Ajai R. Singh MD

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Indian Journalism comes of age

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The Times of India, Bombay, Wednesday October 14, 1987

 

INDIAN JOURNALISM COMES OF AGE

 

By AJAI AND SHAKUNTALA SINGH

 

 

WHILE ostensibly referring to the Indian Express, its proprietor and the raid on its offices in his article “Politics by other means, old-new faces of journalism” (The Times of India, September 23), Girilal Jain brings into focus an important view point on the course that journalism as a profession needs to take.  He seeks to point out, firstly, that a newspaper may be allied to a certain political viewpoint, even a party, but it cannot become a party.  It cannot, for example plead the case of a helpless opposition against a seemingly autocratic government.  (It need not also plead for a weak government against an invincible opposition). The press must rid itself of any messianic pretentions.

            Behind this view lies the experience of decades wherein the writer has seen the ups and downs of both power blocs, ideologies and idealists.  It must serve as an eye-opener to politicians and pressmen alike.  The former need to fight their battles themselves and the latter must quit behaving as quixotic knights rushing to the rescue of damsels in distress.

            Mr. Jain has also talked of split personality. Split personality is an incorrect expression as it does not convey the jekyl and hyde character it is supposed to convey.  The correct expression is dual personality. Split personality means disruption in personality functioning which is a sign of serious derangement.  Dual or multiple personality means that one or more than one contradictory functions or aspects are present in an individual’s personality, may be independent of but often interacting with each other.

 

Sense of Direction

 

Dare-devilry is latent in most individuals.  Messianism appeals to this hidden emotive power.  But messiahs can cause more harm than good. They can bring about disruption, arouse hopes that remain unfulfilled and ultimately lead to disillusionment.  It also runs into difficulties because the common man is a strong believer in cautious change.

            To return to journalism, we need writings which can direct without being authoritarian, which analyse without being doctrinaire, which opens up thinking processes without offering ready-made solutions.   These are some of the goals that the press can aspire to.  It will not limit its powers thereby.  It will, in fact, realise its true potential and gain a sense of direction.

            The press does not need to launch crusades because, as even a cursory reading of history will show, crusades are easily vulnerable to power brokers and turncoats.  Rather, it needs, to put it simply, “to inform, educate, entertain”. There is a wealth of worldly wisdom in these few words which the profession may do well to recapitulate.  At a time when everyone seems motivated to fight battles and draw out their swords, these words may serve to temper needless bravado or heroics. This is the duty as much of the press as of the thinking reader.

            It is not that there is no scope for a man with a mission.  In fact there is a great need for such individuals. But, as we know, every missionary who has succeeded, has tempered his zeal with patience. His ultimate goal may be the removal of decadent traditions, but he is never foolish enough to believe he can do so with the help of a few zealous slogans or the fire of a few fervent pens. The enterprise calls for doggedness and persistence.  And the people will do well to remember that often, in the ultimate analysis, the star performer burns himself out whilst the steady runner wins the race.

            The present exercise is not an attempt to defend the raids on the Indian Express or its policy of exposing the misdeeds of the present regime.  It is free to carry on the way it knows best.  It must, by the very logic of its policy, adopt the procedures that it has.  But if you wish to act the crusader, you would do well to be ready for the axe of the executioner. Even the laity many want to disclaim you, rise as against you, even seek to crucify you.  That is an inherent risk which has to be faced.

            One may turn out triumphant but one cannot afford to forget that one must neither arouse misplaced zeal among one’s proponents nor overestimation of one’s own capacities. One capable of an objective appraisal must steer clear of both. 

 

 

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