Peruse, ponder, connect, act.
“What a newspaper needs in its news, in its headlines, and on its editorial page is terseness, humor, descriptive power, satire, originality, good literary style, clever condensation and accuracy, accuracy, accuracy.”
Said Joseph Pulitzer the Hungarian born publisher, who endowed the Pulitzer prize in 1917. It is a high honor award for the achievements and excellence in American journalism, letters, drama and music. Every year a recipient is so recommended by the Pulitzer Board to whom the guidelines that Pulitzer spelt out remain sacrosanct. For the awardees the pecuniary benefit may not be much but to their entire community and to all of us who read and hear them, overnight they become icons in their respective fields and we look forward to their future pronunciations with respect and with great expectations.
But then, such persons are far and few especially in the newspaper community. Newspapers are to the body politic what arteries are to the human body, their function being to carry blood and sustenance and repair to every part of the body. Do our newspapers really perform this onerous task? We do observe and agree with Norman Mailer, “Once a newspaper touches a story the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists.” An issue of significance or insignificance occupies so much space in the newspaper spreading over so many days leaving the readers in confusion and indecision. For often ‘Newspapers are unable, seemingly to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization’ (George Bernard Shaw) and some editors who mostly are failed writers ‘ are men who separate the wheat from the chaff, and then print the chaff’ (Adlai E.Stevenson).
‘A good newspaper is a nation talking to itself’ (Norman Mailer), and what do we have today? The most important front pages has full page advertisements splashed on it! In fact news and articles of substance have to be searched and when clubbed together would occupy not more than one side of the page of the entire newspaper! Thomas Jefferson, the founding father and president of United States had then professed that ‘The advertisement is the most truthful part of a newspaper’; how true and apt; commercial considerations have dug up the very seedbed of journalism and news; ‘the journalist exists merely as the publicity agent of big business, a large circulation got by fair means or foul, is a newspaper’s one and only purpose’ (TS Eliot). To get it straight and clear in present day context let us hear what Michael Moore has to say ‘A newspaper is a public trust, and we will suffer as a society without them. It is not the Internet that has killed them. It is their own greed, it is their own stupidity, and it is capitalism that has taken our daily newspapers from us.’ But then who is listening? No one!
I am treading on very big and sensitive toes; to go or write against the newspapers to say the least is like committing journalistic harakiri; even Napoleon had to concede that ‘Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.’ Should or will I stop reading newspapers and follow the example of Thomas Jefferson, ‘I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely happier for it.’ He was the President of United States having an array of advisers and spokesmen who kept him updated; for him reading a newspaper was an irritant! He was often heard saying ‘The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing, but newspapers!’
I enjoy fiction and indulge in writing novels, although at times I get tempted and have been urged to convert to more mundane subjects and issues by my friends; I find it more honest to continue with my genre as I have observed that ‘The best fiction is far more true than any journalism!’ ( William Faulkner).
Early in the morning when I pick up the newspaper ‘I always turn to the sports page first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing, but man’s failures!’(Earl Warren).
But then the reading habit by and large has taken a back seat! Will the newspapers fall prey to antiquity and obsolesce as the valve radios and transistors? May be!