Archive for November 26th, 2006

Should we print only letters that praise us?

26 November 2006

Should newspapers publish letters critical of what they do, letters critical of stands they take, letters telling reporters and subs and correspondents and the editor to go take a bloody hike?

The answer is obvious: of course, we should. That’s the whole point of good journalism: to give the view, the opposite view and the other view (which incidentally is the slogan of ‘Al Jazeera’), not just to stick your neck in the sand and pretend you are right all the time.

But take one look at newspapers around you and you will find that rare is the publication that lets the reader do the talking. Indeed, if you look at one Bangalore paper we cannot name here, the only letters to the editor published are those which start off saying, “Kudos to the editor for another riveting column…” Clearly, the readers are smart. At least they know what kind of letter to write to get published.

But are we as smart in publishing only such letters? Is that why we are around? To publish sugary-sweet praise? Saccharine platitudes? To pretend we are the ultimate arbiters of the world, and all that we do is right and unquestionable?

Four days ago, we made a front-page “flyer”—that’s the story that runs on top of the page—of the report alleging that Rahul Mahajan had been accused of beating his wife, Shweta.

The logic behind putting it on page one was twofold: one, it’s an interesting glamourous story that shows the Achilles’ heel of the well-heeled; and two, because here was the son of the man who could have been prime minister, and the man whose sister was only recently inducted into the BJP.First, he gets caught with cocaine and champagne at home. And then this.

But readers–or at least some of them—didn’t join the dots. And three of them wrote to us criticising the page one display. It would have been convenient and comfortable to pretend we didn’t receive them, but who are we kidding? Ourselves? So, we boxed the three critical letters on our letters page yesterday much to some people’s chagrin.

Chagrin, because most other Bangalore papers too put the Mahajan story on page one, but not one of them has published similar letters. Yet. Either their readers are far less sensitive than ours or far more permissive; or they have not found the time or space to accommodate them. Yet.

At least one reader Dr Mallesh Rao from Mysore seems to have caught the drift of what we are doing. He has written a letter praising us for printing letters of the editorial policy. Guess where that letter is going?

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