Letter to the Editor

Past few months I have been writing to editors in various media houses for considering my writeups for publication. My experience of writing to editors goes a long way back, back in 2002. Those days I used to write crap. Nothing else.

My experience has been that most of the editors have this disdain against freelancers — it is understandable because many of these freelancers (including yours truly) are not trained writers. They are people from other vocations who love to write (and many among them write well). But if the editors feel that they’d rather communicate, be at peace and feel at home with their journalism school trained, “own” writers-at-large, that is perfectly understandable. What is not tolerable and justified is their indifferent attitude towards freelancers.

A possible explanation for this could be that editors must be getting emails by the ton from freelancers and most of the submitted work may not be even good enough to get published. Somewhere there, is it not possible that quality submissions might be getting lost? Because it is in the mud that the lotus is found. Because it is in the mire, that at times, beauty is witnessed.

Anyway. In the past 4 weeks, I had a mostly one way communication with the editor of one of the most admired journals in publication. I have nothing against this publication because quite simply, they find the best writers to write for them. My only problem with them is that there was hardly any communication from their end, despite my repeated attempts to contact them. As a freelancer and a part-time writer, I thought I deserved a little more respect. Maybe I expected more, but the editor I was talking to, as I had heard, was a messiah for freelancers. Maybe he did read my piece but if it did not fit in his magazine or if he thought that the writeup was utter crap (like I used to churn out regularly back in 2002), a one-liner polite email would have done wonders. Nothing happened. So, at the end of a 3 week wait, I found myself writing this email (below) to the editor. In retrospect, I thought, I could be writing this email to any editor because barring a few of them, I have largely found the editors to be an arrogant, egoistic lot.

***

Dear Editor,

This is my Fourth email to you, and overall I think this is the 7th attempt in writing to get your attention. I won’t go about giving you a background of my previous correspondence with you. Instead, I would like to let you know a little about myself.

I am 30 and have been working as a programmer for the last 8 years. At around the same time when I started programming, I also started blogging. Somewhere while blogging, I started to get inspired by various pieces of narrative journalism. After many years of blogging and evolving as a writer, things started picking up and I was one of the bloggers for Globalpost.com since their inception until a few months ago when they stopped the service. I was interviewed by the BBC last month in my capacity as a social blogger. Four months ago, I was published by tehelka magazine.

Here’s the thing — I have been emailing editors of various media houses in the last 3 months. I have sent my story to only a couple of them though (including you). I have also tried meeting an editor who made me wait 2 hours in his office but once his assistant came to know that I was a freelancer looking for writing opportunities, I was told to leave.

Anyway, at the end of the day, it is by writing computer code that I earn my bread and butter. I am not one of you, who earns by the word or who has been to journalism school. I am, an urban, middle-class Indian. I am the guy editors write about in their glossy colorful editorial pages. I am the guy that forms the demographic dividend that Nandan Nilekani so boastfully talked about in his bestseller, Imagining India. I am the guy cheated by the Government and written about (with a liberal helping of pity) by the intellectual editors. Though I may not agree with many of the claims that these intellects make on my behalf, I do not take away the right that I have given to you and people of your fraternity – to let you be the voice of the common man.

So, I just wonder why, when one of these voices that you claim to represent, comes to you with a story, is it treated with such disdain and indifference? So much so that this voice even does not find an acknowledgement from you, let alone an acceptance. How can the media be so cold? How can you be so cold?

My story and my request to you for considering it for publication stands withdrawn.

With that, I rest my case. Thank you.

Sincerely,
aditya kumar

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2 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor

  1. Hi Aditya,

    Quite bad that you had to undergo this. Whoever we are: journalist, engineer, professor, doctor, lawyer or whoever: we all must have the basic courtesy to acknowledge the correspondence sent to us.

    I have faced this before becoming a journalist, and after becoming a journalist. So, I guess, it’s not because you are an engineer and therefore not a journalist, such a thing has happened.

    The least I can do about this is to be courteous from my part personally. And I try to be so as much as possible.

    Regarding professional journalists’ attitude towards freelancers… well I don’t know what others think, I personally think there are a lot of non-journalists who are as competent, and some of them more competent, than professional journalists. This I believed in the pre-IT era itself. Now when I look at some of the blogs, my belief has only been strengthened.

    Today, the new-age media is much powerful as the institutionalized media. Look at some tech blogs. They are followed so keenly for insightful information and analysis.

    Since the organizations have people paid to write for them, logically the journalists do get more importance than freelancers. Space is one limitation. So, I think conventional newspapers and magazines should devote mandatorily some space for freelancers. I don’t know when that will happen.

    Till that happens, my suggestion to you and others like you will be to leverage the opportunity provided by technology and make full use of blogs and other platforms to put up creative works of thought.

    Also, make use of the letters to the editor column — rather than look for full-length articles to be published. Letters to the editor is one area all newspapers fall short in terms to good points of view on current subjects. If you look at history, Nehru, Gandhi, Churchill and many literary personalities used to regularly contribute to the letters to the editor column. Look at newspapers like Guardian, Times, etc… and read the letters… they are thought provoking.

    And finally, personally, Aditya, never feel that your standard of writing or language is below par for a newspaper. Nothing could be farther from truth. If someone hasn’t responded to your mails, or not published your articles, there could be other reasons. Definitely not because your writing is below par.

  2. AK,

    Coming back to your blog after a long pause. Found one heck of a mail to some God-damned editor, though I’m still unsure whether or not you got the reply (you’ve not updated it either.)

    I noticed two things, one, the letter is written in utter state of anguish – entirely justifiable, it shows… and to that end you’ve succeeded admirably.

    As Pradeep writes, a freelancer has and will find it difficult almost always. They have to toil more that their fair share before gaining a foothold and due recognition.

    Congratulations on being recognised by BBC, I’d really like to watch/read that piece sometime.

    Though I’d excuse myself of reading your piece “Defending Secularism” because I really despise this kind of a cheesy write-up (albeit written by Noam Chomsky) if I may. Pardon my taste here :-)

    Having said that, I’ve generally found your blog to be one of the better ones coming out of India — this I say as a reader and not as some compulsive critic.

    The second thing I noticed was your lower case name at the end of the email, I don’t know if it was intended, though it gave a lot of hints if it weren’t.

    All the best in your endeavour to get printed big time. The day isn’t too far if not awfully near.

    ~

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