Monday, February 19, 2018

India's National Newspaper

Two things prominently stand out from my childhood – the Nilgiris (the blue mountains of Ooty) and The Hindu. India’s national newspaper, is for me, a memory that transcends time. It is, as it has always been, very timeless.

My association with the paper began while in school, when my father, ever diligent in his efforts to inculcate in me an early practise to begin reading, sought me, every day, to spend a few minutes, to read a small portion of any front-page news-item. I was required to identify five words, which weren’t known to me, and refer his red, bound, ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ to obtain their meanings. For a restless adolescent, this was a problematic affair. And, a particularly uninteresting one.

However, some of the most gripping incidents of childhood and teenage years, I read from The Hindu. The paper, to me, seems synonymous with the breaking-news culture of present-day television news programming (although, looking back, I must say that the quality of reportage was different by galactical proportions and could possibly never be compared with the shite of these days). Many an account, good and bad, have since been associated with their dutiful, unfailing bearer. In many ways, it also was my connection to the world outside, offering an uninterrupted glimpse of people and places I couldn’t readily comprehend.

Slowly, I was enamoured by the fascinating writings of Art Buchwald, Palagummi Sainath, Paul Krugman, Chinmaya Gharekhan, and Bibek Debroy – to mention only a few. Growing up, it didn’t matter, nor was it evident to me, that the paper carried a heavily tilted leftist bias, compounded with attitudes such as pro-Chinese, pro-Sinhalese, pro-Gandhi dynasty, and what not!

My first brush with India’s entirely ‘page 3’ newspaper, (whose name I shall dutifully refuse to pronounce, which also appropriately, and ironically, reflects the depressing times that we live in presently), came about in 1997, when my meandering took me from home, for the very first time. Immensely popular, especially for its bollywood-trivia and intensely salacious style of story-telling, it was voraciously consumed en masse. Blasphemy in colour – or so, I thought!

Suddenly, The Hindu, even with its unrivalled mastery of the English language and celebrated journalistic expression, seemed old-fashioned. Its readers were looked down upon as relics from a pre-historic past. An increasing lot, who had not the slightest inkling of what class-act journalism looked like, pontificated, at length, about how the paper was ‘overrated’.

But, was the paper losing appeal? Or, was it becoming the preserve of a very select group of readers? Was sensation becoming a mass requirement? Evidently, it was not everyone’s newspaper. And, with its limited availability, its circulation and readership, it was no match for its wildly popular tabloid rival. Even though the paper made progress, it lacked a national presence – in a very big way. And, then, the coverage – or the lack of it. While other papers offered sections of news pertinent to a whole range of subjects, oftentimes properly categorized for easy and quick consumption, The Hindu continued its focus on a very limited range of topics.

Could the paper do something to keep up with changing times? Absolutely. Should it change fundamentally in doing so? Absolutely not!

5 comments:

  1. While I don't find much of a difference in the reportage of newspapers we get nowadays, I find TNIE's Indulge is far better than others in terms of upcoming events coverage. Since I have a blog in that space I can speak only of that.

    Besides, I did not have the patience to read any newspaper when younger. However, I did relish going through the headlines, particularly on the first page and sports section :)

    Destination Infinity

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  2. I never had the habit of reading newspaper as a child. But when I shifted to Bangalore, I decided to start this excellent habit. I chose The Hindu over all other colorful newspapers you mention about. However, it became difficult for me to sustain this habit and I do not read them anymore but occasionally visit their web page. But, I agree, during the time when Journalism in India seems to be misled, Hindu retains its discipline and dignity. I am glad that there is someone fighting against the influence of bad media over the minds of our citizens.

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  3. i love the story of your dad making you learn five new words--it made me smile (and kind of reminded me of my own dad)...lets hope 'journalism' will soon right itself...

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  4. I too was not interested in reading newspapers during the young days and anyone insisted on reading as for us reading our school books itself a great thing. But for me the Hindu has helped improve my English and it was the first newspaper I started to read from 2004 and only for last one year we stopped buying the Hindu, to prevent buying two newspapers, and we continue to buy the daily thanthi Tamil newspaper. I think in breaking news culture with instant and live news on television people is slowly losing interest on reading newspapers, but how trustworthy these news channels are doubt.

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  5. sad the Hindu is eclipsed by the TOI :(

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