less than it is today. With the huge number of blogs there are now, even very high-quality writers will have trouble getting noticed.

    That said, if you're passionate enough about writing, you should do it anyway. (I used to scribble notes about books and films in a private pad, years before I became a journo - there was no question of a readership back then.) At the very least, it will help you keep up the practice and develop your skills over time.

  11. Curious minds want to know: did you accept the invitation?

  12. Tennis hacker: The invitation was for one of dozens of cultural events that takes place every day (in this case, the inauguration of an art show) - it isn't a special privilege that has to be "accepted". No, couldn't go - didn't have the time.

  13. reminds me of the time when a Media school in Pune asked me to come down for a seminar and put my name along with my "designation" as "Blogger, Google"

    I wish! Told this to the Google India HR head later and demanded my payslip ;-)

  14. Your post brought back fond memories of those days Mr Jabberwock. But you are being modest in not mentioning that you wrote editorials for the afore-mentioned tabloid. And also had the onerous task of making the World Page look sexy while adhering to the "one n!@&*e a day" rule. You have come a long way, brother!

  15. ho ho ho
    So how do you handle the congratulations Jai on "breaking into the mainstream media"?
    And Tridibda, can u be a bit more regular