The John Grisham Novel and My Journalistic Life- II

Those striking similarities between Willie Traynor, the protagonist of the John Grisham novel The Last Juror and myself that I had described in detail in one of my earlier blogs, ended just there. Grisham is a master at telling stories and, well, lecturing on how a newspaper should function. I could not disagree with Grisham’s wisdom, and what Willie does at the Ford County Times, a fictional weekly paper of which he is the owner, publisher, editor and reporter. Here is why.

The ailing newspaper finds itself on the verge of bankruptcy. With the help of his generous grandmother, 24-year-old Willie takes over the management of the paper and does some wonderful reporting that the paper was aspiring to print. A gruesome murder certainly helps him. But, then, he didn’t confines himself on that event. He covers on varieties of subjects that either was neglected by the former editor/publisher or was too taboo in the white-dominated American society of 1970s- Clanton, Mississippi to be precise.

The paper became so successful that he sold that to a chain of publisher for a cool 1.5 million dollars. He had bought that for 50 thousand bucks. In his last days as the owner of the weekly, Willie starts thinking how his paper became so successful. “One reason for it’s success was the fact that I wrote so much about so many in a town where so little happened.” I, Dinesh Wagle, think that I learned something that I hadn’t learn in the journalism classes of Ratna Rajya College. Grisham taught me so many things via his novel.

“The paper and I had grown and matured together; me as an adult, it was a prosperous entity. It had become what any small-town paper should be- a lively observer of current events, a recorder of history, an occasional commentator on politics and social issues.” Well, how many of our newspapers in Kathmandu or other parts of the country are like that? Our journalism still not up to what it was in the Ford County, though fictional, of 70s. Kantipur Daily Newspaper has started giving considerable space for it’s readers and the reaction is overwhelming. People are so willing to express themselves that it published at least 10 letters daily. The space allocated for letters column: a whopping half page. That’s good but certainly not enough. We lack a real Kathmandu based and Kathmandu focused newspaper. There are so many subjects to report, so many topics to write. Papers should be even more interactive. Journalists should be even more devoted.

“Though I studied journalism,” Willie admits, “I had not noticed a propensity to produce vast amount of words in short periods of time. But once I suddenly owned the paper, and it was time to sink or swim. I discovered an amazing ability to crank out windy and colorful stories about almost everything, and nothing…. I wrote about the people of Ford County… I woke up each morning thinking of either a new story or a new angle for an old one.” Ha ha ha. This waking up and creating a new angle is not old thing for us as well. I have suddenly woke in the mid of the night to note down the lead of the story I was doing. Some of my friends have shared similar experiences.

What a coincidence! When I was typing the last sentence of the previous paragraph, my phone rang. Deepak was there. In fact, he was one of those ‘some of friends’ I was referring to. When I told him about this, he had another story to tell. “Oh…I actually woke up in the mid-night, two days ago, with an idea of doing a Notebook, [a column at Nepal Magazine,] about Inus Kawaree”, a Nepali youth who was abducted by Iraqis militants and later released and arrived yesterday in Kathmandu. “That was sort of enlightenment,” he joked.