Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hate the print media in this country, walk this way…

As a child, my father inculcated in me the ‘good habit’ of reading newspapers. He used to subscribe to the Indian Express, being a fan of Arun Shourie and of his defiance during the Emergency. At a tender age, I learnt to hero-worship those who stood up to the establishment when ethics and values were at stake. My father educated me on the politics of the day when kids in my class at school were not even aware of the name of the Prime Minister or President of the country. He helped me understand policies, albeit it was his view of the world. But I grew up to understand the role that newspapers play in a democracy.

When I was older, the IE did not hold me in the thrall that it did when I was a kid. The paper had changed into a tabloid and we moved on to the Times of India. It was a prestigious newspaper even twenty years ago, or so I thought. My southern cousins used to rib me about the choice of paper. They decreed that The Hindu was the best. I have read it when I have been down South. I must agree it is a good newspaper.

The Times of India carried a lot of news and views and slowly bulked up with supplements. These supplements carried lots of coloured pictures that were attractive and gossip that was delightful to a young adult. We could discuss very knowledgeably the goings on in the lives of the Mumbai socialites. Oh, we found the TOI really fun. Yes, the RK cartoons of my teenage years were not as interesting and the newspaper banner was even up for sale. Headlines were in larger print than the newspaper banner sometimes. But it was all fine with me at the time.

I moved on and spent a few years abroad. I had to read a number of newspapers and was able to compare the quality of the journalism, the language, the grammar, even the newsprint. Sadly, my favourite Indian newspaper could not hold candle to these. I switched over to the online version of the TOI to get the news from India. The first thing that loads online is a skimpily clad woman. How this is so newsworthy is beyond me. Living abroad, I am used to seeing women dress very casually on a daily basis. In India, the hoi-polloi is not used to this, so it seems the newspaper has decided to provide it. The leading Indian national newspaper has chosen to provide pictures like the Mid-day mate column in a Mumbai afternoon paper. Shame.

Further on my return now after a number of years, I find the quality of the news is rather questionable. Who are these people who are in charge? I came across the head-line news on the Rahul Mahajan “case” (?) – that too as boxed item – the newspaper crowing that they were laughing at the others because they got it right that it was heroin not cocaine. Now how can anyone be laughing here? Firstly, one person died. Secondly, whether the drugs were intentionally consumed or not, it is still a tragic incident in the person’s life. How can someone’s personal tragedy be so unashamedly put out in a newspaper and to top it all off, they say they are laughing that they got it right? It does say a lot about the culture of these people who thought it a good idea. They have no sense of respect for other individuals.

A good newspaper, if it got it right would have shut up and kept quiet. Are the readers so foolish that they cannot discern who got it right and who did not? Is the newspaper so arrogant as to think they have to flaunt this to their readers? To top it off, their own supplements the Bombay Times and Mumbai Mirror each carried a different version and details of drugs. So when the front page does not tally with their back pages or their supplements, what are they crowing about?

Next thing that assails me when I pick up the paper is the lack of grammar and such atrocious spellings, I could cry. I find it extremely strange that a paper can call itself an English language daily and have journalists or editors who are unable to do justice to the language. If these people are from backward castes, then I can forgive them for their deprived upbringing which shows in their poor quality of work. If not, these people have no excuse but to go back to school. All English language journalists and editors must be made to take a compulsory course in English or even the TOEFL. Afterall, you can Indianise the language by inserting words from the vernacular that cannot be easily translated but you cannot change the grammar.

I have moved on to the Economic Times hoping to read something more than a thrash mag. Hope the tabloid bug will not slowly infect this one too. Will someone please sit up and take note to bench mark themselves against other financial newspapers around the world and not go the way of the TOI.

How can some rich kid who OD ed on drugs be front and back page news for days on end but malnourished children dying in the city get only half a column on any one day?

Is the plight of the farmers who are committing suicides in Vidharbha not more important than whether it was heroin or cocaine that some rich kid was on? Why are the farmers lives relegated to a small column in the back pages?

How is the sorry condition of the roads in the city not more important than who kissed whom and how? Do we really care?
Why is it that sensational thrash and meaningless stories are going by the name of journalism in this country? Is it only what these people ‘think’ sells that counts and not what is right that counts? Do you think that people won’t buy this newspaper if you take out all the trash from it? How will this country survive when even its newspapers are not upholding moral and ethical values?

The TOI reported that Mumbai is the rudest city in the world according to Readers Digest survey. How can it be otherwise when the leading English language newspaper wants to crow that they got things right?

Where is the human sensitivity gone? It is not even in the collective consciousness of a newspaper that has so much history. Whoever is currently the head honcho is decidedly running the ethics and repute of this newspaper to the ground by allowing such state of affairs to continue.

Will someone please tell me what we can do to help restore the English language newspapers in this country to its once dignified existence?

1 comment:

C.G. said...

You hit the nail on the head with this one, it echoes my exact sentiments and I can actually recollect all that has changed in the course of these years, newspapers from our childhood just seem to have been lost. Great post!

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