26 June 2008

When journalism touches literature...(Or why I like this Reuters story on Bill Gates)

Do I miss Reuters, people ask.
Of course I do. A dozen years in a world class news agency is not something I am going to forget in a hurry, though the company has changed a lot, including the recent Thomson merger that takes it to a new level in financial pursuits. Beyond the pennies and pounds lies ye olde agency that encourages good writing. There are days when I see a great story that makes me long for those days. I saw one today on Bill Gates leaving Microsoft to focus on philanthropy.
First, I don't like the headline (OK, I began praising the story, but my job here is to critically appraise the story)..it kind of leaves a bland, newsy touch on what is essentially a personality profile.
But what I love about this story, in the best traditions of good agency journalism, is that it paints an engaging picture of the man without sounding opinionated. The trick is to capture through a sheer use of facts and imagery the essence of a personality whose character traits are revealed in the process.
Bill Gates played poker, dropped out of Harvard, had the gut feel to spot a big technology trend ahead of its times, played hard ball as a businessman, was born into a privileged family, hired his pal with a similar flair for cynical humour (Steve Ballmer) as fellow leader in a breathtaking career -- and after all that is ready for a philanthropic binge at the young age of 52.
If that does not inspire a movie, what will?
This is the kind of story that takes journalism to the doorsteps of literature. It is a challenge for the reporter! I love it.

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