Tag Archives: journalism

A Town Called Penury

Jnanpith Award-winning National Kannada poet Dr. K. V. Puttappa (Kuvempu) said:

“The attributes of a good home are a good newspaper & a few good books”

What goes into the culture and spirit of Indian journalism? Who are its heroes and legends? Stories of great Western newspapers are well known. Can one be a good journalist without knowing the romance, the ethos, and the heartbreaks of life on Indian newspapers?

A journalist on the Street of Ink for more than half a century and has taught the subject for a decade recalls some forgotten facts, anecdotes and humour of life in newspapers in the country:

  • To sack editor remove chair!
  • Editor Billed for  News
  • Please Make Mistakes
  • Great Editor’s Body Unidentified
  • Double  Work,  Lower Wages  for  ‘Desi’  Journalists
  • Indian  Scribe’s World Scoop n ‘Tooning’ the News
  • ‘I is the Editor’, Oh! Are You?, ‘Yes, I Are’–Editor MABF
  • Tarun, Taruni and Tehalka
  • Crawled  When Asked to Bend
  • ‘Spirit’  of Journalism — by the Peg
  • Vision  in  Viewfinder
  • Morning  Daily Evening Raddi
  • Paid News, Unpaid Scribes

It was late 1958. A news item on the agency printer said ‘Gama dies in penury’. A colleague on the news desk asked: “Where is this place Penury?” For a teenager planning a lifetime of journalism, the title of a book was born.

Now, after 57 years the book comes out

Journalism departments teach us all about Western (English) journalism.  So we know all about The Guardian, The New York Times’ merger with The Herald Tribune, how Mary Baker Eddy started Christian Science Monitor, how Der Spiegel became Germany’s national daily, how Le Monde, Paris, was the first to have horizontal page design. But few know about C. Y. Chintamani or Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi!

The New York Times in its LensBlog column had three photojournalists comment on the picture of bodies of two gang-raped girls hanging from a tree in Badayun district of UP in India in 2014, asking whether such graphic pictures should be published. Gujarat dailies, in the late 60s, used to print ghastly accident photos on front page, with mutilated bodies. Many feel such unpleasant sights should not mark the start of the day.

The profession which was once known for starvation wages and idealism, now attracts some who use it to rake in huge sums. Sexual harassment, always there, came out into the open with a high profile case. The ‘spirit’ of journalism is being imbibed by the peg. Most journalists are now “on contract” and insecurity looms large in their lives. In the West too most newspapers are facing hard times, curtailing staff or closing down.

Technologies that sounded like science-fiction just 15 years ago have brought a sea change to journalism and its culture.  Once Reuters sent news using homing pigeons Today, with instant messaging and live telecasts beaming via satellites, wars and disasters come into our drawing-rooms as they happen. Images and narration from actual scene can convey news without the need to be written and printed.  Citizen journalism, news tweets, online news portals and other developments led to power (of dissemination) without responsibility,

Mayhem may be journalism’s next stage. Indian mythology depicts Muni Narada as Antaryami’— one who could see past and future events anywhere in the universe   through his magical power. Will magical instant access to everywhere in the past and present (and perhaps even the future) be the next stage of journalism?

To ‘inform, educate and entertain’, in that order, has been the basic aim of journalism. Now, the order has been reversed. Some not just entertain but also titillate, ‘educate’ readers only about trivia to suit vested interests and ‘inform’ readers of only what Big Money pays for.

Paid news, ‘news traders’,’presstitutes’, newspapers closed down without paying compensation, more fake journalists than real ones…many issues plague journalism. These and also the folklore, legends and hero-figures shape the culture and mores of the profession.

This book attempts to deal with them. Wanting to know all aspects of journalism, I tried reporting, photography, editing, writing features, editorials, magazine editing, outstation correspondentship…all except cartooning and sports. I hope all my 2000 social media friends will buy the book – for a cause.

Contact us!

Email: book@acme-ind.com