Opinion » Readers' Editor

Updated: February 24, 2014 00:35 IST

Welcome to Open House II

A.S. Panneerselvan
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A.S. Panneerselvan. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan
The Hindu
A.S. Panneerselvan. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

I am delighted to inform readers that the Second Open House, the interactive session between readers and the editors and senior management of The Hindu, will be held in Bangalore between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, 2014. Those who wish to take part in the event may write to . Please do provide your full postal and e-mail addresses, phone number, profession and, if possible, age.

The details will help us to make the selection of participants an eclectic mix. We would like to invite a wide range of readers and have a meaningful conversation. The selection process adopted for the first Open House held last year will be followed this year too. The selection is not going to be technically a demographic or social representational model, but it is an effort to see that most sections of the readership are covered. It will be a mix of regular writers to the Office of the Readers’ Editor and others. A line about what issue you would like to flag off in the interactive meeting would help us to ensure wider participation even in terms of concerns of the readers.

Given the sensitivities involved in an election year, participants are free to invoke the Chatham House rule, and their request would be fully respected when it comes to reporting the event. This rule enables participants to speak as individuals and to express views that may not be those of their organisations, and therefore, encourages free discussion. Speakers are free to voice their own opinions, without concern for their personal reputation or their official duties and affiliations.

I consider this constant interaction with readers as a manifestation of The Hindu’s desire to keep the journalistic bar high. This newspaper is very clear that good journalism goes beyond what is laid out in statute books. The existence of a binding Code of Values for journalists and the Office of the Readers’ Editor to act as an effective interlocutor between readers and the paper bears testimony to this commitment. Listening is the cornerstone of this commitment.

Value of listening

Philosopher J. Krishnamurthi has explained the intrinsic value of listening. He said, “Listening is an art not easily come by, but in it there is beauty and great understanding. We listen with the various depths of our being, but our listening is always with a preconception or from a particular point of view. We do not listen simply; there is always the intervening screen of our own thoughts, conclusions, and prejudices. To listen there must be an inward quietness, a freedom from the strain of acquiring, a relaxed attention. This alert yet passive state is able to hear what is beyond the verbal conclusion. Words confuse; they are only the outward means of communication; but to commune beyond the noise of words, there must be in listening, an alert passivity. Those who love may listen; but it is extremely rare to find a listener. Most of us are after results, achieving goals; we are forever overcoming and conquering, and so there is no listening. It is only in listening that one hears the song of the words.”

Journalism is celebrated for its intrinsic value in a larger democratic framework without prejudice to its utilitarian role. In my professional career spanning three decades, I have spent the last 10 years in the media development sector. One of the major concerns I tried to address is the dichotomy between plural media and proliferation of media. When the media industry uses the word “growth,” it is not about taking journalism to the next level of professional excellence but more in terms of quantitative indices — an increased number of media outlets, more platforms and more devices.

The growth in platforms is not actually letting people choose one form of in-depth coverage over another. Instead, it offers a huge bouquet of outlets to read, watch or hear the same news and the same views. This is precisely where a responsible newspaper like The Hindu comes in to widen the scope of debate. It tries to give space for voices that are often overlooked and drowned out in the bandwagon effect created by prime-time television.

To learn

The primary aim of the interactive session is to mutually learn and work out methods to make our journalism more relevant, powerful and meaningful so that people can exercise their democratic preferences based on informed choices rather than mere rhetoric. Readers should know how editorial choices are made. For instance, there are a series of editorial meetings, where the topic for editorials and opinion articles are discussed and finalised. Then, there is a news meeting every evening to select the news items and their position within the newspaper. The editorial choice of deciding what goes in the front page to what goes in the inside pages is a product of intense discussion where the merits of each news item are subjected to strict editorial judgment.

Though most of the times what the readers want and what the newspaper provides are not at variance, the Open House aims to narrow this gap further.

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