Updated: Jul 14, 2021
What does a newspaper editor do? Do they simply read and edit articles? Do they also write? To find answers to these questions and many more, we at the Young Executives Club invited Archana Subramanian, Special Correspondent and Assistant Editor at The Hindu, to give us a peep into what a typical day at the Editor's Desk looks like. Archana also works in Young World, Young World Club and Education Plus.
The Young Executives Club at Talking Circles comprises bright 11-14 year old children who have big aspirations. They are a curious lot who love expressing themselves both by speaking and writing. They understand that speaking as a communication skill is not limited to speeches but also is important for group discussions, group debates and teamwork. They also are aware that writing as a communication skill is not only about creating fictional stories that strive to entertain the reader but also to convey important and useful information impactfully.
Having dabbled with a variety of speaking and writing assignments for awhile now, they are eager to meet experts from the real world and get a sense of why spoken and written communications skills are important to master.
Starting with a field that they are familiar with- Print Media: We are all accustomed to reading fresh copies of newspapers. But how does all the content/news get assimilated in the newspaper? Who could be more apt than the editor of their favorite newspaper- The Hindu Young World. We invited Archana Subramanian, Special Correspondent and Assistant Editor at The Hindu to let us in on what happens behind the scenes in The Young World Division of The Hindu. Archana graciously agreed to make time for us and we had a marvellous session with her.
Teamwork behind the scenes at The Hindu Young World
Archana gave us a glimpse of what happens at the The Hindu Young World division. We could visualize a team of four discussing and curating interesting content in different subjects that are likely to interest their target audience. Since their target audience is children the team curates content in the form of stories, articles, puzzles, games and so on. Variety plays an important role in retaining the reader's interest and making the reader want to come back for more. Writing to engage a target audience is the key to writing relevant content that has a higher probability of being read. After all we write to communicate something to a reader at a later point in time.
Writing to engage a target audience is the key to writing relevant content that has a higher probability of being read. After all, we write to communicate something to a reader at a later point in time.
Creating compelling content
Different categories and levels of interest are considered in this process. It also involves collaborating with people from different backgrounds to contribute fascinating content. This could also include syndicated columns written by professors or content provided by mathematics institutes or companies in fields of their expertise.
A typical week begins on Monday. The first three days of the week writing sent by different people is categorized and assigned to different members of the team. Following which each team member reviews the submissions, makes changes to the title and headline if need be, finds suitable pictures or commissions artwork to be done depending on the nature of the piece.
The next stage is designing a layout. A designer comes in to plan how the content must appear on the page. In other words, how should it look when the paper reaches the reader. The layout format is very crucial to catch the reader's attention and make the reader want to browse through the entire page. This process happens on Thursday and Friday. After which the paper goes for printing. The paper is released on Saturday. Soon after the paper is released, the team goes back to work- scheduling content for the subsequent week.
Catering to the target audience's changing interests
To stay relevant, the key is to ascertain what the target audience wants to read currently. One may love writing a particular genre and in a particular way. But if the target audience has moved on, all the hard work is not going to pay off. It is crucial to be constantly informed of ever changing interests of the target audience. To be able to do this the Young World Team every once in 2 years calls upon the young readers to come forward and share their thoughts about what they like and dislike. This interaction is extremely valuable as it gives the team an idea of which direction they must take going forward. It could mean generating new kinds of content and new collaborations. It could also mean approaching a particular column differently. Knowing the target audience is incredibly essential.
One may love writing a particular genre and in a particular way. But if the target audience has moved on, all the hard work is not going to pay off. It is crucial to be constantly informed of ever changing interests of the target audience.
Keeping content relevant from a marketing perspective:
The Hindu Young World covers 16 different subjects. "It's highly unlikely that someone wouldn't find something that appeals to his or her interest," says Archana. Further to break the monotony, the paper takes advantage of India's diversity in terms of culture. They find content to suit festival seasons across India. These could be festive recipes or DIY articles. Recently, they even introduced a special month when the usual columns were put aside. The month of May was themed as "Travel without travelling" and brought forth novel content.
Questions from the young executives:
How does one become an editor?
Archana explained that there are several ways to reach that goal. She herself specialized in Mass Communication. She strongly recommended dabbling with different kinds of writing. "Writing as a skill is applicable across industries," she said. "One could write for the sports industry, for pharma, movie reviews and so on. The key is to explore and zero in on the writing that appeals the most." To be able to do that effectively she recommended internships. "Internships in a variety of writing applications will give you a definitive idea of the options that are available and where you want to be," she added.
How long does it take her to write an article?
Fourteen years of writing, taking cue from feedback to make the required changes in approach and focused hard work have helped me immensely. Now I can write a complete article within half an hour.
Has your writing ever been rejected?
"Oh yes! It is part of the writing journey," said Archana in a very matter of fact manner. She shared her own experiences where she wrote a story that she thought was perfect. She was very excited to share it with her editor but her editor rejected it and called it "Boring!" Her editor however guided her to rework on it and after 3-4 revisions she began to realize where the pitfalls lay and learnt to rectify those.
After 3-4 revisions she began to realize where the pitfalls lay and learnt to rectify those.
How do you develop confidence in writing?
I want children to read my work. That motivates me to work hard, rework if necessary, do whatever it takes to entertain my young readers. I have always listened to my mentors and followed their advice.
If you had to write about a well known place like Taj Mahal for example, how would you go about writing a piece that would be interesting to read? In other words it must contain information that the target audience is less likely to know.
I love working on those kinds of articles. I always like to make sure that the content I write is not something that children are likely to already know. To be able to do that one needs to do a lot of research to find interesting bits of information that is not widely known. For instance we were once working on an article on elephants. We discovered that baby elephants suck their trunks just like children suck their thumbs! It is always fascinating to find such interesting facts that rarely appear commonly found reading material. So lots of reading and research help.
How do you handle the umpteen number of submissions from the readers?
It is a hard decision to make. To give you an idea, at the moment I have 1100 drawings and space for six for the printed page. We try to give a chance to as many kids as possible. A criteria that helps is to print submissions from different parts of India. The rest are scanned and published online. The link is provided in print.
How do you handle unexpected delays in delivering the newspaper?
Unprecedented situations such as lockdowns due to the current pandemic caused logistics problems on account of which we could not send physical copies of the newspapers for two weeks. The way we handled that is to make e-copies of the newspaper available.
How do you convey information about sensitive news through your articles for children?
As a rule, we journalists do not share our opinions. We only share facts.
How is The Young World Club funded?
Advertising and tie ups with different people/organizations. The main newspaper also takes care of funding for its supplements.
When we ran out of questions to ask:)...
We had so much fun during this session with Archana that we did not want the session to end. Unfortunately, we ran out of questions to ask and hence the session had to come to a close. Archana's advice to dabble in different types of writing, not getting bogged down by rejections but figuring out how one can do better by listening to a mentor's advice and keeping in mind the target audience while working on a piece are takeaways that will remain in our Young Executives Club diary. What will remain etched in our minds is to benefit from constructive criticism and not get bogged down by rejections ever.