The art of feature writing

Published in The Hindu, Metro Plus, July 11, 2009 

Meera Raghavendra Rao’s ‘Feature Writing’ is an exhaustive guide

Meera Metro Plus Published 

Meera Raghavendra Rao’s first and second books were conceived under almost similar circumstances. While teaching a bunch of “semester-at-sea” students from Pittsburgh, the idea of compiling her newspaper articles on Madras into a book came to her (‘Madras Mosaic’ was released in 2005).

The sight of copious written notes on journalism that proved handy while preparing the syllabi for a certificate course in journalism (in the mid-1990s for MCC), set her thinking of a text book on feature writing. Published by Prentice Hall, ‘Feature Writing’ saw the light of day recently.

To write the book, Meera has drawn upon her experiences as instructor at Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan (which used to offer a journalism programme) and freelance writer. While discussing the various categories under feature writing, she has mostly used her own articles, published in dailies and magazines.

In addition, the instruction of eminent journalists such as V.P.V. Rajan (The Mail) that she received as a student of Bhavan’s (1970-71 batch) has also guided her. Her dissertation at Bhavan’s was on feature writing. “It was a comparative study of the newspaper supplements, including those of The Hindu, The Indian Express and The Statesman. In those days, the Bhavan’s library was supplied with many dailies and magazines,” says Meera.

Meera is aware that feature writing has undergone changes since her days as student. “The dividing line between features and reports is getting narrower.” While the book is silent on radical ideas and journalists that have partly redefined the way information is presented (example: Hunter S. Thompson who spearheaded the ‘telling it like it is’ movement), the book is a rather exhaustive guide on ways to tell a feature story. Among the other pluses is the Indianness permeating the book — most sample articles are home-brewn.

When Meera turned to Prentice Hall for publishing her work, she was asked to state its USP. She said there were not many books on the subject by Indian authors.

The answer was convincing.



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