Chillibreeze Interview with Sapna Gopal
For over a decade, Sapna has worked as a journalist in the mainstream media. Later, she graduated to writing and handling niche magazines, related to renewable energy, environment and shipping. Currently, she freelances for publications and portals.
1. You have worked for 14 years in the media. Can you tell us about the publications you have worked with and share your experiences?
Initially, I was with The Times of India and later on, worked with niche magazines like Planet Earth, Energy Next and Maritime Gateway. The experience of working for newspapers and magazines is a bit different, but essentially, we work towards meeting deadlines and ensuring that the reader gets information which is topical, timely, makes for an interesting read and is error free.
It has been an incredible learning experience, of having worked at the desk initially and then doing stories as a reporter. This helped me value and meet deadlines and also deliver as clean a copy as possible. Also, it helped me gain speed since I would handle multiple editions, make pages and also write stories.
Today we access search engines for stories and information, this was not the case when I started my career. At that time, we had proof readers who would proof read our copy, we had composers who compiled information and we had stories sent by fax which we needed to compose. It was a laborious process. Now all we need to do is make pages and send them for printing directly. Things have become faster; news is now accessed at the click of a button so one is working to make sure the latest news reaches the reader. That is the challenge we face now, delivering the latest news to people who have access to so much information and do not rely solely on a newspaper to give them the news.
More than experience, I feel one should have the interest, the passion and the drive to be sensitive to issues like climate change and global warming. Only when you believe in something will you be able to write articles which convince the reader too. But yes, a basic course in journalism and getting exposed to these issues will surely help.
4. As an editor of niche publications, what would you typically look for in a copy? What are your top writing-related peeves when you receive submissions from writers?
I think the most important thing in a copy is its originality. The story should not be lifted or copied and pasted from the net. Additionally, it should be well-written, should have very few spelling and grammatical errors and also it should have quotes from people in the sector one is writing about. That is what gives a story a distinct touch. Also, a story can be written simply, but it should have a style, so it sustains the reader’s interest. If you can do that, you have proved your skills as a good writer.
5. What is ‘clean energy’? While you were the editor of a magazine that published clean energy information, was there anything you learnt that can be applied to our daily lives?
Simply put, clean energy is one that does not pollute the environment and is derived from the natural resources we have been endowed with, for instance, solar power (from the sun), wind power (deriving energy from wind), ocean energy (using energy from the oceans). These are just some of the instances of deriving clean energy. At a time when the world is battling issues such as fossil fuels, global warming, climate change and a rise in instances of natural disasters, especially quakes and tsunamis, an awareness of these eco-friendly initiatives and measures will help in combating these problems.
One of the best instances which comes to my mind is using gadgets such as the solar heater, the solar lantern and the solar cooker in our daily lives. If one can adapt to using these instead of depending on the conventional power grid, not only will it help in reducing our energy consumption, but will also reduce pollution and improve our air quality.
6. ‘Renewable energy’ is becoming a hot topic of discussion nowadays. Can you give us some examples of renewable energy sources?
The world over, many countries like Spain, Germany and the Netherlands have not only made a remarkable effort to switch to using renewable energy in their daily lives, the amount of awareness they have about this is amazing. This is the kind of awareness that we need to have in India too. Apart from sun, wind, oceans and geothermal energy, there are studies now on to tap energy from pavements and buildings too.
We need to begin with small initiatives like using solar water heaters in our homes. This will not only reduce your monthly power bills, but also help reduce the energy consumed. If each household adopts this measure, it would help in decreasing the overall energy which is consumed on a daily basis. Also, we can use these ideas while building and designing our homes and apartment complexes. Using the sun’s energy and light to illuminate our homes would be another way of harnessing this wonderful source that India is blessed with. Additionally, we could dig rain water harvesting pits so that the rain water is used effectively and there’s no water shortage during summers.
Firstly, please make sure you segregate your kitchen waste into dry and wet waste. That way, you will ensure that the waste is recycled. There are organisations like Daily Dump and KK Plastic Waste Management. The former uses pots to convert waste to manure and the latter use that for laying roads. Therefore, please realise that the waste you generate is useful too.
Secondly, save power whenever and where ever you can. The easiest thing for anyone to do is switch off lights, fans, the TV, the AC and any electrical gadget when it is not being used. This is the best way to save energy.
8. As an editor for important publications like Planet Earth, Deccan Post and The Times of India, you must have interacted with several writers/ journalists. Did you notice any key quality(ies) that they all had in common which our writers’ community would benefit from knowing?
I feel the most important thing to have is an interest in writing, exploring and a willingness to learn. When you meet or interact with people, you get to learn a lot from what they have to say! It is important to have an interactive style of writing wherein you have a connection with the reader. The personal element therefore is very, very significant. Never lose touch with the readers and never ever take them for granted.
One should also be willing to experiment with ideas that have not been written about earlier. There’s no such thing as the reader may not like this or will not read that. As a writer, please do not assume and think on the reader’s behalf. Give them an interesting story and they will read it.
9. Tell us something about your other interests.
I love to read all kinds of articles, stories, travel, meet people and explore.
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