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NEWSLETTER JUNE 2003

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  • N Watson Solomon
    +-------------------------------------------------------+ JOURNALISM ONLINE http://www.angelfire.com/nd/nirmaldasan/journalismonline NEWSLETTER, June 2003
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 2, 2003
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      +-------------------------------------------------------+
      JOURNALISM ONLINE
      http://www.angelfire.com/nd/nirmaldasan/journalismonline
      NEWSLETTER, June 2003
      EDITOR: N. Watson Solomon (aka Nirmaldasan)
      EMAIL: watson@...
      Issue No: 40
      +-------------------------------------------------------+
      Dear subscribers,
      Welcome to another issue of the Journalism Online newsletter. If you like it
      do forward it to your friends and colleagues. Regards. Nirmaldasan

      IN THIS ISSUE...
      * thought for the month
      * editorial: information overload
      * debate: when the fence starts eating the crop...
      * book review: indian press laws
      * special column: a tale of not twin cities, but four
      * small things that mean much
      * creative pulse
      * site update

      THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
      ---------------------
      In 'De-Development: A Case For Tradition', Dr. Nirmal Selvamony writes:
      "Knowing and doing may never be divorced from each other. To the ancients
      these were two stages of any event of knowing. To know a thing is to be able
      to practise it, live it. Such knowledge was imparted by master to disciple.
      It was learnt by apprenticeship. It had to be so, for every human endeavour
      worthy of emulation involved certain unspecifiable, ineffable elements which
      could be passed on only by example."

      EDITORIAL: INFORMATION OVERLOAD
      -------------------------------
      The World Wide Web offers you information, not knowledge. It is true that
      there can be no knowledge without information. Information contextualised is
      knowledge. But the Internet can only offer information uprooted from its
      proper context. Nobel laureate T.S. Eliot, in 'Choruses From The Rock',
      cries: "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? / Where is the
      knowledge we have lost in information?"

      Search google for the latest information on any topic, and it will come up
      with a thousand links. It presents you with the problem of choice. A problem
      of plenty. Information overload.

      In theory, the Internet promises a democratic forum for debate. First, there
      is the information on the Net. Get informed and just debate about anything
      in one of the bulletin boards or egroups. But is that really happening?
      Netizens prefer to lurk, to evesdrop... Small wonder that the Net is fated
      to remain only an informative medium.

      Information overload, however, is a personal problem. No one feels
      intimidated by the arrays of books in a library. You know what you want and
      you borrow what you want. Only meaningless browsing takes the Netizen into a
      labyrinth. The road not taken may have made 'the difference' to Robert
      Frost, but the link not taken is better avoided.

      Information per se is not desirable. It should lead to knowledge. And
      knowledge, as Dr. Nirmal Selvamony says, should always be linked to doing.
      From information proceeds knowledge; from knowledge, action; and from
      action, understanding. The Chinese sage Confucius summed this up neatly:
      "Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Let me do and I understand."

      DEBATE
      ------
      When The Fence Starts Eating The Crop...
      by P.K. Ravindranath
      (from The Rape Of News, edited by Sunil Poolani)

      Having abandoned the missionary spirit with which most of our newspapers
      were endowed at the birth of an independent India, we have jumped headlong
      into the marketplace. Many of our leading newspapers, particularly the one
      that had the slogan 'The Leader Leads' etched over its masthead, are not
      leading the lemmings' march.

      Private entrepreneurs have the right to earn profits, but not at the expense
      of their accountability to their readers. They cannot arrogate to themselves
      the right to assert that the consumer is king only at the grocers'. They
      have no right to palm off advertising puffs in the guise of news stories.
      Selling news columns to industrialists, starlets, social parasites and beer
      bar owners is such material with the label 'Advt' or 'Advertiser's
      Supplement' to warn the unsuspecting readers.

      When selling news space to advertisers becomes a practice with management,
      others down the line get the cue. They launch their own private enterprises.
      The same group that introduced this downslide had to get rid of seven
      staffers from its economic daily, as they did not hesitate to follow the
      leader. One of them is charged with extortion, for demanding hush money to
      keep out unsavoury things about a businessman.

      I have spent 21 long years of my life (1955-76) in the leader's flagship,
      The Times of India. Never during that long time had matters been so
      disgraceful as is being reported now. At best we heard of how a reporter
      maneouvered to get a free trip to a hill station or a suit length.

      The Emergency rule changed all that. After all, corruption was a global
      phenomenon; the political leader had adumbrated. To fit into this globalised
      environment were pitchforked into lofty chairs as adornments that would
      carry out the advertisement department's whims and fancies.

      Freebooters emerged to haul in whatever they could while the going was good.
      That some of them paraded as journalists was enough to tarnish the
      profession as a whole. This would have happened if only the editor had not
      been little more than a figurehead innocent of the role of the reader to
      whom his primary duty was to provide news and information objectively,
      truthfully and with a high sense of fair play.

      One can only wish that is all a passing phase. I do not know if the
      advertisement manager provides the editorials for the daily old-time
      journalists still on the staff would be counting their days to get out of
      the organisation seeing the by-line of the advertisement manager for a
      report of an annual function.

      Some stray editorials have the same flavour as the report in the paper.

      (The Rape of News, priced at Rs. 30, is published by the Mumbai-based Frog
      Books. For copies contact: spoolani@...)

      BOOK REVIEW
      -----------
      Indian Press Laws
      by R.K. Nair
      (rknair@...)

      In this globalised era of predatory media expansionism, any talk of freedom
      of the Press and journalistic rights may sound anachronistic. But that does
      not obviate the need for increased awareness and vigil among the
      practitioners of the trade -- not only to safeguard their hard-won rights
      but also to avoid occupational pitfalls in the changing scenario.

      That is the relevance of 'Freedom of the Press', a comprehensive compendium
      of Indian Press laws by Shobha Desai and Colin Gonsalves, published over a
      decade ago by C.G. Shaw Memorial Trust in association with Bombay Union of
      Journalists.

      This modestly priced (Rs. 20) slim book (152 pages) is a journalist's guide
      to the Press laws. It deftly deals with such crucial and contentious topics
      as defamation, contempt of court, disclosure of sources, access to
      information, the Press and Parliament, copyright and the Official Secrets
      Act.

      Each topic is covered in neatly constructed chapters with separate
      introductions and appropriate subtitles. The first chapter on defamation is
      exhaustive, probably because it was written in the wake of the draconian
      Defamation Bill in 1988, which was abandoned in the face of stiff resistance
      from the journalists and intelligentsia across the country. The chapter not
      only defines what constitutes civil and criminal defamation, but also offers
      guidelines on defences with examples: justification, fair comment and
      privilege.

      The chapters on contempt of court (criticism of judges/ the administration
      of justice, libel of a judge) and media coverage of sub judice issues are a
      must-read for every journalist. They offer valuable insights into libel
      proceedings in India and abroad, including the famous Times of London
      reportage on thalidomide (A.G. vs Times Newspapers; 1973.3AER54).

      The coverage of the Press and Parliament, disclosure of sources and the
      copyright laws is equally impressive. Of particular interest to journalists'
      unions is a chapter on labour laws that covers the Working Journalists Act,
      the Equal Remuneration Act 1976 and the MRTU and PULP Act 1971.

      As the dividing line between media ethics and business interests gets
      blurred by each passing day, this book is likely to have a sobering effect
      on the fat cats in the trade. 'Freedom of the Press' subtly draws attention
      to the plight of the countless sloggers languishing in myriad regional
      publications throughout the country. Will they be edged out of the scene by
      marauding media moghuls?

      In the preface, M.J. Pandey, former General Secretary of Bombay Union of
      Journalists, makes a prescient observation, which is more pertinent today
      than ever before: "Internationally, a handful of mammoth private
      organisations have begun to dominate the world's mass media. Together, they
      exert a homogenising power over ideas, culture and commerce that affects
      populations larger than any in history. And their sole motivation? Profits.
      Profits. Profits."

      The more things change, the more they remain the same!

      (For free copies contact fred@...
      Offer open till stock lasts, says Frederick Noronha)

      SPECIAL COLUMN
      --------------
      A tale of not twin cities, but four
      By T. Ramakrishnan
      (t_ramakrishnan@...)

      After a gap of three years, I went to Delhi recently (third week of May).
      For me personally, Delhi occupies an important place as I was a witness to
      certain important events that changed the political course of this country
      drastically like L.K. Advani's Rath Yatra (September-October 1990)and the
      Anti-reservation agitation in September 1990. Of course, the capital city
      always figures foremost when I remember the assassination of Indira Gandhi
      and the subsequent unprecendented violence against the Sikhs.

      Even otherwise, Delhi is full of history and to understand its importance,
      it requires certain efforts on the part of people. Not everyone can grasp
      adequately of the signficance of Delhi.

      At least, two aspects of Delhi of 2003 that I have found are very striking.

      Today, CNG (compressed natural gas) is the fuel of vehicles used for the
      public transportation -- buses, autorickshaws, and taxis. When it was
      introduced about a year ago, chaos prevailed and even there were agitations
      by private operators of buses and autorickshaws. All that is gone. Now, CNG
      is a reality. Given the vehicle population and the volume of traffic in
      Delhi, the main difference that CNG has brought about is the visible
      improvement in reducing air pollution.

      Next, the ongoing work for Delhi Metro Rail. At present, the train services
      operate from Tis Hazari to Shadhra, the congested belt of the "Old Delhi".
      Shadhra is, as far as I know, a massive slum colony. Still, the work is on
      to extend the train network from here to several other pockets of the city.
      One can see giant cranes and earth movers at work in the Connaught Place as
      they are being employed to carry out the digging operation for the proposed
      underground rail system.

      I remember distinctly when urban planners talked, in the late 1980s and the
      early 1990s, about the underground rail system for Delhi, I was one among
      those who were sceptical about it because of the operational difficulties
      that had to be encountered to implement such a scheme. But, in 2003, the
      underground rail system is being built and it will be ready in a matter of
      two-three years.

      The purpose behind citing the CNG and Delhi Metro examples is to point out
      that if the ruling political class is committed to the developmental
      process, it is possible in our country to make significant positive changes.

      (Those with whom I interacted in Delhi were all praise for the Delhi Chief
      Minister, Mrs. Shiela Dixit, who, according to them, was responsible for the
      two "success stories").

      As everyone knows, Chandigarh is a planned city, possibly the only planned
      city in our country. The sheer size of roads and the presence of greenery
      everywhere makes you feel that you are in the midst of a "garden city". More
      importantly, the famous Rock Garden is one that everyone has to observe
      carefully. The Garden, conceived, designed and executed by Nek Chand,(who
      worked as a road inspector in the Highways Department of the Punjab
      Government), is actually made of "waste materials". In other words, the
      materials, which were no longer required for laying roads in Chandigarh at
      the time of the city formation, were used by Nek Chand to raise the Rock
      Garden. It's a classic case of the most creative way of reuse of the
      available resources.

      The question that I would like to raise is: do we all have the sense of
      recycling and reusing "old and waste" materials?

      Shimla, for nearly 90 years, was the "summer capital" of India. Still, it
      has the remnants of the Raj and some of the old buildings, constructed by
      the British, are truly splendid. From the Shimla Square, which itself is
      located on top of a mountain, one gets a panoramic view of the nature around
      the city. But, what is disturbing to me is that this city, particularly the
      busy Mall, actually stinks, despite having a number of clean public toilets.

      Finally, let me come to our city - Chennai. Chennai's history is not as long
      as that of Delhi. Chennai cannot boast of wide and broad roads that are
      available in plenty in Chandigarh. And, Chennai cannot even think of the
      cool climate, for which Shimla is known even in the summer.
      Still, I feel that Chennai can become a better place to live in. It has all
      the capabilities. What is required is that its citizens should resolve to
      bring about qualitative changes to the environment that surrounds them.

      SMALL THINGS THAT MEAN MUCH
      ---------------------------
      Dignity Of Labour
      by A. Thirugnanasambandamoorthy
      (ats@...)

      The job of a peasant has as much dignity as that of a lawyer, John Ruskin
      has said. This only makes clear the obvious that life is inter-dependent.
      The implication is none is indispensable. As such equality becomes the
      unwritten code of life.

      In this context let us take ragging. Those who call the perpetrators of this
      crudest way of knowing their fellow students savages and brutes become just
      that after they serve out the mandatory period of one year through which
      they remain juniors. It is simply a case of the strong subjugating the weak.
      When one is weak the individual cries for justice. When the same person
      becomes strong she/he becomes the oppressor. What makes one the oppressor is
      some strength -- monetary, intellectual and a following -- won or bought. Above
      all it is the secure knowledge that the victim cannot retaliate makes the
      oppressor go on in his/her crude, vile way.

      Take how lesser mortals like maid, flower-seller and so on are treated by
      housewives. The last named forget that they pay the less fortunate in return
      for the service and the goods they receive.

      CREATIVE PULSE
      --------------
      1. All In The Game
      By Deepak Spurgeon Daniel
      (you_r_wonderful2000@...)

      Just don't know where it's going,
      Can't! can't! can't! just control,
      If I had the rope for me to hold,
      If I had the power, to have a say,
      I would make it think, think the way I want.

      Sometimes it's dull, sometimes drowsy,
      Sometimes gay, sometimes in triumph,
      Reasons none, can't figure out,
      What's wrong and where but yet...

      I know, it would stop if
      I had the power, to have a say,
      I would make it think, think the way I want.

      Sometimes it pains, sometimes it hurts,
      Sometimes it kills, sometimes...
      Sad days shadow long, happy ones fall short,
      On neither can I have a say? I can't,
      Just can't carry for long,
      It's dull and drowsy, as I feel
      I find solace in the pen,
      Where the ink gives shape to thoughts,
      I am no God! Am I human?
      An inferior one, can't hold it tight,
      And pull the long to short,
      And short to long, just a blink,
      All are gone, none to enjoy,
      Just carry on, on and on.

      Will it end? One day shall,
      Not long, sometimes...
      It pains, it hurts, don't know why,
      Has been long, a long painful one,
      Just don't know why I carry on,
      I still do, for there's no solace,
      It's life, the human life,
      What can clay do,
      For it neither holds, nor controls,
      Just carry on, on and on,
      For it's all in the game.

      2. Ennum Ezhuthum; Or,
      The Importance Of Literacy
      by Nirmaldasan
      (nirmaldasan@...)

      In Konrai Venthan crafted fine
      Is poetess Avvai's famous line:
      Ennum ezhuthum kannena thagum.

      When up you wake or go to bed
      Just store this saying in your head:
      Ennum ezhuthum kannena thagum.

      July hot or cold December
      Just remember, just remember:
      Ennum ezhuthum kannena thagum.

      En are numbers one two three
      Four five six to infinity:
      Ennum ezhuthum kannena thagum.

      Ezhuthu are letters spread
      From a b c to x y z:
      Ennum ezhuthum kannena thagum.

      Kan are your two little eyes
      That make you see and become wise:
      Ennum ezhuthum kannena thagum.

      Thagum is that neat equation
      Between kan, ezhuthu and en:
      Ennum ezhuthum kannena thagum.

      In Konrai Venthan crafted fine
      Is poetess Avvai's famous line:
      Ennum ezhuthum kannena thagum.

      -- from Rocking Pegasus
      http://www.angelfire.com/nd/nirmaldasan/pegasus.html --

      SITE UPDATE
      -----------
      1. Links to Malcolm Gibson's 'Wonderful World Of Editing' and Chris Atton's
      'Approaching Alternative Media' have been added.

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      **********************NEWSLETTER, JUNE 2003****************************
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