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March 06, 2011

Page: 37/39

Home > 2011 Issues > March 06, 2011

Media Watch

The grand centenary of The Hitavada

THE Hitavada of Nagpur recently celebrated its centenary with literally thousands of people attending the ceremony inaugurated by the President of India, Smt Pratibha Patil. The people of Nagpur, indeed, readers all over India had every reason to be proud of this paper which was started by no less a figure than Gopala Krishna Gokhale whose other great contribution was the founding of the Servants of India Society.

In many ways The Hitavada is a unique paper. It is singularly free of the ‘Paid News’ syndrome. It does not cater to cheapness so noticeable among many newspapers in the country. Speaking at the centenary celebrations, its Managing Editor, Banwarilal Purohit, who is also a former Member of Parliament said: "We have never deviated from the path of truth and went on to achieve our goals. There were ups and downs. We have stuck to the true form of journalism and the support of masses as well the classes which we got all along shows that we are on the right path."

Its immense popularity in central India was reflected in the masses who thronged to attend the centenary celebrations. The Hitavads sells because of its respect for values. It does not cater to society gossip. It has no place for exhibitionist sex. As one reader said in his tribute to the paper, it has "maintained a fine balance between traditional lines and modernism". Its contribution to the freedom movement has been outstanding, but even today its reportage is free of bias. It is ‘society-centric’ and knows the pulse of the people which by itself, is a remarkable achievement. Because it is strictly a value-oriented paper-alas, there aren’t many of its kind in India and longer - it commands respect and in some instances even adoration. Gokhale, were he alive, would have been proud of its present stature and one has to be thankful to its Managing Editor and its staff for continuing to stand for principles, come what may. Not surprisingly, it has won reader support and what more can any paper ask for?

There is a general belief among many people - including media persons - that bad news is good news and good news is no news. But the Mumbai-based DNA has now come forward with the theory that instead of only playing up bad news, let the media be ‘positive’. It devoted an entire front page (January 26) to publicise its views. It said Indians have so much to be proud of. Thus: "India will be a 40 trillion dollar economy by 2030. The size of India’s biotech industry is $ 5 billion, second only to America. Ninety per cent of the world’s computers run on a chip designed by an Indian. The world’s largest companies like Pepsico, Adobe, Citibank and Sigma-Aldrrich have Indian CEOs. Indian engineers have built the highest bridge in the world. The Indian Institute of Technology produces the finest engineering talent in the world. The Deans of the Chicago Booth School of Business and the Harvard Business School are Indians. India has the highest number of post offices in the world. India is only the fourth nation in the world to launch its popular satellite launch vehicle into space. The most important branches of mathematics like calculus, trigonometry and algebra originated in India..." and so on. "Let’s turn India positive" DNA ended its promise with.

As it said: "We’ll keep on doing our exposes, our investigations, our criticisms and our scoops. But we will now also focus on your achievements, your ambitions, your milestones and your moments of pride.... So, starting today, and in the months to come, DNA will make an extra effort to be positive. India positive." All that one can say is: Wait and See. And what are positive stories? Take this one, published by The New Indian Express (September 7 , 2010). According to the story "many Hindu customs are a cherished tradition for a lot of India’s diverse Muslim communities (and) many Indian Muslim women customarily wear saris, apply sindoor if they are married, their wrist heavy with bangles." The story mentioned a very conservative practicing Muslim who prays five times a day... and yet when his neighbours on a leafy Bandra Lane in Mumbai celebrated Diwali he joined in enthusiastically. It is a long story credited to two Muslim reporters, Mohammad Wajihuddin and Inslya Amir, who gave several instances of Muslim respect for Hinduism.

The Hindu (October 20, 2010) carried a story about how "a temple-cum-dargah draws devotees to it from "visitors belonging to all faiths". It is a longish report that ends with saying" "every year after Holi festival, both Hindus and Muslims join hands to celebrate a fair (Urs)..." The DNA (October 20 , 2010) itself carried a story of a Muslim singer who is "ace dandiya crowd-puller" who believes that "religion is nothing but a way of living" and asks: "Who are we to believe that one faith is superior to another, when all religions preach brotherhood and tolerance"?

According to the report, after offering his evening namaaz and thanking almighty for a life of love and contentment, Musa Paik "is a crowd-puller at the dandiya event". He is reported as saying: "I sense the presence of God everywhere. Hence I can sign bhajans, aartis and qawalis with equal devotion and sincerity." What a lovely thought! Why don’t we have stories like this published everyday?

The Times of India ( February 13, 2011) reported Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh speaking at the inauguration of the year-long centenary celebrations of the Malayalam daily Kerala Kaumudi, describing journalists as "the conscience-keepers" of society. As he put it, "They could become agents of change if they were true to their profession." And, he added, "a change for the better".

First, one must congratulate Kerala Kaumudi for turning hundred. May it live long to serve the country in all fairness. Secondly, one must congratulate Dr Singh for speaking out. At a time when our main media is only set to sell copies and increase circulations through means unfair and foul, it is nice to hear a Prime Minister speak of values. As he put it: "Fairness implies not merely the absence of bias in reporting, but also a very conscious attempt to present diverse and different points of view on a situation or an issue ." In an age of ‘paid news’ such advice has become increasingly relevant. Only, who is going to take it, when it is money that matters?

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