Tell a story, DO NOT write essays or moralistic pieces. Tell stories that make readers feel they’re on the spot, but without resorting to clichés. Read lots of PARI stories, you’ll see what we mean. To bring a story alive, get as many direct quotes as possible – the voices of ordinary, everyday people is central to PARI stories. For instance, if you are writing a story on a daily wage construction worker who moved to the city, we want to know about his family and where they are, why he left his village / town, how he spends his work days and holidays, what exact construction work he does (sifting sand, carrying bricks, clearing debris, assisting masons and more. This narrative will give a context to their quotes, and place them in perspective. Do not tell their story in your words, let them tell it in theirs.
'Their consent to being written about or photographed is paramount.'
You must note down accurately and include in your piece:
- Full name of the interviewee: In a few situations, people do not like mentioning their last name: a) if it happens to be a caste name they are sensitive about, or b) they are from a tribal community that doesn’t use a last name, or c) simply don’t want their last name mentioned. In all cases (and other similar ones), you must be sensitive to their feelings and not press them. Often, we confuse people when we insist on a ‘last name’. It is not always relevant for them. However, if they are willing to share this information with you, try verifying how they spell their names by looking at their ration card, bank account passbook or other ID.
- Age of the interviewee: Ask with some caution when it comes to the older generation, some people may not be clear about it or remember accurately. If so, try a rough estimate based on their perception: “in his early / late sixties”. You could also use some form of ID (mentioned above) to confirm this.
- Location: Please make a note of the name of the place (village / town / city) you are doing your story from or about. If people give you the name of the hamlet they live in – try to include the name of the Block / Taluk / Tehsil or Mandal in which this is located in as well as its District. Remember that there can be more than one village of the same name in a given district. You can check the spellings of the names on the district official website or the Census District Handbook for that district (easily accessible on the Census website). Make sure you can find their home on map. We expect reporters to do this check before sending us their stories.
- Economic facts/ numbers regarding their occupation: What do they earn in a day, week or month. (Labourers: how many days of work do they get in a week/ month?) How much do they spend each month, as a household (if living with family)? Population figures, number of households in a village, are they able to save for their future? If looking at a household – how many members (adults and children) in that household. All these are good and important to know – EVEN if you finally do not use all these in your story. They give it backbone.
- Land Ownership: If talking to a farmer, how many acres does he/she own? Over and above what they own, do they also lease some land? What do they pay as rent per acre of the leased land? If they are leasing out – what do they earn from doing so? What crops do they grow? What are their input costs in growing those crops each season?
- Loans / Debt: Have they taken loans? What sort of rates do moneylenders in their area charge? Are the banks giving them credit at all? Most people in rural India do not have fixed salaries but seasonal earnings, so always factor that into your understanding.
- Data and fact checking: Make sure you use something verifiable – either from official sources or from credible independent studies. Attribute the quote with data you’ve used to a clear source. Share the links with us if the source / report / study can be found (online or otherwise).
- Women and their contribution: Most reporting fails especially in noting and explaining the work women do. Women do the bulk of work in Indian agriculture, but when we say ‘farmer’ the image in almost everybody’s mind is that a man with plough (or if Punjab, with a tractor). An important way of learning about who does what work and how much time they each spend on their work / home responsibilities: track them, sometimes try doing what they’re doing. Please try and track the woman of the house from the (usually) 4.30 a.m. time she is up till she gets to sleep late at night. It will do something to you, not just to your story.
- Migrants: are they seasonal, or short-term migrants, permanent ones or….? If not permanent, how often do they migrate? How long are they away from their villages in a year?
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