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Sunday, February 13, 2011

From the Bangalore newspaper I admire the most, an idea whose time has come?


The text of the announcement on DNA's front page, February 1:

"FROM TODAY, DNA DOES AWAY

WITH THE EDIT PAGE"

For years many of you have felt that the newspaper edit page has long outlived its usefulness. It's boring, very few read it, and it's a chore to fill. It's more punditry than expert comment. It's become a single-page editorial ghetto; and that makes little sense in this TV/mobile/web age where you're looking for more news validation and analysis.

Thus, DNA has decided to do away with its edit page.

This does not mean DNA will shun analysis: after all, it's part of our title. Instead, DNA will give you more comment, spread across the paper. For instance, today we have articles by experts on corruption and on the China-US presidential meeting. Each will appear on a different news page. Otherwise, they'd appear on two consecutive edit pages. DNA will give you more comment in the days to come; you've already seen it in the Money section, and you will even see it on the Sport pages. And it will all be interesting.

DNA is doing away with the "leaders", the 400-word unsigned editorials. Instead, as and when a news event warrants a stand by DNA, it will appear on page 1.

The letters to the Editor remain. They remain an important interactive forum and will now appear on page 2.

DNA believes the newspaper is a work in progress. Unless it evolves, it will become irrelevant. We are confident you will support our efforts at modernising journalism and staying ahead of the times.

— Aditya Sinha, Editor-in-Chief

***
Has DNA erred in scrapping what many purists might consider the hallmark, even the DNA, of every newspaper? Or is it a sign of the times? With many young people not even bothering to read newspapers, leave alone the Edit Page, doing away with the leader pieces, or editorials, and in-depth "thought articles" may be seen as one (desperate?) way to attract more readers.

To my mind, DNA's move reflects more a paucity of good writers in Indian journalism. Aditya Sinha confesses as much when he writes, "[The Edit Page is] boring, very few read it, and it's a chore to fill." There are very few journalists in India today who can engage, entertain, and enlighten readers in the manner of, say, the New York Times writers. Read the opinion columns by Bob Herbert, Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, and Nicholas D. Kristof, to name just a few of the NYT's distinguished galaxy of writers, and you'll get an idea of what I am talking about.

That is my opinion, though. Sadly, not many people I know share that opinion.

Here are some comments sent to me via email and posted on Facebook in response to my FB status message on the subject:

BALA MURALI KRISHNA (Associate Editor, The New Indian Express): Would be curious to see what non-journos say or how many actually notice or comment on it.

ARCHITA SHASHIKANTH (Commits Class of 2011): I never read the editorial. I do always skim through the headlines and a para on the page but it has never really engaged me. I've read a whole article maybe once or twice. So this suits me just fine. On the other hand, the editorial is something that is always there, something you can just refer to when you need an informed opinion and haven't been following things properly yourself. It's a pity that won't be the case any longer.

SAMARPITA SAMADDAR (Commits Class of 2010):  It makes sense to me. It's better to have DNA's stand on page 1 than just one editorial column, isn't it? :)
(Samarpita Samaddar is the Public Relations Officer of the India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore.)

AYESHA TABASSUM (Commits Class of 2007): Depressing!
(Ayesha Tabassum is a writer with the Bangalore-based ad agency, Why Axis. She was in television news production in Mumbai for three years.)

FAYE D'SOUZA (Commits Class of 2004): I think it makes perfect sense. In fact, for those who have read the "Quick Edit" on Page 1 of Mint, I think that's a perfect way to voice a newspaper's editorial stand. I never read the main editorials on Mint's Edit Page. I read the "Quick Edit" and move on. :) With TV doing every piece of information to death, I think it is important for newspapers to give readers analysis. But I don’t have that kind of time or mind space in the morning any more. Keep it short, relevant to what I'm reading, and easily accessible and it works.
(Faye D'Souza is the assistant editor of personal finance at ET Now in Mumbai. She also anchors the "Investors' Guide" show on the channel.) 

VARUN CHHABRIA (Commits Class of 2012): "DNA believes the newspaper is a work in progress. Unless it evolves, it will become irrelevant." How true. I think it's about time. I prefer opinions and in-depth analyses to be covered in weekly/monthly magazines. 

SUSHMITA CHATTERJEE (Commits Class of 2007)I think it isn't a very good idea because there are many I know (including me) who love reading the Edit Page for the kind of interesting analysis that's given. Now that it will be spread across all the pages, I don't know how great that would be!
(Sushmita Chatterjee is with Accenture Learning in Bangalore. She was a print and television news reporter for three years.)

DEBMALYA DUTTA (Commits Class of 2011): DNA is not such a well-known entity in Kolkata yet. Most of my seniors at The Statesman don't know about it. I discussed the issue with our deputy editor, Ishan Joshi. He made a relevant observation: "The edit page is for those who want something more than just facts, but do not have regular access to news magazines."

As for The Statesman, the editorial has been a defining factor for the newspaper since the days of the late CR Irani's column, "Caveat", which used to be published regularly as the anchor piece on the front page.

So, I think, as of now, Daily News and Analysis holds the monopoly for fiddling with the DNA of the broadsheet format. ;-P
(Debmalya Dutta is a sub-editor with The Statesman in Kolkata.)

SHAGORIKA EASWAR (Editor, Desi News and CanadaBound Immigrant, Toronto, Canada): I guess as people who run the business they know what they are doing, but the Edit Page is more that just a space in a newspaper that can be put to better use! It defines the paper and often contains some of the best writing in the paper. While the rest of the newspaper provides the news, this space gives you opinions, it is the personality of the paper. This just makes me sad. And as someone who reads DNA online everyday, [my husband and magazine publisher] Easwar, I'm sure, will agree. 

PATRICK MICHAEL (Executive Editor, Khaleej Times, Dubai): From this neck of the woods, I couldn't agree more.

The Op-Ed pages have become a think piece of one man/woman based on their perception of events in relation to their personal/country's stand. Does Henry Kissinger or Philip Knightley or Kuldip Nayar, Asif Zardari (yes, even he!) know any better than the educated man on the street who can decipher for himself what's going on? I think not. Do they shed any new light on events? Perhaps. But then don't all of them come with a bias? Kuldip was an editor and so was MJ Akbar. Indian editors often took sides, toed the management line when needed, heeded to the government in power because their masters wanted them to, ''spiked'' stories, lobbied, adopted a particular line of thinking, and seldom wavered from it and few, if any, saw a story right through its logical conclusion. Some did. I won't deny that and to them I raise my hat. Vinod Mehra is one of them, Busybee [Behram Contractor] another.

So what are they doing on the Op-Ed pages?

Good for DNA. Left to me, a full page of letters from readers makes more sense in this day and age of convergence journalism. Anything that actively encourages and engages people in debates is better than a Hillary Clinton column on MidEast affairs given the US somersaults depending on where their interests lie! (Egypt, for example.)

I was brought up on Op-Ed pages. It was my daily diet. But the years have taught me that one's man's view is another man's counter-view. I love reading the likes of Tom Friedman but not everyone is a Tom. You still have fuddy-duddies lecturing and looking down on youth with that ''I know better'' attitude.

Analysis of any kind should be on the news pages and should be current, not a week old!

EDIT PAGE, OP-ED:  RIP.

The masthead announcement on Page 1 of DNA, February 17. 

2 comments:

  1. considering the Editorial was supposed to be the newspapers's stand on issues.... i guess doing away with it could also mean the newspaper getting more objective. Just another way of looking at it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I generally read the editorial to get background information that could be lacking in a news story. Editorials put the issue in context and I think doing away with them would mean taking away a part of the newspaper’s personality.

    ReplyDelete

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