A book on aspects of journalism
MEDIA: "This book is compiled as a result of the inspiration
and encouragement I had from my friends and well wishers, and as a
result of my keen interest in journalism since I was fifteen, a school
boy. I devoted, if I remember correct, at least one and a half hours
reading all types of newspapers even while having my lunch and at all
odd times of the day.
Looking back, I don't regret for anything, as I have got sufficient
experience to write this book," says Divaina Editor Merril Perera in the
preface to his latest work on journalism titled Sebe Pattarakarayo,
which bears an English subtitle Real Scribes [Dayawansa Jayakody 2006].
The book has 29 chapters, with facts collected from various sources
inclusive of the internet, with the latest trends such as investigative
reporting, interviewing techniques, court reporting, feature writing,
human-interest stories, profiles of journalists, use of language, press
conferences, sports reporting, and professional codes of ethics, which
go to the making of a compendium of assorted information on the subject
of journalism, perhaps useful as a source book and handbook of facts
information and knowledge on the subject for an amateur journalist, who
so wishes to enter the field as a professional.
In order to fulfil the task of compiling the book, Merril Perera
makes use of some of the rare articles, which had appeared earlier in
other media of newspapers and periodicals.
This helps the reader search more for such source material from the
past. Apart from going down his own journalistic experiences, Merril
subsequently has the assistance of his learned and experienced
associates in the relevant fields to contribute to the present
This two-fold technique gives a feeling that the writer is humble
enough to know more from his own associates, rather than thrusting his
own experiences in the fields uncovered by himself.
The historical aspect as regards the origin of the newspaper in the
West is shown in Chapter One, where he traces the 1500-year-old past.
The birth of the newspaper is shown as a necessity and an information
source for the people.
Most of these source materials are shown as downloaded from the
Internet. The reference is made to the traditional structure of a
newspaper office, subdivided into categories, such as editorial staff,
features section, sports section, provincial news section, foreign news
section, and graphic design section inclusive of photographers and
cartoonists and/or illustrators.
I am not too sure whether this tradition is closely adhered to in
most of the present day newspaper offices. The computer and other forms
of communication technology had entered the scene, which is also a
section that is being discussed briefly in the book.
Perera makes an indefatigable attempt to introduce the aspects of
reporting, and shows the various ways and means of gathering news, and
writing news stories to suit the various occasions.
The space devoted to the techniques of interviewing, in my opinion,
is one of the most significant areas in all the fields of Mass
Communication. He refers to such concepts as 'preparation' and 'home
work' on the part of a communicator interviewer in his function as an
The most interesting reading materials found in the chapter is titled
'human-interest stories' [manava hitavadi jivana puvat], where he lays
down several features displaying the salient factors that go into the
making of such features. He classifies the human-interest stories as the
most readable material, and most wanted features all over the world.
Then Merril Perera shows the links between the general forms of
reporting, and the advent of investigative types of reporting by way of
new journalism, which he deems as the most painstaking task, and the
most risky area in the profession.
He says that the actual investigative forms of reporting never ends
in a day or two for it may commence from one point, and shift the focus
of attention to several more areas of interest, which may look more
significant than the starting point.
The writer, in order to illustrate the point, lays down several
investigative reporting topics culled from several newspapers in other
countries, with special mention of the death of the princess Diana, and
the aftermath of the effects it had on the public and the royal family.
He makes the reader feel that the questioning of things and events in
the more conventional form with Who, What, When, Where, and How, may not
sound so simple as one sees superficially, but takes the investigator to
the realms of hidden areas.
The investigative reporter's task is shown as a 'creative living
condition' on the part of his profession, with a dedication to the
function in the task of finding more or digging and hunting more and
more information on the subject.
Followed by these facts, he takes the reader to the areas of court
reporting, where he says that the emphasis is laid on knowing the legal
situations and the background of cases before the actual launching of
his responsible journey around courts.
These responsibilities, according to Merril Perera, are linked with a
code of ethics, a subject he takes seriously, and lays down the
regulatory guidelines, which I think, is one of the most important
contributions in this compilation.
The last three chapters, 28, 29 and 30, are entirely devoted to the
discussion of those topics. Here, the reader finds in the form of
itemised references to three main areas of press complaints, press
ethics, and press freedom, a subject widely discussed last week in the
World Press Freedom Day 2006 held at the BMICH.
All in all, I feel that this contribution, on the part of a senior
journalist, is a tribute to budding journalists of our country, who so
like to take up the profession seriously.