If I had a penny for every time someone asked me to go back to journalism, I would be fairly well off if not down right rich. Someone I value very highly recently asked me if I ever planned to go back to earn my living through the written word. Honestly, I don’t mind going back to journalism but the problem is that my skills are not valued much by the decision makers in the print world. A couple of months back, someone I know who works for a media organization mentioned my work to her employer who called me in for a chit chat (as he labeled it). I went in, had a “chit chat” with him and it was very nice and cordial. He asked me what position I am aiming for. Ideally I would want to work as a staff writer who would just write, but as most Pakistani papers do not hire writers, I said that I would like to work as an Assistant Editor. To which he said that he does not know if his newspaper would have that particular post and he does not know how a newspaper works so I will have to come back and speak with his editor. A couple of days later, I got called and went to meet the executive editor. I was called for an 11.30 appointment and being a stickler for punctuality, I reported at 11.27am.
I was made to wait for one hour and 15 minutes. After waiting that long, some guy came out and called another girl in who entered just five minutes earlier. When I said that I should be called in first because my appointment was for 11.30, he blinked his eyes at me for a full thirty seconds and then asked my name and vanished. The same fellow came back after five minutes and profusely apologized to the other girl (who was a hot babe by the way) that she will have to wait. I looked at him incredulously; he made me wait for 75 minutes, he was rude to me and he is apologizing to the other girl! I made a mental note to tell the editor about the incompetent HR staff. I was in for the shock of my life when I was introduced to him and found out that he is the EDITOR.
As if this was not enough, the interview was a bigger ordeal. The editor and the executive editor did not have my CV and were not familiar with my work so they asked me what have I done with my life. It was like a contest; market yourself best in 3 minutes, your time starts now. I started telling them about myself (or what I could have remembered because I managed to pack in a lot of useless shit in my life) but was getting distracted because the editor was writing everything down in a notebook with a bloody PENCIL which was making a scratching sound. They called me twice, they made me wait for eons, the least they could have done was to print out my fucking cv.
Kher, among other things, I told them that I have monitored general parliamentary elections in a couple of countries as an international observer. In response, the editor asked why did I leave that job. I wanted to scream; “Hello! Election monitoring is NOT a job,” but I smiled and very patiently explained to him like you explain to a fairly dull five year old that its a gig that you get when you are extremely lucky and it is done voluntarily, no one makes any money out of it and while its all glorious and noble, you need to make money in order to live a decent life.
In addition, I mentioned all my writing experience and all my international publications and the editor goes, “But what about subbing. Have you ever done subbing?” For the uninitiated, sub editing in newspaper lingo is generally referred to as subbing. It is the most thankless and tedious job in the world and I have done it for quite some time and would not like to go back to it.
I told him that I have done it in the past. He then wanted to know what kind of subbing I have done so I told him about it all; I have done hard news, reports, features everything. He then wanted to know who did I report to in the newsroom, and when he failed to recall my old boss, he looked at me as if I was lying. Mercifully, the executive editor knew my former boss and intervened.
By that time, I gathered that the interview was not going anywhere so I mentioned that I also write a blog which does get some hits (a big thank you to all my readers). I told them that my work has repeatedly been reviewed by Press Trust of India and is published in numerous Indian newspapers and websites which I might add does not happen with a lot of writers of either new media or mainstream media, so if I join their newspaper, I will be bringing in my own readers from across the border and USA … and that’s where the internet based ads money is. I also told him to ask dawn.com’s editor about the number of hits my work has generated, how much it was linked and what is my google search value.
In response to my tirade – for someone who sucks at self promotion, my performance was Oscar worthy – he gave me a blank look and said, “But working in a newspaper and writing a blog are not the same.” I honestly did not know what to say to that and then he went on and on about my lack of subbing experience. As I was at the end of my tether, I said, “I don’t know how old do you think I am, but I am fairly experienced and I am NOT really looking for an entry level subbing position.” I was politely told that the interview was over and I will be notified soon. Six weeks later, I was sent an email which told me that I could not compete with other ‘more competent’ applicants.
For starters, I never applied for any job in their organization. They are the ones who called me so I was not competing for anything with anyone. As far as the level of competence is concerned, it was rich coming from a guy who is not even conversant with some of the people in politics and have made some serious mistakes in the past. If I recall correctly, he mixed up Mahmud Ali Durrani (former National Security Advisor) with Mohammed Ali Durrani
(PML – Q Senator and former minister) when he wrote a piece for Hindustan Times, a faux pas par excellence.
I guess I am fairly lucky that I was not competent enough to actually get that job, imagine what it would have done for my sanity.
(I know, it’s a fairly long personal rant).
Something pleasantly surprising just happened. The publisher of the aforementioned media house just called me to express deep regret for the way I was treated. To say that I was shocked would be putting it mildly. It was not only unexpected but also unprecedented. He said that he will ensure that incidents like this would not happen in future.
I thought if I can share my grief with everyone here, I should be decent enough to let people know that may be things are not that bad and some kind of professionalism is creeping in our beloved industry.
Thanks a lot Mr. Publisher; it was really nice of you.