If you have been reading our daily newspapers, you may not have been aware of an interesting feature on the sports page: The bland coverage of sports events in Doha. An Indian athlete wins a bronze medal. It makes headline news. Another wins a sliver. Great. Yet another actually wins a gold and the individual is lionised. But no paper?not a single one?fully covers an event. It is as if China or South Korea or Japan, Kazakhstan or even Thailand just do not exist; that they are not in the race for medals.
But consider this: It was reported on December 12 by most of the papers that the medal tally showed that China won 120 golds, 69 silvers, 45 bronzes to make for a total of 235 medals. To repeat, two hundred and thirty five medals. South Korea, not much larger than some of our districts came in second?a distant second, but still a second winning 43 golds, 37 silvers, 67 bronzes to make up for a total of 147 medals. In turn Japan won 40 golds, 49 silvers, 56 bronzes for a tally of 145.
Kazakhstan?can any reader locate it on a world map or correctly name the capital of that central Asian State??won 18 golds, 11 silvers, 32 bronzes for a total of 61. And Thailand?one hardly associates it with any international sports?won 8 golds, 10 silvers, 21 bronzes?in all 39 to boot. And how many did India win? Coming eighth in rank, it won a measly 6 golds,14 silvers and 16 bronzes for a total of 36. A country with an approximate population of 1.2 billion had to fall behind Kazakhstan, Thailand and South Korea. What does it say about our sports associations? And what does it say about our newspapers?
One can understand the feeling among sports association which, no doubt, want to hide their faces in shame. But why don'tour newspapers speak out? Does it show a constant dread of bad news? The usual cliche is that for newspapers bad news in ?good? news, or just ?news?. What has gone wrong with both our sports associations and the sports world at large? Why are we hiding the fact that we have failed miserably at the Asiad 2006?
Granted that China is a dictatorial State where huge amounts are spent on training sportsmen. But can one say that of South Korea, for instance, or Thailand? We lost out place where hockey is concerned. For the first time in almost half a century we did not even make it to the semi-finals. And time was when we were at the top of the world.
Sachin Tendulkar'sperformance in the last ten matches is so dismal that one doesn'tfeel like watching him at the crease thinking that he will either give a catch or be bowled neatly. Why doesn'tanyone tell him that the time has come for him to retire gracefully? Give him time, we are told incessantly, be will get back into his old self. That is a myth. He should he taking a lesson from some old-timers like Vijay Merchant or Sunil Gawaskar who retired at the peak of their careers, much to the disappointment of their fans but totally to the credit of their good sense. As the Bible says, there is a time for everything: A time to live and a time to die, a time to laugh and a time to cry and to all that, one might add: There is a time to play and a time to retire.
Can we blame the newspapers for the false image of India that they are undoubtedly fostering? Do our newspapers functions on the theory that providing ?bad? or ?unpalatable? news is injurious to health?
Actually, The Times of India (October 1, 2006) devoted an entire page to this issue. In fact a Sunday Times of India team woefully admitted that ?newspapers traditionally have been purveyors of what might be called manufactured anxiety on the assumption that the more anxious you are about something, the more you want to find out about that which is making you anxious.? So, the team asked: ?Does this mean newspapers should trivialise traumatic events?? No, not at all.
Wars lead to the killing of innocent people. Earthquakes lead to the large-scale damage and destruction of houses. Diseases like AIDS take their own toll. The reader is entitled to know what is going on around him and what precautions he or she should take. So where does that take us? The STOI team is clear on this point. It says: ?Perhaps their ought to be a perspective editor who would put the event in proper proportion with similar events in the past or those taking place in current time.?
But then what is a New Editor for ? But to come back to the issue of why India has fared so poorly at Doha. It would have been very appropriate for a newspaper?especially our rich newspapers, not to speak of our television and radio channels?to make a detailed inquiry as to why China, Japan, Korea, Kazakhstan and Thailand have done so well. Is it the body-build of the athletes? Is it the training that they undergo? Is it their commitment that makes them such excellent competitors? Is it the government support that they receive over the years?
It is painful to note that hardly any newspaper has ever shown a picture of a Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Kazakh gold winner. What kind of inferiority complex are we suffering from? From what one sees, our newspapers what to put their readers into a prolonged stupor. We don'tneed to play down other nations? success or play up the fact that we are practically at the bottom of the ladder. But there are lessons to learn and as a nation our duty is to learn and the task of the newspapers is to enable the reader to learn. In this field our newspapers have totally failed its readers. By not telling the truth our newspapers are into only doing disservice to the people, they are lulling them into complacence. The Times of India quoted a final?year journalism student as saying: ?I want to be journalist, but where'sthe incentive? Where are all the development, human interest, economic and science stories that I want to write? They?re all relegated to the inside pages. Page one is full of bad news?.?
There is no limit to the number of good stories one can write, indeed, they are endless. But to produce a good daily, one must have a larger vision, apart from minding the bottom line. Journalism fails of its purpose when newspaper proprietors are more concerned with money than matter. To say that good news is no news is a cynical way of treating journalism. The latter has come a long way and sadly, neither newspaper editors nor their bosses seem to have realised it. They claim to be educationists. If only they knew that to be educationists they must first educate themselves?