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10 lessons on #journalism from Twitter

Peter Griffin
Published: 04, Jul 2012

I handle the 'Life' section of Forbes India. In previous lives, I was an advertising creative director, voice-over artist, RJ, TV host, web producer and content architect, freelance travel writer, columnist, and consultant to NGOs. I've been blogging since 2003, and co-founded the South-East Asia Tsunami & Earthquake and Mumbai Help blogs (which, with other similar initiatives later became the WorldWideHelp group), and the writers’ community, Caferati. I'm a keen student of collaboration and online culture. I also co-curated the Literature section of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival from 2006 to 2012. Aside from Twitter (link below), you could also follow me on Facebook or Google+.

Being a late convert from advertising, I'm probably the least experienced journalist in the Forbes India team aside from our interns. So I'm always grateful for the lessons the world can teach me. Like last week's brouhaha about our Flipkart cover story.

• It is possible to pronounce judgement on an article based purely on a headline and/or tweets about it.

• A critical cover story must be a marketing gimmick by the subject of the article in collusion with its “critics,” because, after all, as Mr Barnum said, bad publicity is still publicity.

• If you work for a large media group that also owns non-media properties, any article that is critical of competitors of your group companies is biased, track record be damned.

• Great customer service = great company, and any attempt to say anything critical about other aspects of the company can be negated by vociferously mentioning this great customer service, even if one of the premises of an article is that that great customer service is one of the things that is weakening said company.

• A business publication is not entitled to question the business models of its subjects.

• The media must not criticise darlings, period. They can only offer advice on how said darlings must get better.

• An article that defies the previous stricture and criticises a darling must be rooted in (a) spite (b) envy (c) irresponsibility (d) sensationalism (e) all of the above.

• (This needs a place of its own.) If the media criticises an Indian start-up, the media are being anti-national.

• It is terribly unethical to seek to sell more copies of your media product.

That's nine. In the best traditions of social media, I'm crowd-sourcing the tenth. Leave your nominations in the comments. Or on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

  • K. Venugopal Menon (@VenuSpeak)

    Dear Peter m Thanks for point No 4 , actually, that is a backhanded compliment to me & I have thanked you in my post here. And Thank You forbes.com you have had publicity, flipkart has had publicity and so has my blog :) This post is my no 5 all time viewed post :-) So Thanks a lot This a win-win-win situation for all so why squabble.? Stretches out hands of friaadship. Gracias @Venuspeak

    on Jul 11, 2012
  • Sunil Mittal

    "Ideas and personalities occur twice in history. First as a tragedy, later as a farce." - If the first forbes flipkart article was kinda tragic, this is surely lame. Lesson #10 - Sometimes it is best not to say (write) anything, even if you a #journalist. Peter I WAS a fan of your writings... Did you should really have to write this article, really this coming from a writer of your stature! Really!! If the first article shook our faith up, this one has completely decimated it. PS: Sometimes social media can give you more what you hoped for, so here it is... Lesson #0 - #Journalist is not same as #journalism.

    on Jul 6, 2012
    • Peter Griffin

      Dear Mr Mittal, Thank you for your kind words about my writing, even if that generosity is now past tense. Best, ~peter

      on Jul 6, 2012
  • Anon from ecom

    Why nobody talks of anything about Times group having multiple e-commerce properties and their reviews about other ecom in their media ? http://www.iamwire.com/2012/06/technology-is-the-focus-area-as-it-keeps-my-headcount-cost-low-gautam-sinha-ctodirector-indiatimes-tbsl/ Because Times of India never dares to go near the truth, it's afterall a tabloid. FYI the issues pointed out by Rohin in his article is prevalent across this e-commerce industry(including Homeshop18,Indiatimes shopping) , where founders/CEO trying to have their inner circle leaving the rest management in dark. This area certainly needs improvement across the industry.

    on Jul 5, 2012
  • Rockz

    First, the flipkart articile, followed by the sarcastic response to criticism... Thanks to you, I am gonna save some money on next Forbes subscription (or the lack of it!)

    on Jul 5, 2012
    • Peter Griffin

      Dear Rockz, Is a response to criticism not permitted? Ah well. Thank you, on behalf of all of us at Forbes India, for your patronage thus far. Permit me to urge you to reconsider — I don't write that often, and there are so many others on our staff doing sterling work, which I'm hoping you've liked during your subscription period. Thank you for your comment, ~peter

      on Jul 6, 2012
  • jeetu

    Dear Peter, I have given due credit to you with your picture, and the magazine and the link to the magazine & your post too. My blog is all about it. Please view the other postings on my blog. Instead of interpreting anybody’s writing and impressing the reader that I have written it, I try to put the original text written by the author. That’s why your post is in Italics, so that the reader knows that it is yours.However, still if you feel that it is ethically inappropriate, please accept my unconditional apology ~ jeetu 9 lessons in Journalism from Tweets (media laundry @Dhobitalao)

    on Jul 4, 2012
    • Peter Griffin

      Jeetu, yes, it is unethical to lift an entire post. So thank you for your apology. I trust you will now remove the text that you have reproduced and, instead, post a short excerpt and a link, which is an accepted 'fair use' way to link to posts you'd like your readers to see. Thanks

      on Jul 4, 2012
      • NSP

        Dear Peter, Could you let us know the licensing type you have defined for the content on your blog? I did little search here and couldn't get it. Could you point out where is your copyright policy on the website? If you want a Peter Griffin's own 'fair use' policy, you need to define what it is before imposing it on (or chastising) anybody. It's simple rule outside your world.

        on Jul 6, 2012
      • jeetu

        Peter, It depends on how we interpret ethics in a certain profession. However, since you are the author and I have committed a sin of letting know the readers of my blog about the 10 lessons you learnt, I shall honor your wish. I still do not understand though, what difference will it make if I go back to the post, edit it, just include a short excerpt and a link and tax the readers to click the link and visit your whole post? If blogging was my profession (money making) it would be 100 % unethical to earn my livelihood on somebody labour (here writings). And is it really unethical that on a non-money making blog even after I have extended all due credits (authors name/fame, picture, magazine's name, its link, etc) to the related post, even tendering an unconditional apology, for the "sin" I have committed, instead of just taking it lightly, you are so insistent on making me edit the post and update it again? What will one achieve out of it? Can't we, as a fellow journalists, just be cool about it? Forbes & you are now globally acclaimed identity and people already know you and admire your work. Even though you are an Editor, you are so down-to-earth & modest to write that you are 'always a student', I was inspired to include the full text of your post (instead of making the readers travel on the net), so that people who know & do not know you, can also admire you (especially after the brouhaha about your Flipkart cover story). In many of my other postings, I normally do what you ordered me to do with your post. But this was a relatively small piece, so I thought an honorable journalist of your stature won't mind. But, now I know it's not you, the designation after your name who is hurt. Thanks for teaching me lesson # 10th. But, my dear friend remember, it's always good to get respect by one name and work, as the "belt"(designation) doesn't remain permanent. Though, I am also a journalist (25+ years), I am also from the trader community being a Gujarati. We usually have a signboard in our shop which says," These days will also Pass" (whether good or bad). I wish you well, Peter. ~ Jeetu

        on Jul 5, 2012
  • 9 lessons in Journalism from Tweets | media laundry- @Dhobitalao

    [...] he has listed nine lessons he learnt about Journalism practiced today. He writes in his column in Forbes India magazine : Being a late convert from advertising, I’m probably the least experienced journalist in the [...]

    on Jul 4, 2012
  • duke

    When a business story ends with the summarising recommendation that the promoters shd be less ballsy, you do get the doubts that its less about business and more about other things. The article was in Forbes like. No explanation of the economics. No comparison with other players. It is Just my observation as a reader and subscriber. And I may be biased as I'm a flipkart customer and have never tried homeshop.

    on Jul 4, 2012
  • NSP

    10 Lessons every human being (non-journos) should learn: 1. Criticism is for everybody except journos. Dare you. 2. Anything and everything that a journo says is true. No one should question anything a journo writes. 3. If you work for a large media group, you can throw common ethics into air and can redefine morality. 4. Playing god is the favourite sport of media. Note: They have been authorized by god him(her)self. 5. All journos are uber-experts in all fields. Period. Rebuttal is not a known word. 6. Remember they can make news, even if there isn't any. 7. If a journo can make your life, he has the every right to break it. Lynching by media is legal. Read lesson no.4. 8. A media house is the supreme judge. All courts in the world, take note. 9. 9 is new 10.

    on Jul 4, 2012
    • Peter Griffin

      Dear NSP, Could you perhaps explain the "Dare you" if you don't mind? I didn't quite get it. Thanks, ~peter

      on Jul 6, 2012
      • NSP

        Dear Peter, 'Dare you' is for people who dare to criticize journos online. Sorry, that isn't to intimidate you.

        on Jul 7, 2012
    • Rockz

      Perfect reply, NSP....

      on Jul 5, 2012
    • IT Professional

      Is delving into one's past life as a student living in a hostel called business journalism? Words like "game of cards", "over alcohol" that describe someone's college life have no bearing on what the individual is doing 10 years hence. It is nothing short of a cheap thriller. We expect better from the Forbes brand. Peter's post is a lame defense on such poor journalism.

      on Jul 5, 2012
    • Ashwin Morey

      Simply awesome NSP and a befitting reply! @Peter Griffin: I would have really forgotten the Flipkart boruhaha...but that you chose to write about it and defend your team by using sarcasm...only makes me remember the article and the damning job done...come on...are you telling me Forbes India can't take a bit of their own medicine!

      on Jul 4, 2012
      • Peter Griffin

        Dear Mr Morey, Surely a look at the comments threads on any of the Flipkart-related posts on this site would tell you that we have no problem with accepting criticism, even if it's pretty much libellous? And why, in your rule book, is defending one's team or responding to criticism a bad thing? Best, ~peter

        on Jul 7, 2012
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