Journalist or Gentleman?

Journalist or Gentleman?

MY BOOK ‘A TOWN CALLED PENURY‘ was written mostly in the dialysis waiting rooms, in the wards and outside hospital ICUs or at odd hours of the night. An idea born over half a century ago has finally taken some shape, with all its imperfections. The presumption is that some journalists, now or later, would be interested in reading how journalism changed so far in India and what lies ahead.

The original plan was to ‘crowdsource’ the information. Thousands of journalists and mass communication students have been requested online to provide inputs and opinion on the content. From the lists ‘system generated’ by the social media, only those who appeared to be normal mainstream print media journalists were sent the invitation as the book, about the print merdium with which I was connected for 57 years, may not interest others.

Some, listed as journalists, but of organisations which did not appear to be publications were skipped and thier invites  ignored. They may all be better journalists than me. My apologies to them. As also to hundreds who ignored my calls – for contacting them.

Then came the idea of using the book to raise a fund to institute an annual commemorative lecture on a subject of of prime concern to journalism to honour a late journalist who was also a teacher and, above all, a gentleman.

It was felt crowdfunding it would involve a large number of people  who, I wrongly presumed, would back a good cause. Steps to ensure transparency in using the proceeds for the lecture were spelt out. Very few were interested.

Then the crowdfunding was dropped because of my own inability to carry it out single-handed and to erase the impression that money was the motive. The lecture project stands. 

Grouping different anecdotes into chapters posed a problem of continuity – so a system of cross references was adopted. The narration may still be disjointed. The jump from a topic to an unconnected one may be jarring.

Though thousands accepted ‘connect’ invitations or ‘friend requests’ on social media, almost  none but close friends have provided any inputs, though promised due credit.  The few who did, did so verbally. Those contacted did not give even their opinion or advice., which was sought.  Obviously no one wanted to trust a stranger; there were too many fake journalists around. Even friends and relations relied on ignored the effort.

Some solace came from the words of Dr Aloke Thakore, Hon.Director, Journalism Mentor, Mumbai that India neither had a tradition of journalism history nor seemed to care about it. He adds: “Proximity to power rather than a pride in professional practice sustains those who are out there”. Of the 4000-odd contacted online and given  glimpses of  the book only  handful bought it. Perhaps journalists in India were used to freebies and ‘gifts’ for too long.

Something worse followed: the organizations of journalists  approached to conduct the memorial lectures dragged their feet, unwilling to accept (or even reject in writing) an endowment to honour a good person and a journalist.

            Perhaps they thought one cannot be both.        

About Someswar Rao

B.Someswar Rao joined journalism as a minor, got his appointment letter in 1958 from Nagpur Times on becoming an adult. Since then he has been writing and editing. He was the first News Editor and the last Editor of The Times of Deccan, Bengaluru in the 80s, was in the group that started Gujarat’s first English daily, The Western Times, was de facto editor of Gujarat Herald, covered Parliament for The Motherland, worked for Indian Express and Skyline dailies, was Special Correspondent of UNI and PTI and retired as the PTI bureau chief at Nagpur. He is settled in Bengaluru now as a freelancer.