The view from the editor’s table
In 1981, the founder of CNN, Ted Turner, predicted that newspapers in print would be “gone in 10 years”. The publisher of a little-known American newspaper, Yakima Herald-Republic , Jim Barnhill, was so incensed that he promised to remind Turner of his words in 1991 in print, so that their “readers could have a good laugh”. Thankfully for readers everywhere, newspapers in print still survive due to the passion of editors and publishers who see a purpose that has not been washed away by the onslaught of live television and online news. That passion is the subject of many interesting books.
Alan Rusbridger, former Editor of The Guardian, has a crackling account of the years in Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now . In recent years, The Guardian has given the world path-breaking investigations including WikiLeaks, the Snowden revelations, the Panama Papers, and the phone-hacking scandal where The Guardian exposed the practices of the Murdoch-owned News of The World . Every journalism student is encouraged to read former Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee’s A Good Life , especially the parts on the Watergate scandal, but equally, if not more, important are the memoirs of his publisher, Katharine Graham, Personal History . The former editor of The Globe and Mail , John Stackhouse, has some very insightful experiences in Mass Disruption: Thirty Years on the Front Lines of a Media Revolution.
In India, there are few such memoirs by editors. Although former editors like M.J. Akbar (Byline ) and Vinod Mehta ( Editor Unplugged and Lucknow Boy ) have written anecdotal accounts, and Kuldip Nayar has written an autobiography,Between the Lines , most only tell you about their lives and times, rather than the newspapers they brought out. The biography ofThe Pioneer’ s Editor, Surendra Nath Ghosh, by his son Shankar Ghosh, Scent of a Story: A Newspaperman’s Journey, tracks the news in India from the 1920s to the 1980s.Memoirs of a News Editor: 30 years with The Hindu by Rangaswami Parthasarathy is a collector’s item on the workings of this paper from 1950 to 1980. To begin at the beginning, one must read Andrew Otis’s Hickey’s Bengal Gazette: The Untold Story of India’s First Newspaper , about a newspaper that exposed corruption in the East India Company and fraud in the church, and paid for it in court cases and debt, highlighting the courage it takes to bring out the news even today.