Memoirs and Tips from An Accidental Journalist #2 : Story of A Dying Prawn


I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. –James A. Michener( an American author)

I remember my first piece of investigative writing to a newspaper. Having brainwashed by a science degree (less equipped with common sense), I was trying to put together a story about the vanishing prawn industry in Sri Lanka as a result of a viral disease.. The “X” virus effects the prawns and “Y” number of farms are closing..

“ Who wants to read this sh*t scientists boast about?” looking at my jargon, one of the old hands of journalism expressed his concerns., . “Dig what people have to say first”.. It took time for me to comprehend his concerns..  We write to the public… A writer who does not understand the reader, simply will not get a readership.

After all, Einstein is a human being.. Stephen Hawking’s life story attracts us to his thinking about the universe.. We all have experiences and emotions. We relate to them and not normally attracted to the abstract facts in the first place… unless you are some kind of a nerd. It is easy to attract to the facts with a background life story with emotions.

One week after, my conversation with my “ mentor”  I was traveling in a coastal route with him- of course listening to his remarks about women in his life- to meet some prawn farmers. There came the stories of their life.. Of their miseries and vanishing bank accounts.. True that scientists are pointing to a virus and accusing it …Despite the comments from  Environmentalists “ serves them right”.. What about the true impact to the life of this farmers..

I see journalists garnish their articles with literature and storytelling in good pieces of journalism. Journalism is not merely fiction. It’s a core of facts coated with fiction- after all chocolate coated biscuits are more edible… If you can establish that human connection you are a successful journalist. The story becomes vibrant and living. Story breathes the life.. that capture your audience.

When prawn farming industry went downhill in Sri Lanka within a year or so because of a viral disease called “ white spot disease”, the truth came out with feelings. Once regarded as a lucrative business for small and large-scale investors, became an investors nightmare. The viral disease spread through farms because of the unplanned, environmentally in-correct farming practices. It was too late when people realized harming environment will create your own downfall..

I understood that telling the life story of these farmers will convey the message more emotionally about what happened to this industry. I named my article as “An unplanned industry- a suicidal mission” (of course I wrote in my native language). A blend of science, emotions and true facts mixed with fiction. A story I remember as one of my first attempts to establish my self as a budding journalist. A story of a dying prawn and emotional expressions of a writer.

I regard myself as an Accidental Journalist. Never did it as a profession but continued it for pure passion. . even though some people paid me for my hobby! These are the memoirs and some writing tips, I wanted to share with you, which I gathered from my journalistic journey in my “ on and off” career as a science and environment journalist.

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