FROM THE READERS’ EDITOR | Readers' Editor

A dialogue for continuity and change

One of the defining lessons I have learnt as a journalist in the last three decades is actually a life skill that one could deploy in any sector. It is about navigating change while retaining your core values and cardinal principles. Technology is galloping at an exponential rate; geopolitics is always shifting; and what was a sunrise sector has become a sunset sector in less than a decade, with a revenue model which has no relationship to influence, trust and reach.

Classic yet contemporary

At The Hindu, a phrase I often encounter is ‘classic yet contemporary’. The headline for a feature on the food outlet, The Yellow Chilli, by Shonali Muthalaly was “Classic yet contemporary” (January 9, 2014). A profile of eminent dancer and choreographer Akram Khan was titled “When classic meets contemporary…” (October 21, 2015). A piece on composer V. Dakshinamurty had the headline “Classic but always contemporary” (August 8, 2013). A short report on Pieter Louis Erasmus had the headline “Traditional yet contemporary” (July 30, 2011). Interestingly, the newspaper’s design for its print as well as Internet edition, created by Garcia Media, had the governing theme, ‘Contemporary-Classical’. Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral’s book on India’s foreign policy is called Continuity and Change.

It is feedback from readers that shapes changes in the newspaper even as it retains its core values. Feedback helps to draw the crucial line between public interest and what the public is interested in, and ensures that the sacrosanct line balances the two contending, and often contradicting, interests. While editors seek inputs from readers, they also use editorial judgment to decide what changes should be made and what cannot be tampered with. The omnipresence of digital technology has led to the proliferation of cut-and-paste critique by various interest groups. Editors are not swayed by amplification of such narrow interests.

For instance, this newspaper carried a report from its legal correspondent headlined “SC refuses to stay Vanniyar reservation” (July 3) . In the report it was pointed out that the Tamil Nadu State law temporarily provides 10.5% special reservation to Vanniakula Kshatriyas within the quota for the Most Backward Classes (MBCs). The strap line provided the context for the report. It read: “Bill was passed barely an hour before model code of conduct kicked in”.

Amplification of vested interests

We have received innumerable mails and phone calls questioning the use of the word ‘temporary’ in the report. R. Arul, a reader from Chennai, felt that the word was inserted by the newspaper and had no legal or legislative basis. If there is no legal basis for the use of the word ‘temporary’ with reference to the State Act, he said, the newspaper should retract the story. He also cited one of the guidelines issued by the Press Council of India: “The newspaper should promptly and with due prominence, publish either in full or with due editing, free of cost, at the instance of the person affected or feeling aggrieved/or concerned by the impugned publication, a contradiction/reply/ clarification or rejoinder sent to the editor in the form of a letter or note.”

This letter from Mr. Arul was written in both English and Tamil. Within hours, we were flooded with letters. All these letters had copy-pasted Mr. Arul’s arguments. This orchestrated amplification of vested interests failed to look at facts in a dispassionate manner. The report was based on a petition filed in the Supreme Court. It clearly stated that it was the previous Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu who had tabled the Bill. The Chief Minister had said then: “The reservation provided for in this Bill will be temporary. Once the caste-based census is completed, this will be revised based on the findings.”

Readers who want to know the process that governs the selection of news can take part in the virtual Open House we have convened on July 17. We will be closing the call for this virtual meet on July 10.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 5:04:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/Readers-Editor/a-dialogue-for-continuity-and-change/article35137149.ece

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