Mirror images of your interview subject
Reporters tend to look like those who they cover after spending so many hours with them. What will become of me?
Some beat reporters end up looking like the people they cover after a brief period of time. Like married couples who tend to resemble each other physically and in mannerism as they age together, reporters too tend to look like police inspectors, politicians, civil servants, judges and in some cases even like criminals and militants after spending so many hours with them.
Cases in point are my own friends in the media industry. A crime reporter boastfully narrated that one time at a restaurant, a waiter was so impressed with his former DG FIA Waseem-Ahmed type looks, complete with a walrus moustache, that he was actually offered a generous discount.
A political reporter who must not be named and lurks around where I work is the most inspiring figure in this connection. He not only acts the part of a stereotypical widower politician, but also grins like him.
All of this doesn’t happen consciously. It’s gradual and most of the times, the journalist doesn’t realise what he’s become until it’s too late and the process is irreversible.
Actually, it is also a form of self-delusion. The reporter who covers crime starts believing that he is as powerful as an IG and behaves like the worst form of him. The political reporter lives in the illusion that he can make or break a government. Those who cover the bureaucracy, especially the ones in Islamabad, order around wearing their dark suits as if they too had passed their CSS exams. The ‘war on terror’ journalist acts all-knowing and as secretive as the intelligence agency sleuth as if he’s the ISI’s James Bond when in fact his skill would be poorer than Raymond Davis.
There could be many reasons why they become what they become. But one reason for some is that they become as entrenched as their beat counterparts in that corrupt system coupled with vested interests.
Exceptions to the rule, however, are the editors. They, for some strange reason, almost always tend to look like bankers in the end, wearing crisp shirts and bored expressions.
The other day I was looking in the mirror and thinking what would become of me? Will I look like an ‘intellectual’, a word my editor loves to use spitefully when he’s really mad at me? Well, I certainly hope so.