T.J. S. GEORGE

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS

“I am given to understand that today is a special day in Mysore journalism because from today Deccan Herald and Praja Vani are being printed from this city. I think this points to the big changes taking place in the newspaper industry. Some of us on the dais (T.S. Satyan, Krishna Vattam, Rajashekhar Koti et al) will have difficulty in accepting the changes because a shift is taking place from journalism to the market.

“Journalism is getting less and less important.

“I don’t think this shift from journalism to the market is a good sign or a healthy sign, nor do I think this is necessary.

“In the United States, where marketing was invented, journalism and television and the internet have had the same pulls and pressures of the market. Still, they have the New York Times and Washington Post and several other magazines doing extremely well.

“Whereas, in our country, we have deviated from the core mandate of journalism, we have commercialized, we have trivialized, and we have tried to make all our pages, Page 3. This is not good because journalism is one of the continuing thought processes of civilization. And I only hope this is a passing phase and we will return to our good ways soon.”

**

QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION

NEWS IS SACROSANCT: “News should not be commercialized. Journalism should not be commercialized. Unfortunately, we now have newspapers which have an advertising rate-card to publish news items. The reader does not know, nor is he told, that what he is reading is not news but advertising. To that extent, publishers are cheating. If other economies can find their way around such pulls and tugs of the market, I don’t see why we cannot.”

**

TELL THE READER: An advertorial is perfectly honest and ethical, journalistically speaking, as long as you say it is an advertorial. Some papers call it an advertiser’s announcement, some call it a sponsored feature. As long as you say it’s paid for, I don’t see a violation of ethics. The problem arises when you seek to cheat a reader. If an interview appears on page 1 or page 3 as part of the news columns but has been paid for, then that is cheating. So, let’s make a distinction between what is paid for and what is not.”

**

DON’T DO STENOGRAPHY: “A signed column is one person’s view. He puts his name to it. He doesn’t impose his views on you. If you don’t like it, don’t read it…. I have doubts about the word ‘objectivity’ itself. I am not justifying twisting things but I think there is no shame in admitting that the days of old style he-said-she-said journalism are gone. Journalism should not be partisan, but it should also not be stenographic journalism. The whole concept of objectivity in journalism needs to be revisited.”

**

STING IS IN: “Sting journalism has become a part of our lives and for good reason. I think we should accept sting journalism because there are many items, many events, many incidents, many scandals which can only be brought out through techniques like these. For example, the cash-for-questions scandal. We should be prepared to accepted the validity of sting journalism but a line should be drawn.

“Tehelka did a marvelous sting opertion that was also necessary, but it lost a lot of goodwill and credibility through its use of women to expose the scandal. I think you’ve to make sure that he public do not feel uncomfortable.”

**

OPPOSE STING LAW: “I don’t know if the proposed law against sting operations is legally feasible. I hope not. It’s a bit like the political opposition to opinion polls and exit polls. Can we get rid of these just because it is inconvenient to some parties or individuals at different times? I hope they will not succeed. A lakshman rekha may need to be drawn but in principle I do not think they can be banned.”

**

MONEY-SUCCESS HAS BECOME BE-ALL: “The mindset of the journalists is no different from the mindsets of those round them. The mindset of a newcomer in journalism, as far as I can see, is to get 4-5 bylines, become a celebrity, get invited to functions and generally enjoy life. I don’t blame them. There is a problem with the country as a whole and the mindset of the country gets reflected in the mindsets of the journalists. This kind of “money-success” has become the be-all and end-all. But if publishers/owners can devalue the business, how can you blame the newcomers or the journalists?”

**

IMMATURIY IN JOURNALISM: “There is a lot of immaturity in Indian journalism. All it takes to become a reporter is a degree or a diploma. I don’t know what expertise they have. You look at crime reporting and sports reporting. In most organizations, the junior-most reporter is assigned these beats. Yet, these assignments are also among the hardest, requiring maturity and a socio-economic awareness. But where is the equipment? Education is another such beat. But unless you’ve studied it, there is very little you bring to the table, and very few papers care to develop the kind of expertise required to cover such demanding beats.”

**

DEVELOP EXPERTISE: “The Yomuiri Shimbun of Japan has a subeditor assigned to cover specific countries or regions. For example, if a sub editor is looking after Indonesia, he is supplied books on Indonesia by his employers, sent to annual holidays to Indonesia by his employers, etc. The company goes out of its way to develop his knowledge, awareness and in the end expertise. That is mature journalism. I haven’t heard of one newspaper in the country doing something like that.”

**

IMMATURITY CAUSES INCOMPETENCE: “What passes for journalism is a lot of immaturity. Out of that comes incompetence… The incompetence is not due to poor salaries alone. We’ve come a long way from days when we used to earn Rs 125 a month. Today, by any yardstick, at the entry level, journalists do get paid better The problem with journalism has to do with a lack of commitment, a lack of interest. If I can make more money as a police constable, why would I want to be a journalist?”

**

PRESENT IS BLEAK, FUTURE IS BRIGHT: “What is the future of Indian journalism? In the short term, I don’t think we are headed in the right direction. In the long term, I am a great optimist. I believe that when the economy develops and matures, the reader will demand better. In the current milieu, a serious paper is also a tabloid paper and a film paper and a scandal paper and so on. We cannot be everything at the same time. As we mature as an economy, I think we will have serious papers, tabloids, scandal sheets, fashion rags, etc, all fulfilling their chosen mandates.”

**

REVERSE COLONIAL DEPENDENCE: “I‘m not against Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) considering what we’ve done to our media and journalism ourselves. Did we send a single correspondent to Iraq? To Kargil? FDI is already there in a more sinister form, in content. Even the great M.J. Akbar had put up hoardings in Bangalore recently advertising ‘New York Times Crossword in The Asian Age’. Our reverse-colonial dependence on foreign media for content is there for all to see.

“FDI is not to make your country better. It’s to make profits.”

**

CONTENT ISN’T KING, BUT: “A journalist is incidental in today’s journalism. We must understand that content doesn’t matter, as The Times of India has proved. I used to say at management meetings of the Indian Express that TOI has proved that good editorial was irrelevant to a paper’s success as long as there was a good management. But, in the last couple of years, Kannada Prabha under H.R. Ranganath has proved me wrong. Without promotion, without advertising, without any of the gimmicks, a good paper is being produced almost as if to taunt the doomsayers.”

**

DON’T: “For young people wanting to take up journalism as a profession, I would say the same thing I would tell people about to get married: don’t. That said, though, they should have a sense of values and a sense of social responsibility. That sense of social responsibility is the difference between journalism and any other career. A journalist must have a feeling of doing it not for himself or his paper or his company but for the society as a whole. But with what honesty can I say that considering all that we see around us?

“However, India’s too big, too rich culturally to allow this to go on forever. No owner, no proprietor, no editor can think this will go on forever. The reader has been forgotten. Once the market matures, once the reader is reestablished as king, we will learn.”

**

2 Responses to “T.J. S. GEORGE”

  1. radhika yeddanpudi Says:

    this is with reference to Mr. George’s reference to the NY Times and Washington Post as examples of a time when journalism counted. Maybe so. but having lived in the US between 1992-2004 and earlier between 1983-85, I can truly say that american journalism is dead. Marketing, branding, the jerky, spasmodic regurgitation and recycling that passes for news is all there is. after a few years, i started looking at the washington post for photographs-the one art to which they still aspired.

  2. Madhava Says:

    During the freedom struggle, newspapers helped form opinions of the masses.

    Subsequently, they turned out to be purveyors of information.

    Then, they became purveyors of disinformation.

    Journalism, R.I.P.


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