IT is customary when one speaks about the media, whether print or electronic, the reference is largely to the many city papers or the most popular channels. Fair enough. As for the print media, about which I want to say a word, the so-called regional papers remain unknown, even when they do an excellent job. Among them there are several which are my favourites, of which I will mention only two, the Nagpur-based The Hitavada (founded by no less than Gopalakrishna Gokhale) and Guwahati’s The Sentinel. No other paper can possibly claim to cover the areas they represent. To read The Hitavada is a joy. It makes one feel that it is intimately related to the people of Vidarbha – a feeling that not many newspapers give to their news coverage of the areas they are most concerned. The Sentinel has a multi-lingual issue every Friday (Enjoy Reading In Your Mother Tongue, says a sales-promoting line). And yes, it has pages of news and views in Hindi, Bengali and Assamese and one can be sure they have ardent readers. What struck me as something equally thought-provoking is that it depends largely on the India Abroad News Service (IANS).
In using IANS, The Sentinel provides news that it not usually covered by other news agencies. IANS coverage is pretty extensive, but I have no idea how the organisation functions. Editorially The Sentinel (started by Dhiren Bezboruah) is sharp and hard-hitting. Those of us who live in far-away cities like Delhi, Allahabad, Mumbai, Chennai or Gandhinagar hardly are aware of what is happening in the North-East states which get poor coverage.
Some of our larger newspapers waste space, supposedly for entertainment. They carry pictures of bikini clad girls exhibiting their nakedness and of socialites at evening parties held by the rich and the prosperous. (Which reminds me of an IANS story (October 10 ) that said that “the number of millionaires in the country is expected to jump over 66 per cent to around 302,000 by 2018”. India, said the long report, currently has 182,000 millionaries. Obviously for some of our major papers, meeting the self-adulatory needs of these money-generators is more important than giving the intelligentsia their due. How I wish some of our papers with high circulation—at least one of them has the largest circulation, world-wide –provided news from all States, giving individual state coverage at least half a page.
Actually, there should be at least one page devoted extensively to quotes from papers all over India. The usual argument is that one can go to the Internet to get such information. But how many have the time to spend on this quest? The Sentinel has strong views and it expresses them fearlessly as when it did on Rahul Gandhi’s diatribe against the controversial Ordinance and how the Prime Minister has to eat his own words, or when it went at Lalu Prasad Yadav after he was charged with a Fodder Scam deservedly got a jail sentence of four years.
But now let me get back to what is said in the ‘mainstream’ media. Writing in Deccan Herald ( October 15) the distinguished journalist BG Verghese damned Sachin Tendulkar by saying that “the time for Sachin to go was at his peak some two years ago, but he stayed for personal glory rather than for Team India, blocking young entrants.” It is not always easy to speak out the truth about celebrities, but then Verghese is Verghese.
Then we have The Economic Times (October 15) which, commenting on Narendra Modi and the RSS with the latter having its own strong views on their inter-relationship, maintained that “the RSS serves as a countervailing pressure on the BJP” and that it is “illogical and immature” to maintain “obsessive hyperventilation over the persona of the Gujarat Chief Minister and his leadership calibre”.
An article that deserves the attention of people all over India and was authored by Gen SK Singh and published in Asian Age (October 11) said that “it is time we gave up our desperate attempts to reach out to Pakistan (considering) that talks with Pakistan should be held from positions of strength at the official level.” One believes such articles written by experts like Gen. Sinha are duly brought to the attention of the Prime Minister. If there is one person whose advice the Prime Minister must take, it is Gen. Sinha whose credentials as an expert on national security just cannot be challenged. And a reader of The Indian Express (August 29) has drawn my attention to an announcement in the paper that it “cannot be held responsible for the contents of some ads” and the reader better make his own assessment. But that is a subject that needs further discussion.