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November 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         November 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:November' 2018

BOOK BAZAAR

Guiding media persons in changing scenario

Syed Nooruzzaman

Journalism today has acquired the status of one of the most sought-after professions in India as elsewhere in the world. This year Delhi University's media course was among the subjects which attracted the largest number of applicants for admission.
With its growing popularity, journalism, however, faces new challenges thrown up by the explosion of social media, heightened commercial competition in the mainstream media and the emergence of the media "as a powerful actor in public policy and governance."
There is, therefore, need for fresh thinking about the teaching and practice of journalism. The book under review fulfils this requirement.
Looking closely at the current media scene, we find that not only has the number of newspapers, magazines and news channels gone up considerably, we now also have many internet-based news outlets which have begun to compete with the established providers of news and views. Salaries are as good as in any other industry with different kinds of perks. The demands from journalists too have increased particularly in terms of speed owing to the task of news dissemination having become highly competitive with the emergence of news websites and web newspapers owing to the use of technology at every stage.
The media has, in fact, undergone complete metamorphosis. It is no longer what it was before the arrival of the internet and 24-hour news channels on the horizon.
As a result, it is difficult to find a journalist not well-versed in technology. But have the basic responsibilities of journalists changed under the prevailing situation? What are the primary requirements for being a good media professional? What are the qualifications most successful journalists do possess?

V. Eshwar Anand and K. Jayanthi Where do the newspapers stand in this fast changing media scenario? Is there any scope for news magazines like weeklies, fortnightlies and monthlies at a time when the maximum focus on cost and speed threatens to sideline credibility and clarity, so essential for the survival of media outlets.
Can we say that newspapers or magazines in printed form will become things of the past soon by getting replaced by their web versions? Have the basic rules of the profession changed? Has the system of bringing before the public credible news and views with undoubted authenticity got replaced by a new system? Is there any change in "the basic principles of journalism --- integrity and competence"?
These and many other questions related to the fast -changing media scenario have been answered cogently by experts who have contributed to the book under review ---- A Handbook of Journalism: Media in the Information Age. Since they have excelled in their specific areas within the media field, their views have to be taken with the deserving seriousness. Anyone who reads the book, edited by and V. Eshwar Anand (no more in our midst) and K. Jayanthi, is bound to be immensely benefited by it.

Among the contributors to the book under review are top ranking journalists who have held the position of Editor of newspapers enjoying readership in lakhs. Their writings in totality provide a clear idea of the challenges the top editors face in the course of discharging their responsibilities. They have to come up to the expectations of not only their employers but also readers to ensure their survival in the organisation concerned as well as success of their paper.

The book covers almost every aspect of journalism, including the advantages and the challenges the media faces, but it talks more extensively about the editorial page of newspapers. The reason is not difficult to find for those who have worked with Dr Anand for many years in a premier daily. He never looked after "The Sanctum Santorum", as he calls the Edit Page, but he had an opportunity to closely observe commissioning and editing of articles, letters and editorials (short unsigned opinion pieces written by senior editors) carried on this page.
Providing details about how this most important page of any daily is produced, Dr Anand says, "Generally, the functions of the Edit Page are entrusted to a Senior Editor. It does not necessarily imply that the Edit Page Editor should always be a senior staffer in the command structure or hierarchy.
Promotions come very late in newspapers and if the Editor is convinced of the capabilities of a particular staffer, even a subeditor can be entrusted with this responsibility."
He, however, is not fair in saying that "even a subeditor" can be asked to handle the Edit Page. The person allowed to look after this page is not only supposed to be good at editing and rewriting, he or she should also have fair understanding of political, social, economic or other issues which are often commented on by specialists.
A high level of maturity and understanding of various issues and problems comes with years of experience, which cannot be expected of a subeditor.
Only a fairly senior journalist, at least a professional having reached the level of chief subeditor or assistant editor can do justice to this job of a highly critical nature. These views are based on my own experience of handling the Edit Page for over 22 years in a premier daily.
The book is divided into five sections having 28 chapters. Among the contributors are top ranking journalists who have held the position of Editor of newspapers enjoying readership in lakhs. Their writings in totality provide a clear idea of the challenges the top editors face in the course of discharging their responsibilities.
They have to come up to the expectations of not only their employers but also readers to ensure their survival in the organisation concerned as well as success of their paper.
As Hari Jaisingh, a former Editor of various newspapers, including The Tribune of Chandigarh, says in his contribution, "An Editor should be known for his public spiritedness, and not for the literary flavour of his editorials and writing skills alone.
The power of the pen has to move in the direction of the people and not as a cover-up for undesirable characters in the establishment.
The Editor has to be an honest communicator of people's feelings and problems." According to HK Dua, who got opportunities to edit four major newspapers of the country, including three premier dailies based in Delhi and The Tribune of Chandigarh, "Any Editor who believes that journalism is meant to serve society and not the commercial interests of proprietors is bound to run into unenviable situations that will demand clarity, tact and firmness on the part of the Editor. The basic values of the profession cannot be compromised, nor can truth be allowed to be sacrificed."
Anyone who goes through the book will be convinced that it is highly informative.