Prof. Pradeep Mathur
In the four- storey government housing complex at Park Road where I stayed in mid 1980s while editing The Pioneer daily, I had a neighbour in Mr. Saxena in the adjoining wing. Mr. Saxena was from the cooperative movement and was the Director of the Dept. of Cooperatives of the U.P. Government at that time. One day as we met at the morning walk I told Mr. Saxena : “How come when your department gives cooperative loans to all professionals to start their ventures you never thought of financing any journalist to start his own journal”. Mr. Saxena took my comment seriously and said he will look into the matter.
After a fortnight or so we met again and what Mr. Saxena told me was revealing. He said he had sent a letter to all district cooperative officers in the state and the reply is that no journalist anywhere in the state has ever applied for loan to start his own venture. Since none applied how could we give loan to anybody.
Ever since Prime Minister Modi spoke of Aatm Nirbhar (Self-reliant) Bharat, I have been thinking can we have an Aatm Nirbhar news media to protect genuine journalists from the grip of unscrupulous employers.
The big question is : It is possible professionally and financially to have a newspersons’ owned media organization ?
Can this be a trend-setter to liberate our journalism from Shylocks who exploit journalists and at the same time also make them responsible for all that goes wrong in media.
I am afraid a big number of my friends, all very genuine and honourable journalists, will say it is not possible. They will raise issues of cost of news gathering and production.
However, I will beg to differ with them.
I will put my case with a negative.
“If we do not think of a self-relevant news media controlled by us what is the option before us? Do we keep serving arrogant non-professional employers and live with harassment and indignity in an atmosphere of suffocation? (Stories of such harassment call fill a volume)
Or we want freedom to act as journalists?
If we agree in principle that we need freedom to act fairly then we must know that a beginning can be modest and some of the big banners in today’s media world made modest beginnings.
There is a problem of the mindset and it has roots in the nature of the profession of journalism. Big people make news and newsmen get focused on what is big and powerful. This makes them always to think of big banners even when they work for relatively small organizations.
If journalists want to be self employed they will have to give up obsession with the big and think that Small is Beautiful. As Course Director of journalism in the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), years ago I introduced a module of micro level journalism in the course syllabus to emphasize the importance of small journalists and to impart skills for producing such journals. I do not know whether they still teach it or not.
If bright and self-respecting journalists organize themselves in small groups of even three or four members each and took upon themselves to launch weekly or fortnightly journals I am sure they will succeeded and make a difference. A targeted audience and well-defined circulation area will give them the right domain to rule .
Some attempts of this sort have been made in the name of neighbourhood newspapers. But these have been NGO efforts by non-professionals and, therefore, could not succeed. What is needed is hard news journalism and not an NGO media literacy campaign. Only thing is that we must understand the concept of decentralization of news and implement it.
With total commitment and a little hard-work and dedication we can bring about a much- needed print media revolution in the country and restore the glory of this hallowed profession. The U-tube channels and websites are already showing us the way.