With the advent of social media, and the increase in accessibility to celebrities and news, the world has become a very weird place. We see paparazzi chasing exclusives of 2-year-old star kids, sponsoring weddings and what not! It’s a confusing world to be in, not only for the audience who often do not genuinely want to know if an actor love riding his Jaguar or not, but can be quite a hilarious journey for people who actually write these articles – the entertainment journalist.
In the 1.5 years that I worked as an entertainment PR executive, I have chased journalists with what I call ‘valuable’ and ‘interesting’ snippets about my clients. I can still sleep peacefully at night considering how I never pitched an article about my client’s favourite pet.
But what is it like for the ones who get a barrage of stories and pitches and snippets and pictures, and actually make a living out of it? How is life for them? What makes them click? What puts them off? How do they survive in a world where everything is a ‘breaking’ news or a viral piece of content? I decided to speak to Shreemi Verma, an ex-writer with MissMalini to get more insights on whether the entertainment journalism industry is indeed what it looks like.
From a lawyer to being a freelance writer to being one of MissMalini’s first employees, Shreemi says that she had always been a filmy kid.
“I’d always been a very filmy kid and my parents were never really strict about my TV viewing. So, my brother and I basically grew up watching Set Max, Sony and Star Movies which gave us everything from classics to kachra.”
One glance at Shreemi’s social media, and you would know that entertainment journalism was an industry that was created just for her. From trashy song lyrics to the most hilarious memes, her Twitter feed has it all. And hence, on being asked what the most rewarding thing about her job is, she doesn’t hesitate to say – Taimur’s photos.
“For a person who loves (and loves to hate) Bollywood movies, this is a great job. I’ve watched movies before their release date, met Shah Rukh Khan four times and have written whatever I wanted to, on MissMalini’s website. I once wrote a piece on a fan praising Ameesha Patel’s armpit and Ameesha retweeted it. It was glorious!”
Is it stressful? Is it all about long nights and page3 parties? Yes, and no! For anyone who isn’t an on-ground journalist, it’s all about having a perceptive eye, is what Shreemi says.
“I’ve stayed up many nights when a celebrity wedding was happening or when Salman was shuttling in and out of jail but it’s really not very difficult. Entertainment journalism, at least for the platform I worked for, valued me for noticing Ranveer commenting on Deepika’s photo more than me predicting the box-office collections of some new movie.”
In a world where every other story gets viral, it’s indeed difficult to maintain your novelty factor. According to Shreemi, this is where a journalist’s individuality comes in. How do you twist the same story into something more exciting? For that, one needs to understand the audience that they’re catering to.
“I remember being horrified with Kareena Kapoor’s wax statue, so instead of covering the basic news that she has a wax statue, I wrote how scary it looked and how Kareena definitely deserved better. #JusticeForBebo”
Shreemi says that she keeps herself sane by not taking herself too seriously. As an entertainment journalist, there are pieces you write that you can’t relate to.
She remembers a particular time when they did a series on probable star-kids and their entry into Bollywood, and that terribly hit her conscience.
“The focus on Navya Naveli Nanda and Suhana Khan got out of hand. Especially when photos of Suhana with her family on the beach were leaked. That’s just gross.”
What do you do then? How do you balance our your conscience and the work demands?
According to Shreemi, “Loving your work in important, executing it well is mandatory, but behaving like the world will end if people are not reading about Ranbir and Alia on your website but on some other platform is stupid. Our work is important, the demand for this stuff is INSANE, but not enough to lose sleep or sanity over.”
The one group of people journalists love and hate are PRs, and Shreemi has hilarious anecdotes about them as well. She feels that the relationship that journalists share with PRs is just out of a rom-com. She understands and empathizes with how PRs are considered to be the ultimate ‘fixers’ for all problems that their clients have, what she doesn’t understand is the impatience.
“A lot of PR people straight up make a phone call, or send a message and within a minute, start calling us up. Or send an e-mail, then follow up with a text asking us to check the e-mail and then a phone call calling us to check the text to check the e-mail. It’s nuts.”
If there’s something that Shreemi wanted to change in the industry, she says that journalists really need to ask better questions to celebrities in press conferences and events, and have basic courtesy when it comes to personal incident. But she also knows how people are never courteous towards journalists and their time.
“It shouldn’t be the norm that a 6pm interview will obviously start at 9pm. I don’t want to sit at Mehboob Studios waiting for 3 hours so that an actor can give me 10 minutes of his/her time. I have better things to do. Even if by better use of my time, I mean watching Brooklyn 99 for the 100th time.”
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