Friday, May 12, 2006

Promotion Season / Blogging

Normal programming resumed sooner than I thought.
Life has become 'Special' for me as some of you speculated. Bossman was in Bombay last evening and I got a chance to thank him. I got this nice feeling when I 'updated' my signature in Microsoft Outlook today morning. For kicks I also changed my gmail signature to something stupid. Anyway, but after promotion season is over I also look around to see who else has been bumped up and who are the people who've been left behind. It always makes for interesting viewing - even though some might argue that it is needlessly competitive.
However, it wasn't a comparison of ones peers that caught my eye. I was seeing the tombstone of a major national publication based primarily out of Delhi - well make that almost exclusively out of Delhi which has the following rather unique editorial staff. They have one Editor, obviously. But they also have :-
3 Managing Editors
4 Executive Editors
4 Deputy Editors
3 Senior Editors
That means they have 15 very senior Editors on board. Just for comparison, their main competition has a far more streamlined organisational structure. Not for a minute am I implying that any of these 15 are not worth their designations - even though I know of people who would want me to say that. But someone please explain to me what the f*** are three Managing Editors and four Executive Editors going to do when you essentially bring out ONE edition. No wait, wanking is an option - because most of the time the stuff this organisation comes out with is so godawful is scares me and that despite 15 such gifted people. Say what I might about ToI or EchTee, their organisational structures are far superior. Even though I heard that one Executive Editor was bumped up leaving the other Executive Editors very upset - they were so ready to get new visiting cards. And therein lies the rub, so many senior people leads to guaranteed political machinations (this organisation has been described by former senior editorial employees with whom I've interacted by the terms 'snakepit', 'minefield' and 'catfight heaven'), particularly given that the 'Editor' of this place is in a particularly troubled spot right now.
Now, if you thought this was classic, lets look at the number of other people this organsation has - seven Associate and Assistant Editors (ranks that Newspapers usually use to fluff - but here you get to put 'Managing' or 'Executive' on your card) and 17 Correspondents (across all levels). Wait a second, 15 Senior bosses and 17 underlings. Wow, thats almost a one-to-one ratio.
Now, I would call this organisation 'Clueless' (not just about structures but also news, but the latter is a different story which I have written about before - hint, hint), but you can guess the name of this wonderful place in the comments.
And if they come to hire you, don't agree unless they make you a 'Senior Editor' at least, Try for 'Managing Editor' you might just get it as well.
I'm not making another post today, so I'll add material to this one.
It seems one large media house has issued an email to its Editorial staff 'advising' them on blogging. In no uncertain terms employees are advised to keep things 'personal'. It is not my media house, and to be really fair to my Bosses, they have allowed me to continue writing on this blog with only the occasional aside to 'control' content - which in a way is fair. Other than a few times when I'm a bitchy mood, this is what you would describe as a 'vegetarian' blog - a bit spicy, but vegetarian nonetheless.
Now, even though this issue has evoked consternation here and there and certain media houses have barred the URL, my take is a bit weird. Firstly, one of the reasons I blog is that I get to write and I've always felt the only way you can improve your writing skills is by writing. A lot. However, there does need to be a level of moderation from within.
You often know certain things about your own organisation which is comepetitive information - now say for example you are writing the flyer for XXX daily. This is your first ever flyer and you go and blog about it before your edition is out - don't think others from rival media houses don't read your blog. I know people from across the media spectrum read mine. So, if I were to give competitive information out - I am compromising my organisation. I know that we are all mercenaries - but if I'm a mercenary, I want to be a bloody good and loyal one as long as I get the moolah. Across blogs run by some people in the media fraternity, a lot of stuff is needlessly given out - fair enough, marketing and adsales people tend to blurt out more - so imagine what would happen if they start blogging (Scary!!!!) - but a small bit of advice to some media bloggers - until and unless your organisation has embraced blogging as a new modicum to transmit information (yeah, right!) don't blog about work directly. Yeah, sure I bitch out pressers and all that - but if I'm doing a story on something I don't tell half the world and their uncle by posting info requests/updates on blogs or other online media. Don't think that you're the only tech-savvy S.O.B on the planet.
Plus, can a 'blog' be truly 'personal'? Touchwood, I've had a very good equation with my bosses and most of my colleagues past and present. But, in case I didn't and I didn't run a 'anonymous' blog and I then proceeded to bitch my bosses/colleagues out - that to me crosses that very thin personal/professional boundry. Though, that said, I do like WFN and its bitchy nature I'm not so sure that their 'Name and Shame' policy is the smartest thing to do. Because at the end of the day, this is one heck of an incestuous profession, and news always spread (in the older days EchTee's newslist found its way to BSZ Marg and sometimes the other way round - I hear Archana and Noida also have a leaky phone line connecting them) but the naming people to the whole wide world - and with the WWW - the whole wide world is rather literal. Visitor stats can make for some very interesting reading on where and why people come to blogs.
OK, so I'm exactly not this example of ethicality and I am not claiming the moral high gound. However, media bloggers should be careful, no-one has lost their jobs as yet, but I have a very funny feeling someone who is a media 'insider' who blogs will lose a job for blogging about something they should not - not the ridiculous organisational structure like I have blogged about above - because that is really both depressing and funny at the same time (and because of the 'tombstone' is public knowledge, I am not disclosing family secrets here). And use a level of your own judgement when blogging - I've made mistakes and blogged about things I should not, but I have become more circumspect of late and will have to stay that way. Its a dangerous world out there.
That said, blocking the URL is censorship and reflects poorly on the senior editors and management of the news organisations that do this. Honestly, RajdeepTV (even though I do suspect that Rajdeep knows who the WFN bloggers are and he himself uses the blog as a useful tool to get the message across - banning it in office means people won't waste time writing comments there all day but they surf it from home in their own time - call me cynical/stupid but this is a gut feeling) and Jain&Jain NOW (Bennett and her sister organisations need to reevaluate the way they look at blogs - which is quite strange because Bennett counts as both the most progressive and the most regressive organisation when it comes to blogs) should not do the Ostritch in the sand thing. Blogs are here to stay and you really can't take on Google either by telling them to ban XYZ blog. The best of dealing with blogs is not blocking them and hoping no-one reads them, but understanding the format.
Yada, yada, yada, its a Friday night and I have a life, so til' tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

My guess is Bharat Aaj :)

n said...

Like the sexual harassment issue, this one too is double-edged. Censorship anywhere is bad and within a media organisation, its rather ironical.
Am sure top bosses everywhere know blocking urls won't stop nebody, then y? We'll be stuck where we are unless someone is willing to stick their neck out and wait for self-censorship to finally kick into our society.
But let us be optimistic.
On a personal note. Visitors on my blog r so unexpected that i didn;t notice ur comments till belatedly. They have been published now, so do visit again.

shyam said...

Corporate blogging is a totally different animal from personal blogging. I am not surprised that the media house told its chaps to keep things personal, I'd drawn up the blogging guidlines for our jig (which nobody bothers to read by the way ;-)), but it is more or less of an insurance policy, other than the standard disclaimers that go along with it, just in case someday someone should go let out information that is really confidential. But many software companies abroad, who have a lot to lose in terms of the numerous NDAs they have to sign, have managed it more or less without many problems. The thing is that we are still a bit behind the curve here, but we'll learn and catch up too. That said, it has been a prettty nice experience doing the blogs here, it has more or less done well by itself without too much intervention from us.

WFN, well, where do I start? When they started off, I was quite excited about it. Our team constantly checks the blogs to see what people are saying about us and we do often make changes and write back (I've written to at least three of them who'd blogged about something they did not like) to see what could be done. But there is just more spite and general nastiness these days on WFN. It is not like I agree with everything that the channel says or what they do, but somehow I don't agree with the nasty habit of saying nothing in public and leaking out privileged information (no matter how frivolous it is) just because they don't have the balls to put their names to it or raise it in the open. And the whistleblower/investigative journo/mediaah comparisions just don't make the cut. There is no whistle to blow about organisational problems, every company has them. Investigative journos put their names to the stuff they publish and often they risk a lot in doing that, even when, by the legal definition what they are doing in illegal one way or the other. And WFN is no mediaah, I was not quite completely in agreement wth PM, but he had the balls to stand by what he wrote.

But they really pissed me off a couple of days ago with the sexual harassment post. The topic was a highly sensitive one and involved at least one girl's life. They'd left enough clues on the blog to figure out who it was being talked about and some jerk named her too in the comments, while all they knew was from hearsay and posted it just to show off that they are in the know. Fine enough. But in the evening I get an SMS from a friend Bombay asking if there were rapists in our office and the sad thing is for all the ethics they spew and write about all WFN contributed was to turn the story into a rape. WFN is more like the online press club loo for gen x media pros, everyone sprays all over the white bits. It is all good fun, maybe. But it is certainly not constructive, nor does it change anything or help the few of us who are trying to get blogging more mainstream or acceptable.

URL blocking is kind of stupid and almost everyone's worked their way around it now. The funny thing is that after the block came into place WFN's pageviews have dropped drastically from the heights they were riding earlier and part of the reason why all subdomains are blocked is technical, unintended consequences from a numbskulled firewall appliance. But net access from offices is always a privilege, you can't really scream "undemocratic" because organisations are not democracies, regarldess of whether you report on democracies or not. Though I am still not sure if someone asked to ban WFN, because there is no or Pyra Inc anymore. It is all Google.

Bonatellis said...

codey: since u refer to corporate blogging, etc, let me tell u how paranoid some orgs can get ..

for eg, in my current org, u cannot have internet access in office till u establish a case for it, and is approved by the function head ... now, even if u have the connection, there's a firwall on blog sites and any mail service - hotmail, yahoo, gmail, etc ...
now that's taking data security to the limit ...
on second thoughts, it's actually understandable ...

shyam said...

bona, that sounds a lot like what the ABP does in the cal office. I think blocks in media offices cause more harm than the amount of good it does. But, like I said before, it is their prerogative.

Grazer said...

It is news you are back. And you have re-discovered a lot.

I've made mistakes and blogged about things I should not, but I have become more circumspect of late and will have to stay that way. It's a dangerous world out there.(Great)