Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Changing focus of news

Changing focus of news
Sakal Times Reporters Name | CAMIL PARKHE | Monday, 7 September 2015 AT 09:34 PM IST
Send by email    Printer-friendly version
Selection of the lead news for the page one of the newspaper has always been the most challenging job of the news editors. That is why often even the chief editors are also involved in this important task.

When I joined journalism profession in Goa, most newspapers were totally dependent on the two news agencies,the PTI and UNI. These news agencies transmitted their news through teleprinters installed in the newspaper offices. The news desk teams would then sort out the news, pin them together subjectwise and place them before the chief sub-editor for marking them on various pages. I remember, sometimes I used to accompany the newspaper's chief sub-editor in the jeep to the residence of the editor from Panaji to Miramar for selecting the lead news for page one and deciding their headings.

Sometimes, especially on Sundays and holidays, the days would be very dull newswise and it would be difficult to select the page one news or the lead news of that day.

In such circumstances, the editor had a permanent solution. He would then see what the then prime minister Indira Gandhi had said or done that day and tell us to use that as the lead news for the next day's newspaper. There is a famous dictum in journalism, “When in doubt, cut it out!” In a similar lines,his refrain was: “When in doubt, always use the PM's speech. You'll never be faulted for that.”

Before 1970s, political news always dominated the front pages of all newspapers in the country. For many years, the municipal corporators, legislators and parliamentarians obstructing the functioning of their respective Houses or running with the maces of the presiding officers to press for their demands were the favourite front page news for the news editors. It took many years for the newspaper editors to realise that these issues did not really deserve the front page slots and that the elected representatives were emboldened to stall house proceedings or create ruckus there only to hog limelight in the media.

Some years later almost all newspapers concluded that the politicians, ministers and elected representatives and – their speeches and actions – did not always merit front page space. This provided some space to humane interest stories,sports issues and local stories on the front page. Business matters which was in the past relegated to inside page of the newspapers also started appearing on the front page, thanks to the Harshad Mehta-led stock exchange scam and the increasing privatisation in the country's economy.

In the recent past, sensational celebrity crimes have been occupying the newspaper's front page space. A couple of years back, the issues related to the then Union Minister Shashi Tharoor, his wife Sunanda and a woman journalist from Pakistan were the matters of the front page newspaper coverage for many national and regional newspapers.

For the past fortnight, the issue involving Indrani Mukherjee, wife of Peter Mukherjee, former CEO of Star India, had dominated the front pages - and also inside pages - of several national and regional newspapers. At that time, some newspapers had only grudgingly allowed some space on the front page to the Patel community's massive agitation in Gujarat!

The other day, a senior citizen who is also a former bureaucrat questioned me why we mediapersons in newspapers and television channels were devoting so much space and time to the Indrani Mukherjee affair. I counter-questioned if whether he himself had not read or watched avidly all those details. His smile itself was his affirmative answer. “TRP is all what matters,isn't it...?” he said in exasperation.

Of course, I know it is a vicious circle. Neither the media or the readers are to be blamed in this regard. The focus of the media for news will always keep on changing. For good or bad.
Tania Roy - Wednesday, 9 September 2015 AT 12:34 PM IST
Enjoyed your article. It's indeed a sad state of affairs for journalists and journalism. Media houses selecting stories based on TRPs cannot run the show for long. Intelligent readers will make sure that they aren't taken for a ride. For readers and the world there are far more pressing concerns like water crisis, refugee issues and so on.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Quota politics

Quota politics
CAMIL PARKHE | Friday, 28 August 2015
Patel, Gujarat, riots, reservation, BJP, caste, Politics, Camil Parkhe, India, blog
The Patels from Gujarat are the latest community in the country to come on the streets to seek reservations for them. The massive agitation in the stronghold of the BJP has naturally unnerved the party, forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make a fervent appeal to the community to maintain calm. The apex court in the country has already put restrictions on the percentage of quota that can be reserved for various castes and other communities. But that has not prevented politicians from playing to the gallery during the poll campaigns to assure quota to various communities. This has emboldened more and more communities in different parts of the country to seek reservations.
In Maharashtra, some leaders of the Maratha community had been demanding quota for their community. Knowing the legal positions, the Congress-NCP government during its 15-year-old consecutive rule in the state had ignored the demand. But the Prithviraj Chavan led government had announced quota for the Marathas and also for the Muslims just a few months before going to the assembly polls. As was expected, now the courts have struck down reservation for the Maratha caste while the BJP-Shiv Sena government has different views on the reservations for the minority Muslim community. As a part of the Lok sabha and Assembly polls campaign, the BJP had also assured reservations to the Dhangar community in Maharashtra. After coming to power both at the Centre and in the state, the party has not made any concrete moves in this regard.
The issue of quota has been controversial since the makers of the Constitution made provisions for the same in 1950s. The Sikhs, although not Hindus, were later included in the scheduled caste category to accommodate the dalits in this religious community. A few decades later even the dalits who had embraced Buddhism following in the footsteps of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar were included in the Scheduled Caste category by the government led by V P Singh. Since then many states have passed legislations to provide the benefits of the reservation facility to the communities having significant vote banks. The issue of religion-based reservations, that is reservations for dalit Christians or the backward Muslims has also always remained controversial.
As long as the quota facility is available to some communities, the other communities will be tempted to seek similar benefits for themselves too, irrespective of their social, economic or political status. The politicians too will continue to make tall promises to their vote banks to capture or to retain power. At the same time, due to political reasons, there is no possibility of scrapping the prevalent quota system although these reservations were meant to be only for some specific period. It is a piquant situation the country has landed in and there does not seem to be any solution to the issue.