Homework? What’s that?

May 19th, 2011

People, I think, are too busy these days to do their homework.

When we journalists often go for meetings, the gentlemen and ladies expect us to have done our homework well — know about their companies or institutes, understand their sectors well and sometimes, even have data at our fingertips.

We don’t mind that. Many of us, in fact, know much beyond the brief the interviewee wishes to give us. But if we don’t know, we just ask.

Recently, when I met the managing director of an institute, he constantly referred to Business Standard as a “magazine” and said how its one of his favourites!! He wanted to know all about the magazine’s readership and its ranking vis-a-vis its competitors in the industry.

When I corrected him saying it is a newspaper, he looked at his PR, surprised. His PR, steered the conversation to the attrition in media industry. Thanks!

In fact, some of my friends in the media too find it ‘boring’ to do their homework. This, when we have most of the information available at the click of a button.

So at press conferences, questions are asked for the sake of asking. A common question is — Where do you see the crude oil prices are headed? Don’t know if even Opec can predict that!

Then there are questions seeking various updates — sometimes issues that the companies have settled also crop up at press conferences.

Last year, a friend who works for an English daily, went to interview a celebrity fitness trainer. The trainer, who had been interviewed at least 10 times already, asked the reporter what he knew about her. The reporter did not know much the trainer. So, she declined the interview.

Then there are some PR professionals, who call up to find out who handles what beat in an organisation. They are alien to the concept of reading newspapers, I believe.

Another breed is scribes who prefer doing their homework on the go. So they will call you any time and ask you to give them some questions, immediately. My friends from Delhi often call me, when they board a train or an auto to a press conference or a meeting and ask me to help them with questions. Sometimes on sectors, like railways and telecom, which I do not even track that closely.

Even more interesting is when you are given a deadline to message the questions to them on their cellphones.

Last month, this friend, who is also a very senior journalist, on his way to meet the India head of a software company, called my colleague to ask her if she could help him with some quick intelligent questions! She obliged, of course.

And the list goes on…

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