Tuesday, 20 April, 2010

Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one. – A J Leibling

As I recall from a media debate in New Delhi a few years ago, Vinod Mehta, the editor of Outlook said, “Newspaper owners often have three ambitions: fame, power and wealth. However it is almost impossible for them to achieve all three – they must choose, and in my estimation at most they may achieve two out of these three ambitions.”

There is righteousness and there is self-righteousness in every newspaper industry. While in much of the world the emperor is now naked, in the world’s largest democracy with the second-largest daily circulation in the world, we still seem to be clinging to our fig leaves. The question is how long can we owner-publisher-editors survive? If we are to grow, to communicate to a new generation, and to write and create new things, surely we need new people, the best people for the job – professionals who are passionate and engaged in the concerns of the day. Why should we expect the new generation of writers or editors to only be concerned about our own passions? And do we not need to grow fast enough to give an opportunity to those in the family who wish to grow the business? Why will they join the business if we do not grow fast enough to use their talent and their hard won qualifications? Is the Columbia School of Journalism merely a finishing school for the sons and daughters of the Indian newspaper owners or a place to train our best young journalists?

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