Dipped in Witriol
With Standard and Poor threatening to downgrade India as an investment destination, the clouds of gloom have once again gathered. This week business houses invested in giant umbrellas to shield them from the expected downpour (and downturn). Suddenly, everyone began bracing themselves for the grim days ahead (one firm in Mumbai even placed bulk orders for Grimms’ Fairy Tales hoping that stories such as Cat and Mouse in Partnership would inspire employees to tide over bad times). Expectedly, the S&P forecast has impacted the media too. CEOs, CFO’s and editors (plus everybody who thinks it’s cool to wear ties in our sweltering summer and are drawn to marketing studies like a moth to a flame) had a second look at a recent Goldy-Mahan Sax(sena) (GS) report (Print and TV: Innovative Ways of Cost Cutting). Luckily, many who re-read it quickly chose to destroy it -- the reason for which we shall come to later. But before that, here’s the GS prescription in a nutshell:
*For starters form an Editors’ Guilt, a body that frequently passes the resolution, “harsh times call for harsh measures.” This will insulate the men and women at the top who impose decisions. Once the Guilt is set up, this is the action plan for other journalists:
* Reward those who opt for ticketless travel. And those who travel abroad frequently must be told to occasionally try the option of flying as stowaways as an alternative to adventure sports such as bungee jumping. Promise them with front- page coverage of their historic effort. Most presswallahs love it when they become the news.
* Inculcate the habit of not paying hotel bills and slipping out via the fire exit. Also get motivators to brainwash scribes to check in under false names and as representing rival publications.
* Since multi-tasking has been the buzzword for long, reporters and sub-editors should learn the art of letting the right hand execute journalistic tasks while the left hand does other more productive activities like gift wrapping dark chocolates. This is one area that media houses can diversify into in bitter times. Also journos can double up as security personnel in their free time to “guard the reader.”
* Travelling without moving should be the norm. In this day and age of mobiles, a phone call should substitute for driving several miles. Luckily, many reporters are already doing phony stories. Also, sending smoke signals could be an alternative to text messages. If the Red Indians managed with it for centuries, why can’t journalists use this unique messaging system?
* TV reporters must stay in studios. Leave the actual coverage to camerapersons. Piece to camera (P2C) can easily be done with props of Parliament House, Supreme Court or Jantar Mantar…
Naturally, managers as well as editors, who believe that thinking like an MBA and not like Woodward and Bernstein is more relevant in today’s world, can also chip in. Here’s how:
· Don’t downsize since it sends out the wrong signals. But cut salaries of journalists in a creative manner by introducing the salary per word (SPW) concept. To put it simply, say if a reporter is paid Rs. 100 for every 100 words he writes his SPW would be Rs. 1. If his output is halved, his earning per word will double. Similarly, the number of lines processed by those on the desk can be computed to form salary per line (SPL). By reducing editorial space, salaries paid can be cut even as the HR department sends out letters putting on record that the management is pleased to raise SPW and SPL. The same formula can be used in TV for the number of words spoken or images shot.
· While giving travel advance, slip in dummy notes used in the game of Monopoly. This will cut money spent or force the correspondent to use his credit card for which he/she can be compensated after several months. This may not look like much saving but remember every drop of water makes the ocean, every paisa a rupee and every boondi a ladoo.
· TV editors must be asked to bring guests to the studio in autos. This will encourage hosts of programmes to only invite those who use their own conveyance. Also, lookalikes of regulars can be easily found and taught to say the same things that most commentators say every night on prime time.
· Taking a cue from autorickshaw drivers (who tamper with their meters) the temperature display on ACs in offices can be fixed. So, when the air conditioner is cooling at 26 degrees, the reading can be made to show 18 degrees. This will create an illusion of being in a cool working environment!
· As a company policy say no to get-togethers in upscale restaurants. Instead, promote partying with jalebis, rasgullas, bread pakoras and colas in the office. Simultaneously, spread the good word about the sugar rush and how unhealthy habits can make employees cash in on their medical insurance…
Well, to conclude, according to sources in the managements of TVs and newspapers, the Goldy-Mahan Sax(sena) report did create a flutter. But people had their reservations (naturally, not pertaining to rail travel or Mandal). And, pray what’s that? In the GS trump card, unveiled in the last page, it was pointed out that closing down a media enterprise would cut operational costs to the maximum. That naturally made the executive class feel threatened -- if the company ceased to exist then they too would face extinction and lose their fancy cars and airs. It was declared that this will be crass (not cost) cutting. So, all those editor-managers who had a copy of the GS report, quickly put it through the shredder. Thank God for small mercies!