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Boredom and Unprofessionalism

Boredom and Unprofessionalism Nireekshak WHEN Parliament is in session, newspapers are rarely short on copy. In fact, any groping for news during a parliamentary session is a sure sign of dullness in Delhi. When this happens during a budget session, as now, the boredom of the reporters comes through in print. Apart from the budget itself and, of course, Bangla Desh, Parliament seems not to have elicited much exciting news copy. One consequence has been that peripheral issues, that otherwise might not have obtained top display, have hit the headlines. The merger talks between the PSP and the SSP is a case in point. It has been made to look like a big thing though the hard news content of the stories failed to merit the bold headline types. However, some editorial comments helped to place the reports in their proper perspective.

Brave New Words

Brave New Words Nireekshak NO discussion of the problems of the Press ever arts very far without a reference to the Press Commission. This is not surprising since the Commission's was the first, find till now also the only, attempt to study the problems of the Press in depth. Besides, some of the Commission's recommendations are yet to be implementedl In the Rajya Sabha, early this month, reference was made to one or two of the recommendations that await implementation; the Government's answer was that the issues concerned

If Wishes Were Budgets...

If Wishes Were Budgets... Nireekshak DOES no one have a good word for the Union Budget? It would seem not; certainly, such words of appreciation as have been thrown in the direction of the Finance Minister have been drowned in the chorus of protests. Even National Herald, which is unmistakably acquiring, if it has not already done so, all the credentials of an official mouthpiece of the Government, had to concede that it was "a difficult budget".

Appointments and Dismissals

Appointments and Dismissals Nireekshak "THE purpose of the present expansion or reconstruction of the Central Cabinet", National Herald explained in a press note-like editorial, "is primarily to add to its strength, not only in numbers, while maintaining its sense of purpose and spirit of harmony". In case this was unlikely to have carried conviction with disgruntled MPs still fretting over their exclusion from the expanded Council of Ministers, the paper went on to add how difficult it was to manage the skills of such a vast army of MPs as there now was on the Government side. Further, "it is not the function of Parliament to govern". However, not to worry, for the Government still needed the "intellectual and moral resources" of Congress MPs "to carry out the pledges which were made to the people". And they could rest assured "there will be no lack of opportunities and no lack of recognition". Meanwhile, admonished the paper, let not Ministers "think that if they are discarded they could become governors." Editorials of this kind, written in the manner of an official handout explaining government's actions to its supporters and inviting their continued support in return for certain rewards at the end of the road, are something new in modern Indian journalism. Is the Herald going to pioneer the concept of the 'Government Press' in this country?

Good Neighbourliness

Good Neighbourliness Nireekshak FOR more than a month now, no news story other than the battle for Bangla Desh has figured in front-page lead headlines. It must be a record in consistency. No wonder one of the slogans raised by a group of Pakistani demonstrators before the Indian High Commission in London was: "Down with the Indian Press!". However, while the news focus continued to be on events concerning Bangla Desh and more recently on the diplomatic rumpus caused by the defection of the Pakistani Deputy High Commissioner in Calcutta, other developments have received prominent editorial attention. One of these is the so-called "Gunva- rist" uprising in Ceylon.

Liberating the Press

Liberating the Press Nireekshak HOW many times have we not heard all this before? The Press is 'divorced from the people'; the Press is an urban monster; it is a 'jute press', etc, etc. While repeating all these familiar charges the other day, the new Minister of State for Information, Nandini Satpathy, added one or two highly 'professional' observations of her own. Journalism was languishing under outmoded concepts and 'the tyranny of old journalistic techniques', she said. One of the concepts that needed to be 'liberated' was the concept of objectivity which 'elevated the influence of fools to that of wise men, the ignorant to the level of the learned, the evil to the level of the good'. And how does one go about it? "Journalism", the Minister urged, "must be freed from the so-called scoops, from deadlines and from startling narrative forms." Well, for anyone so obviously skating on very thin ice, that is a very tall order indeed to give. Whatever the official view of the nature of good and evil may be, and however bureaucracy may determine who may be a fool or who a wise man (the Minister's speech-writer has provided no clue to official thinking), it is probably best to leave fools and wise men to their own various devices. About journalistic techniques, no newspaperman with a nose for news can, or should, be persuaded against trying to be first with the news

Missing Melodrama

Missing Melodrama Nireekshak SINCE the split in the Indian National Congress, the Press has followed every move of the two divided AICC's with extraordinary attention. AlCC meetings had become gatherings of the clan in every sense of the term, and the Press discovered to its delight that political high jinks, dramas and melodramas of a kind were never far away from an AICG camp. It is no reflection on the continued watchfulness of the Press, or even on the histrionic abilities of AICC members, but this phase of extra-sensitive interest in recent AICC meetings is probably now coming to an end. The general election seems to have seen to that, whatever other issues it may or may not have settled. No doubt the first post-election meeting of the AICC(R) held some special interest for the Press, but the feverish enthusiasm and eager anticipation of earlier days are clearly things of the past. It could not have been otherwise. As the election results had already been analysed, assessed and evaluated by everyone before the AICC(R) met to take stock, interest lay mainly in the prognostications for the future.

A Time for Passion

(i) Is HSL efficiently run? (ii) Was investment, in HSL 'justified'? (iii) Should we continue to invest in new steel plants? The answer to the first question will depend on how efficiently HSL uses material inputs like coke and iron-ore, how many skilled and unskilled labourers it has per unit of output, whether its inventories are unnecessarily high, whether its productive capacity is fully utilised or not and so on. Assuming that the marginal social value of steel is never less than the marginal variable cost of producing it, HSL can be said to be working efficiently if it functions at full capacity and minimum variable cost with inputs valued at appropriate shadow prices. This is true even if market prices are such that HSL makes losses. The historical cost of HSL's capital equipment is irrelevant to this judgment since this capital equipment cannot l>e used for anything else. Efficiency has to be judged with respect to things which we can choose.

The Result

The Result Nireekshak THOSE that have eyes see not, those that have ears hear not. . . This is what comes to mind on reading the editorial reactions of most of the national newspapers to Indira Gandhi's unexpectedly handsome triumph. Without bothering to base their surmises on any palpable evidence, the editorial writers thought fit to foist their newspapers, proclivities on to the electorate. Times of India pontificated, "The Indian people have voted for change as well as stability". On the same page in his column 'The National Scene' Sham Lai got quite carried away by the Congress(R) victory and saw it as "no mere wind of change" but a "hurricane". He ended the first part of the article with the thoughtful thought that "everything in the end will depend on what use she makes of her new mandate and new opportunity".

The Din of Abroad

The Din of Abroad Nireekshak PREOCCUPIED though the Press has been with the election, it has taken good care to keep its window on the world open. Whether the war of nerves in West Asia excited as much interest among readers as "Cho" Ramaswamy's brush with the Tamil Nadu Government may be debatable, but Anwar Sadat and Golda Meir shared the headlines almost impartially with the editor of Tughlak. The British Government's decision to sell helicopters to South Africa

Not Entirely without Gains

Not Entirely without Gains Nireekshak ON February 25, the Times of India featured on its front page the following tell-tale headlines: "Five Naxalites Killed Inside Jail", declared the lead headline; "Seven Killed as Police Open Fire in Kota", screamed the second lead headline; and the third lead carried the three-column headline, "Platoon at Every Police Station". The Hindustan Times of the same day, while printing all the three main stories cited above on its front page, carried some additional information, also on the front page. "Violence Claims Two More Lives", said one report, while another had the heading "Minister Hit by Stones". The pattern was more or less the same in every other newspaper. A foreigner visiting India and untutored in the ways of Indian democracy might well have wondered what it was that India was fighting: an election or a war?

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