The Indian Newspaper Society, originally known as the Indian and Eastern Newspaper Society as founded in 1939, has completed 75 years in 2014, and this thoughtfully crafted book, by the current President of the INS, marks the occasion in quite a fitting manner. As an organisation that was conceived as a platform for newspaper managements and publishers to ensure that the industry’s views and voices were heard and its long-term interests safeguarded and protected, while also facilitating common approaches to issues of importance through discussion and consensus, the INS has played its role exceedingly well through these decades.
Indeed, as the book mentions, the INS has been instrumental in creating and sustaining every industry institution of note in the country. These include the Press Trust of India, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, and the Advertising Agencies Association of India. It was responsible for the birth of readership surveys in India (although some of them today face questions with regard to the soundness of their methodology and analyses). The INS highlighted the issue of formulating a code of ethics for advertising. In the pre-liberalised era, when newsprint was being channelled through the State Trading Corporation, giving rise to many uncertainties, the INS played a role in ensuring the industry’s interests and needs.
Around half of the 14 newspapers (including The Hindu) that were represented at the inaugural meeting in February 1939, eight years before Indian Independence, are here today. Yet, the total membership of the INS today stands at more than a thousand.
Considering that the INS comprises newspapers and magazines categorised as ‘big’, ‘medium’ and ‘small’, and has had to walk the tightrope on occasion while seeking to strike a balance between the varying needs and perceptions and the multiplicity of views among its constituents, it has been able to function as a largely cohesive body.
Ravindra Kumar’s book goes beyond being a mere commemorative volume marking the Platinum Jubilee of the INS, and gives a quick and accurate picture of the tasks, challenges and opportunities, the ups and downs, that the industry has faced through different periods. The business of news dissemination is in something of a flux today, as issues of viability and revenue streams loom large. Yet, this balanced review of the state of the art spells a certain confidence about “the durability of the printed word” as compared to “the impersonal rumbustiousness of the sound bite.”
The enormity of the task of ensuring the relevance and resonance of the Society for an industry in the throes of change and challenge does come out here. If its history is any guide and the commitment and foresight that its leaders have shown over the decades is any indication, the INS still has its best years ahead of it.
The appendices to the book provide a particularly useful compilation of lists and documents concerning some of the landmark positions taken by the INS.