Of the liver and the watcher

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 05 Oct 2017 11:47:14




Vijay Phanshikar,

‘It is something in which we must train our youngsters’, he would insist. And unfailingly, editors spurned. They refused to give even a scant thought to a possibility that journalism was a craft that needed training to be mastered. From the high perch of newsrooms, editors felt a sense of pride that posited them in a feeling that they knew everything that anybody could know, and so needed no training.

Newsroom has been really one such place where everybody is perched high on pride’s shoulder. Everybody there thinks habitually that he is capable of running the world, or at least running the country, or at the least running the city if not anything more. Everybody there also tends to think that he can advise even the Prime Minister on how to administer the nation or a neuro-surgeon on how to operate on a brain tumour. Lesser mortals like Sachin Tendulkar or Tiger Woods or Amitabh Bachchan or Lata Mangeshkar often benefit from valuable advice of the folks in newsrooms the world over!

So, fifty-plus years ago, visiting a newsroom almost meant meeting all the iconic advisors of the global community. With thumping heart, therefore, a teenage boy stepped into a newsroom in a city newspaper looking for a possible opening -- as a Reporter and photographer. Opening he did get, and thus began a journey that has not ceased as yet. In the process, the newsroom became a second -- nay, almost first (and may be only) -- home, offering the terrific opportunity to take an authentic look at the world as the Earth revolved around itself and days changed into nights and months into years and years into certain timelessness with no end to the search of N E W S (NorthEastWestSouth)!

Wherever does one go on the Footloose tours around town, the great loose-footer, therefore, returns to the newsroom to finish the job into neat pieces that have everything, from information to opinion. And from that safe perch, one then looks at the world, and tells the world how it looks.

Of course, pride still persists in many places, but time that has gone by has also taught one tough lesson -- that those who pride unnecessarily are bloody fools, that they have no capacity to advice anybody, not even an ant, so as to change the way of doing things, they are at best
interpreters of maladies and tragedies of the world and chroniclers of the vast time-machine with three hands of past, present and future.

Once such a realisation dawns, the journalist becomes a sober person, and learns to preserve self from the vagaries of uncalled for pride and unmitigated stupidity of thinking that he -- or she -- is a Know-All.

The newsroom changes its tone and tenor at this point. It becomes a sober place whose citizens realise that their actual pride is in actually giving up pride, and mingling in life’s process like water does with colours, assuming the shade, acquiring the hue -- of the locus.

In the past fifty-plus years, I have often homed in on the newsrooms after every foray into a so-called dirty world, reporting death and birth and grime and glamour and crime and punishment and politics and potatoes and culture and agriculture and nudity and stupidity...! After so much of experience in actual operations of the newsroom and subsequently heading one for nearly forty years, I have come to believe that I am the safest and the happiest when I am ensconced there.

The days of Joseph Pulitzer are long gone when he met with stiff resistance to the idea of training the journalist. Eventually, he did succeed, and also founded a great newspaper -- St Louis Post Despatch -- where he collected a team of men and women with “trained intelligence” so that they could run the paper efficiently, collecting news, presenting it to the people chronicling the world’s rotations around itself ...!

My experience with the newsrooms in Nagpur has been glorious, to say the least. These places may not boast of the so-called polish of the metropolises or the glamour of the megapolises or the clamour of other places, but they certainly are places where a certain element of professionalism makes its presence felt. The newsroom, like that of The Hitavada, may not have superstars to boast of all right, but they do produce credible newspapers whose writ runs on popular mind like little else can enjoy. (Eventually, The Hitavada newsroom was established in the same year as that of departure of Joseph Pulitzer).

Of course, the standard newsroom fifty, forty, thirty, twenty years ago was a different place. It was crowded. It was noisy. It was almost chaotic where everybody seemed to talk to everybody else at the same time. Today, things have changed and a zone of uncalled for comfort has come to stay, making the place less crowded, less noisy, perhaps though equally chaotic. Despite this transition -- from technology to psychology -- the newsroom still remains a place that has a romantic aurora which no outsider can miss. Of course, those who miss that are often the insiders whose proximity and familiarity have bred certain contempt for the place.

Nevertheless, the newsroom, at least for me, is a place whose feel I can never get away from. Whichever detour I may take on my Footloose missions, I return to my safe perch that gives me a good look at the world and its shenanigans and machinations.

Of course, I am always the ringside watcher and chronicler. And though I am very much a part of the very world in which the whole world lives, I am still a little outsider -- for the sake of my profession.

Thus, I live two lives -- one of the liver of the same world, and other of the watcher of its activity. n