Book Review: Between the Headlines

Between the headlines is everything the book blurb and the publisher claim to be – it is the journey of a TV reporter – her life and times. Unlike recent genre of books by Indian women – this is not a chick lit with juicy, eye-grabbing story about love life. Love figures, but it is not the focal point of the book. Focus always remains on the work life of a TV reporter.

Satyabhama Menon has just moved from Delhi to Bangalore as a TV reporter for new, upcoming N.E.W.S India channel. Like all journalism students, she has dreams to make a difference – and make it big while doing so. (I know because I was one myself longtime ago.) However, she realizes in a competitive business like TV journalism, talent is not the only factor that takes you places. There are small, asinine things as pesky bosses or input teams, office politics, jealous colleagues and of course TRPs that always govern the priorities. TV reporter, especially a budding one, remains a small cog in the network.

Saddled with mundane, mindless and menial (from a TV journalist’s POV) assignments such as vox populi (that too fake), small-time weather reports (involves a trip all the way to Coorg just to cover rains!), Satya struggles to carve her niche. It does not help Ram Kedhia, a high-ranking channel boss insists on sabotaging her career –keeps her on low-priority stories, or breaking news duty (which means though she is at work waiting for ‘breaking news’ she is not getting to work on stories) and worst while world is praising her story, he accuses her of inefficiency and unprofessionalism.

Yet Satya’s opportunities to shine come up from unexpected assignments. Even as a novice, she soon learns to use her resources well – gets her young cousin to find suitable college folks for vox pops, builds up rapport with her camera guys – who time and again will prove to be valuable allies. She finds herself increasingly disillusioned in the world of TV journalism – suddenly channel diktat arrive that since TRPs indicate crime beat is most popular and all useful stories from other genre are forgotten. Truth, even if an exclusive bite, is snipped and lies are both forgiven and forgotten without much ado by ‘honest’ idols.

The only question that remains is will Satya survive in world of TV journalism? Will she find the fulfillment and meaning she seeks from her work? That you must find in the book. I found the description of TV reporter’s life interesting and accurate and my heart went out for all the freshers who take up these courses. This was me, a decade ago. Only few make the cut, while keeping their soul intact. As Suhasini Haider says dear journalism students, I hope you get mean bosses and unwell colleagues…

I checked up author profile after completing the book. Publishers, Good Times Books, who had very professionally sent me author bio was a good beginning.  And I found, author’s career trajectory was very similar to Satya’s. And then I speculated – ‘Pranav’ was from Philippines. ;)

My only peeve with the book was its cover – as we have learnt hard way from book club meeting with Amish – the intriguing cover played a large part in people buying the book. I have myself bought few mediocre/bad books just because I was charmed by cover. I just wish it had a good cover – with those almost invisible, small, while OB vans on black background – the cover was as dull as you can get.

Book is written simply with rare honestly without any fake, steamy prose or corny humor. Also, I note with relief the book has no cheap gimmicks either, not even North vs South comparison even though there was opportunity as the protagonist moved from Delhi to Bangalore (again a transition I made myself not so long ago). Though it does hint at popular current affair events as visiting a dalit house and 2G scam, etc etc :), but that is to be expected.

I recommend that this book is worth a fast, intriguing read. It seems book is already out of stock and has gone off for its first reprint. Author Shweta Ganesh Kumar blogs here at Simply Speaking.

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4 Responses to “Book Review: Between the Headlines”


  1. 1 srinivas June 19, 2012 at 9:00 am

    nice review,
    i completely avoid reading new author’s books as both writing and story are mediocre in most books.

    but i am adding this book to ‘to-read’ list,

    at last, at least some Indian debut story tellers are getting good and unusual stories to tell.

  2. 2 Reema June 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    hey long time no see..how are you doing?

  3. 4 Arpit June 20, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Hi Poonam! How have you been? :)
    The novel seems interesting…………..will try reaching out for it next time I visit a bookstore….I too read a little similar novel …….”Hacks and Headlines” though the main crux of the novel revolved around caste killings. Also if you get a chance you can read ” A curfewed night” by Basharat Pir. Its a really moving novel on lfe in Kashmir……It was really touching.
    and it was certainly a good book review. :)


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