In her editorial in the penultimate January-February issue, its editor pens a touching lament for the printed word—and the sanity that comes with it.
By RATNA RAO SHEKAR
Increasingly these days, we are surrounded by a cacophony of soundbites and instant news.
It is not just I, but several people I know who cannot bear to watch prime time news. And this is mostly because well known anchors by the sheer force of their voice not only thrust their judgements on us but kill every other opinion ruthlessly, even if they come from respected citizens.
Our print media is no better in its over-indulgence of socialites and celebrities who air their views on everything from fiscal deficit to fashion trends (with the same élan), which are carried along with photographs that are bigger than their opinions.
Gone are the days of independent journalism when we opened the day’s papers to read the sane and sober reflections of a Chalapati Rau, a C.R. Irani or a Kuldip Nayar.
These days, when media ownership itself is suspect, funded as it is either by a business or a political group, we do not get the kind of objective and unbiased views we could fall back on in the past.
Sadly, as many of us have come to realise, even news can be bought, and you can get column inch space in proportion to the cheques you are willing to write for the media house.
How skewed the vision of both television and print media are, can be seen from the way they have recently been going on ad nauseam about celebrity sexual assaults, a high profile murder and the retirement of a cricketer.
This in the election year, when they ought to be focusing on the other India where there are rapes and murders of young girls on a routine basis! But these are not sensational enough for the mainstream media to take up so these stories are not discussed or dissected.
Added to this cacophony of half truths and dishonest opinions, we have the unrestrained chatter on the social media.
In the absence of any self-censorship, or editors who are in effect gatekeepers (and not just people who draw big salaries), the social media for all its freedom is a far from perfect way of receiving news.
In fact, there is such a slew of one-sided opinions, even hatred by certain right wing groups, that many want to shut their Twitter and Facebook accounts and move on.
More than ever in these times we need unbiased and nuanced writing that helps us in formulating independent opinions.
We need the resurrection of the common sense gene.
For this, certainly, we don’t need television news that numbs our senses so hopelessly that we begin to believe in a truth as given to us by CNN-IBN, or NDTV. We are ready to lynch or take out a candlelight march all based on the opinions of newscasters.
I have pointless arguments with people who believe that books, magazines and in fact writers themselves are dead, or should be dead. I say pointless, because in this intolerant world where there’s both sound and fury, we need the insight and wisdom offered to us in a good book or in a good essay.
We need the repose of the printed word.
We need to feel the heart of writers, and beauty of their ideas.
We need time to sit back and reflect.
Now, more than ever, we need the independent voice of a magazine like Housecalls which despite being supported by a pharma company was never about the sponsor or their viewpoints.
Nor were the articles Googled as is common nowadays.
Rather they were written with integrity by writers who travelled the breadth of this country, often at a risk to their lives, looking for the good story to tell.
Since the last issue, we have been deluged by letters from distressed doctors and readers asking us why Housecalls is closing down, and if there was any way they could contribute.
I am not sure how they can help us, but am touched by the letters and feel vindicated that we were on the right track with the magazine – that what we had to say mattered and made a difference.
Now more than ever I believe in Housecalls.
Just as I do of the printed word.