Thursday, April 28, 2005

StoryTellers

A few years back if you find someone in the office reading newspaper during work hours, well, you know what to think and there have been cases where people got fired for that. Currently, I know of folks who cannot spend a day at work without reading news at Samachar, Times, and other sites. In fact the only websites other than email,search engines that sustain majority of IT workers' interest are News sites. At social gatherings of Indian expatriates, the majority of conversations relate to the content dished out of these news sites or papers. I am the wrong guy to talk to about these because I have completely given up hope on getting myself informed through this medium. I see this sense of listening to stories, both real and fictional, as a constant preoccupation of the humankind.

The only news show I watch is The John Stewart Show which is actually a mock news show. There is no point watching the mainstream shows being aired on CNN, NBC, etc.Of course then "blogs" happened which were a form of 'journalism' ( Please mind the small case 'j'). The commong thing about John Stewart and Blogs was that they didnt care about spin,manipulation or doctoring the facts. Both disseminated honest opinions with a clear conviction on a given issue. As an acquaintance of mine once said, it seems like I am rooted in the past by reading only the summaries of events whereas he likes to live in the present keeping tabs on realtime news.(The claim is controvertible but there is no point).

News.Journalism. How would I explain a kid today as to the purpose they are supposed to serve( I attempted an explanation in vain). I used to get the popular explanation that News stood for "North,East,West and South" implying awareness of the world around us. Now how many of us do exactly care about that? If you are in the US, you know that most of the news people like to read is local news with a lip service to global issues.In fact 'world" only meant the news from coast to coast with occasional tidbits from Hawaii and Alaska. The majority gets terribly interested once US goes to war against a particular country.Of course, as always there are people who keep abreast of this stuff because they are particualrly interested in it or because they work for a think-tank kind of organization and hence neccesity.

Not that India does better in that. I usually buy `India Today` these days to get some laughs. The news on current affairs being circulated in India assume too much about the status of India.
Its assumes that India is a global power, a peace loving and some peculiar things which make sense only when talking to a person in India. The only I remember watching this weekly news show called "The World This Week" by Prannoy Roy and he somehow managed to pool some of the best journalistic talent around the country.

If you will indulge me, I would like to take a trip down my memory lane about some journals I have grown up with. The first ever paper I remember reading is "The Hindu" from 1984-87. Usually started from the last page on sports (most interesting) to the middle pages(least interesting) and the front page(indifferent, but read mostly out of curiosity). The editor N.Ram definitely deserves some credit for the integrity maintained . The sunday edition had a kids special titled "Young World".I relished every page of it.Withour much further ado, I finally gave up reading the paper for 2 specific reasons: The paper's cloaked support of LTTE actions ( atleast in the articles I read ) and the silly rationale for Viswanathan Anad losing games.(Instead of admitting Kasparov was so good that he actually surprised Anad with Dragon opening, the paper detailed Anand's itinenary, his lack of sleep and stuff).

I did try reading news after that but never got hooked on them. After that I grew up with a magazine called "Junior Quest" edited by Aditi De published by the same company that published Chandamama. (which deserves a completely separate post for itself). JQ (as it was called) provided some imaginative contests (e.g. contest to draw a creature that does not exist in the world), trivia quizzes, penpals, and other teen related stuff. Of course there was this magazine flaoting around called "Wisdom" published out of madras by some retired high court judges which took a more serious stance on issues.(but used to have really nice quotes on the bottom of each page)

On the same plane was "Amar Chitra Katha" series that sought to depict the Indian classics by the medium of comics. This made serious material like Jataka Tales accessible to a 13 year old like me.These comics had the same mission as Chandamama in trying to do a transfer of cultural artifacts.From the same publishing house came the fortnightly called Tinkle which was also the brainchild of Uncle Pai. (Ego Booster: I had enjoyed being paid Rs.20 per story for 2 of my published stories (or jokes if you prefer) albeit takes something like 6 months from the time you sent it till it gets published ).

Then as I neared my matriculation, I had brushed through mags like "Competition Success Review" (CSR now sounds weird but it was accepted as a good mag to prepare for Civils) and "FrontLine".Then, I was more interested in spending that time reading tomes like "Atlas Shrugged" instead of current events.

Then I moved back to Hyderabad, only to find that "Deccan Chronicle" which was not exactly a newspaper but more of a pamphlet.I started reading the newspapers at libraries which gave me a more balanced view of the same thing. Thats when I came across "The Telegraph" published out of Calcutta. It had a typical bengali inclination of intellectual high takes on social issue but what got me was their Science supplement every Tuesday. I guess I still have them lying around in my attic stuff.

"Indian Express" was atleast consistent though it was nowhere near a journal of sorts that one would get hooked to. "The Times Of India" with its glorious heritage degraded into what this recently made movie called "Page 3" potrayed. Every newspaper has a godfather and a paid propagandist view. Its only to choose for us who is the least biased.

This turned out to be "The Economic Times" that was modeled on "The Financial Times" of London.It carried the same Salmon Pink color that was reserved for financial dailies. The reason this was less biased had to do with other reasons.Swaminathan Aiyar did a good job. (In the interest of full disclosure, my first job was door to door selling this newspaper when it was first launched in Hyderabad).

Finally I ended up liking "The Economist" for its healthy overall outlook of global affairs.Till this day that will be the only journal I care to buy at Airports for inflight infotainment.The problem with The Economist is that it is very good at setting the context for each article which might get bored when reading a subject on which you have strong background. I guess thats why so many niche magazines dedicated to each subject cropped up.

Anyways I forgot the point I started out to make and wouldnt bother.After all its a Friday Night!

4 comments:

Geetanjali said...

Prannoy Roy rocks!!!

It's sad that NDTV has gone the way of most news channels, though I feel it's defi the best Indian news channel around...still got something going for it!

Paddy said...

Well.Initially when he started NDTV, he recruited the best from JNU School Of Journalism like Appan Menon but slowly, after being integrated into the Star TV network, the value diluted but relatively, its still one of the best I hear.

Primalsoup said...

Very nice post. I think perhaps you are also making a point on the journalism saga gone somewhat awry!
Having been one of the ilk briefly, I must say in their defense that anything which when done with the maniac obsession of making only money, tends to go wrong more sooner than later go wrong! :)
Oh and I remember Junior Quest too, and my attempt to beat my brother and mom (she had a liking for it too!) in getting my hands on it [We must be the same generation one might conclude]
We are still pretty much “The Hindu” household (they now have an all new look, which is most disconcerting), as my parents promptly check out the obituaries every morning (I suspect they get some kind of perverse pleasure on the morbidity of it all!)
And Deccan Chronicle the Rag is now in my city, though my associations of the same are all with Katrina Kaif, as I saw some pretty suggestive (of not much) hoardings all over Hyderabad, whenever I visit! :)
And while I am a compulsive News channels watcher, there are few things that give me more pleasure than getting an untouched newspaper early in the morning, with a strong cup of coffee and the smell of the newsprint. Of course, all while I am fervently praying that some catastrophe is intended to strike the world, so that I miss office.

Phew! I should have done a post instead! :)

Paddy said...

Glad to see that you liked it. :)
I kinda wrote it in a hurry..