My everyday fare
“Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else.” – Albert Einstein
Although I had a short stint at the desk of a newspaper over two decades ago, I never felt enamoured of the daily newspaper. There is every reason to believe that the great scientist has spoken the truth. In fact, although the word newspaper is made of two nouns, what counts in that name is the first noun — ‘news’. ‘Paper’ is the material on which news is printed. What makes up news can be a matter of great debate. I was told that when a dog bites a man, it is not news. But if a man bites a dog, that is news! This suggests that even a very insipid reportage contains a trace of what is surprising or sensational. A popular newspaper thrives on sensationalism. There is something about a newspaper that attracts your immediate attention but as soon as you have finished reading the story, it is dead. A journalist is taught to deal with what is ephemeral. If you prefer what is universal or timeless, you will stay away from the newspapers in the morning.
Even then it is difficult to do away with the newspaper unless you live alone. If you have others staying at the same house, it may not be easy for you to convince them to stop newspaper subscriptions. Recently, facing such a situation, I decided to make the best of a bad bargain. In India most newspapers these days, and I am referring to both the vernacular and the English press, appear to be tabloids. I am sure that inspired by the visual splurge of the electronic media, the press seeks to emulate them. After all a photograph is worth a million words, irrespective of whether they appear as part of a news story or an advertisement. These are the days of full-page ad campaigns. And what are campaigns but images and slogans?
I abhor those newspapers that bring out a supplement or a features section daily. Those are the most obnoxious sections of a newspaper that carry items as far away from the domain of serious thought as you can imagine. They deal with the world of popular culture and its heroes and heroines. The supplements appear as an extension of the television screen. I wonder why in this age of cable television, the internet and smart phones, you would need such visual exhibition of mindlessness in newspapers!
The Indian Express is not a tabloid, it doesn’t deal with sensationalism of any kind, its edit and op-ed pages carry five full-length articles besides three editorials. I even like its hard-nosed news reporting free from regionalism or strong bias. The reports deal with the most important current events of the country and would give you a general idea of the state of affairs we are in. It carries book reviews once a week and its only supplement comes out on Sundays and incorporates little of that popular culture that is the bane of good journalism. Hence, for all serious readers, especially older readers, I can unhesitatingly recommend The Indian Express as a specimen of good journalistic endeavour in this present age.