Feb 12, 2024

Suparna Dutt D'Cunha: Reading, Writing & Reflecting on a 20-Year Career in Journalism

The evolution of storytelling: Tracing Suparna Dutt D'Cunha's passion for journalism across generations

Suparna Dutt D'Cunha: Reading, Writing & Reflecting on a 20-Year Career in Journalism

Interview multiple candidates

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit proin mi pellentesque  lorem turpis feugiat non sed sed sed aliquam lectus sodales gravida turpis maassa odio faucibus accumsan turpis nulla tellus purus ut   cursus lorem  in pellentesque risus turpis eget quam eu nunc sed diam.

Search for the right experience

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit proin mi pellentesque  lorem turpis feugiat non sed sed sed aliquam lectus sodales gravida turpis maassa odio.

  1. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.
  2. Porttitor nibh est vulputate vitae sem vitae.
  3. Netus vestibulum dignissim scelerisque vitae.
  4. Amet tellus nisl risus lorem vulputate velit eget.

Ask for past work examples & results

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit consectetur in proin mattis enim posuere maecenas non magna mauris, feugiat montes, porttitor eget nulla id id.

  • Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.
  • Netus vestibulum dignissim scelerisque vitae.
  • Porttitor nibh est vulputate vitae sem vitae.
  • Amet tellus nisl risus lorem vulputate velit eget.
Vet candidates & ask for past references before hiring

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit ut suspendisse convallis enim tincidunt nunc condimentum facilisi accumsan tempor donec dolor malesuada vestibulum in sed sed morbi accumsan tristique turpis vivamus non velit euismod.

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit nunc gravida purus urna, ipsum eu morbi in enim”
Once you hire them, give them access for all tools & resources for success

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit ut suspendisse convallis enim tincidunt nunc condimentum facilisi accumsan tempor donec dolor malesuada vestibulum in sed sed morbi accumsan tristique turpis vivamus non velit euismod.

In an age where the lineage of old-school, purist print journalists is thinning, Suparna Dutt D'Cunha stands as a persistent guardian of the traditional craft. Her dedication to the meticulous art of copyediting, often overlooked in the fast-paced rhythms of modern newsrooms, sets her apart in this rapidly shifting digital age.

Raised in a home where the love for reading was not just encouraged but ingrained, Suparna's journey is rooted in a childhood adorned with the anticipation of Sunday magazines. Her father, a kindred spirit in the realm of literature, shaped her affinity for the written word. The excitement of unwrapping books as birthday gifts became a ritual, fostering a lifelong commitment to the world of stories and the endless enrichment of a fertile imagination.

With a career spanning decades, Suparna's passion for journalism finds its roots in her fascination with people - the source of daily inspiration that led her to storytelling. From comic books to classics, her voracious reading habits across diverse genres, has shaped Suparna’s view of the world in such a way that she delights in looking for that which is often overlooked, or, perhaps not explored in detail enough.

Having weathered the tides of media evolution, Suparna's professional journey began as a copy editor, an art she regards as the cornerstone of impactful journalism. Now at the helm as the Editor of Fast Company Middle East, she navigates the seas of technology, innovation, and creativity, crafting stories with a small team that transcend the digital age. 

In her own words, Suparna finds joy in the daily discoveries that her job offers - a sentiment echoed by her love for learning. Her tenure in the media industry serves as a witness to the profound changes it has undergone, yet her commitment to the craft remains unshaken.

This week, in conversation with Machinelab

What has your career in the media industry taught you?

There’s the changing nature of storytelling and of readers' expectations and demands of it. Given the proliferation of user-generated content of all kinds and the demand for instant gratification, it's unsurprising that speed and economy are often prioritized over care and quality. What has remained unchanged is the need to write what readers want to hear. The deep irony is that what we do is more important than ever, more broadly consumed than ever, but under more threat than ever. The business is very challenging – it’s true for us and everybody. It’s a savage marketplace.

How did your role as a Copy Editor at Gulf News contribute to your growth in the industry, and what lessons did you learn during that time?

Is there still enough good copy editing going on? From spotting anachronisms to continuity errors to inexact uses of language, copyediting is fundamental to refining a story. A feature story takes time to be the best through stages of proof; the process combines making practical assessments and finding out what the writer thought they wanted to do. With very rare exceptions, I think everybody benefits from being edited. Before they are anything else, editors are avid readers and simply apply the common sense of any good reader. Sometimes, I wonder if anyone still alive cares about hanging participles, or the difference between that and which, or the fact that ‘whose’ is a relative pronoun.
Very often, I see some silly mistakes that haven't been picked up by an editor, making me think there can't be much line-by-line editing in publications these days. It is a bit pedantic to fuss too much about editing details, but it does offend my instincts, having been trained in the old-fashioned ways.

Copyediting is not the skill it once was. There are AI-powered writing assistants to do that for you because we no longer believe we need human beings. I would like to see zest for difficulty making a comeback.

Given Fast Company's focus on innovation and leadership, how do you approach storytelling to capture the essence of these themes?

We tell the essential stories of the people, technology, leadership, and ideas that shape and improve the world. What impact is this going to have on readers? What are they going to remember? How are they going to be shaped by it? How will the world around them be shaped in ways that affect their future?

Digital innovations have transformed everything. The biggest change has been the choice available to the readers. There’s so much available without having to leave your computer screen. Although, the constant flow of information and ideas online makes generating stories and ideas easier, you must trust your instincts that it is about something deeply worthwhile; it’s gripping, resonates with readers, and holds their attention.

Tech isn’t a beat with a natural affinity for nostalgia. It thrives on futuristic stories and renders the past obsolete at a frightening pace. Same with leadership and work-life stories. Having said that, writing a good feature on tech or leadership is all about writing the truth, knowing your readers and what will interest them, and delivering stories they can't get elsewhere.

Having covered startups extensively, what trends or shifts have you observed in the startup landscape over the years?

The Middle East has a robust infrastructure, enough capital, and government support for the startup ecosystem. There’s a large startup sector, and it's heartening to see how firmly the industry's center of gravity has moved here. Surveys found people want to build a startup over a corporate job; they want to create something of their own.

That’s partially a reflection of the scale of tech in general. With Middle Eastern startups becoming strong power players in their own right, no technology publication would be able to justify ignoring them. And, as the region aims to solidify its standing as a global leader in AI, startups across the region have an extraordinary opportunity to harness this powerful technology to transform their operations, expand into new markets, and achieve unprecedented growth.

Can you highlight a particular startup story that left a lasting impression on you, and what made it stand out?

I don’t remember writing about a single startup story, from fintech to carbon storage, that could be buried on an inside page. For me, it starts with “That sounds interesting,” and when I track them down, and they tell and show things, it always leaves me inspired. When that happens, I think, well, surely I ought to be writing about it. I believe as long as the business concept is innovative and solves a problem, it always has a chance of being covered.

You've covered both culture, lifestyle and startups. How do you see the intersection of media and culture impacting the portrayal of startups in the media?

I think entrepreneurs, because of their innovative nature, are some of the best people to learn from. They approach problems differently, constantly find solutions, and are driven to make the most of their time and work.

And that’s a narrative the media has built over time: entrepreneurial culture is the rock bed of economic growth and development. And I agree with it to a great extent. Innovation and creativity, solving problems in a new, enlightening way, is what we need now. Every successful startup has true innovators, and our society needs more problem-solvers now. You might call this ‘culture’ because it is the sum of everything humans should be – hard work, creative thinking, and tenacity. Creating something of your own, something tangible and whole that positively impacts lives. Creating a company, being self-sustainable, and the skills you pick up to make that possible will power everything you do.

What has been your most interesting interview till date, and why?

I have interviewed so many interesting and inspiring people in my life that it’s hard to name one. Architects Zaha Hadid and Balakrishna Doshi and novelists David Mitchell and Helen Macdonald were a few of the extraordinary people I was fortunate to interview. The most brilliant are the humblest.

With your extensive experience, how do you navigate the balance between journalistic integrity and the need for compelling storytelling, especially in the era of digital media?

We remain unwavering in our commitment to trusted journalism and drive innovation as we accelerate our editorial offering. In the rapidly changing media industry landscape, story and compelling storytelling become more, not less, important. To create an effective story in this space, it's vital to have a properly joined-up approach. Done right, extraordinary things will grow, breaking vital new ground. It’s not because of shiny new technology; it’s something the creative sector has always known – we are, after all, story-driven creatures.

As the Editor at Fast Company Middle East, how do you continue to challenge yourself and foster professional growth within your team?

At Fast Company Middle East, we measure work's success at its most simplistic: is the story properly engaging with audiences? Media publications should seek to do the best stories in an innovative way and ensure these stories impact audiences and show some sort of return. Return doesn’t necessarily mean profit, but there has to be something of value coming back to us, for example, a better understanding of our audience.

We are a small team, and most things get worked through by talking to each other and pointing the reader toward impactful, compelling stories, videos, and podcasts.

By making this a learning loop, we are agile and build on our work, adapting our approaches from story to story. It takes time and sometimes considerable energy to support a team working in this new way. However, once it's done, the team can sustain their activity. Ultimately, we need to keep trying new things.

What advice do you have for aspiring journalists or editors looking to make a mark in the media industry?

Get as much experience as you can. Also, everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Work harder on those weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to speak up. And finally, to be interesting just tell your story with uncommon honesty.

What is your one, guiding principle in both life and work?

You are what you write, say, create, and do. So hold yourself to a high standard.

Image courtesy of: Suparna Dutt D'Cunha

With Us.

We love working with partners who are on a mission to change the world!