Sunday, 28 April 2013

No News Is Good News

I started reading newspapers when I was in the High School. We formed a Students’ Association, collected a small amount from each student every month and with that money, subscribed to the leading newspaper of the State and to a few children’s magazines. 

My reading English papers started when I joined the College. I was staying in the hostel. The papers came in the morning and were kept in the Hostel Common Room. Morning was the time for study and so I used to read the papers after returning from the Classes in the afternoons. By that time, the sheets would have been separated and would be lying on different spots and different tables. So my first task would be look for my favourite English paper, The Statesman, collect its different sheets from different tables, arrange them neatly, straiten the crumples and then proceed reading them. Since studies were to be resumed in the evening, I got limited time to read the papers. But the practice of arranging the sheets became a habit and has stayed with me.

Now we get 4 newspapers at home. I have chosen these not only for their news-presentation but for their features as well. My early mornings are spent in the garden. So, by the time I get to the papers, the wife would have grabbed 3 of them, except the financial paper (Although at home, her position is akin to that of the Expenditure Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Govt. of India, she shuns the financial paper.), read them hurriedly before going to the kitchen for preparing the breakfast. So when my turn comes, my first task becomes to go back to the early habit and arrange each paper neatly. I don’t feel comfortable unless the paper is more or less in the same condition when the hawker delivers them.

The reading goes on intermittently the whole day and sometimes, spills over to the evening and even sometimes to the next or the subsequent day. For me, a newspaper becomes old only after I have read it .

The front pages say what is new and the editorial page containing the editorials, the lead article and the letters to the editor say what the news means. Yes, some letters are really enlightening. Among the features I like reading, are the Middles and the Sunday Supplements. The third editorials, by the editorial staff and by other contributors, are mostly in lighter vain and make excellent reading.

My habit of reading papers in detail became intensified soon after I finished my Post-Graduate studies and started preparing for various Competitive Examinations. At that time I was subscribing to 2 newspapers, one vernacular and the other, English. Since I had more or less ample time, I used to read the papers, particularly the English one, in detail, from the masthead at the top of the first page to the name of the editor at the bottom of the last page, of course excluding the advertisements other than those relating to employment. I was doing this more for polishing my knowledge of the English language and improving my vocabulary. When I came across new words, sometimes I used to consult a dictionary and at other times I could get the meaning from the context. However, I invariably used to consult a dictionary when using a new word, to make sure that I was using it correctly. This habit also has stayed with me.

Of course, now I do not read every bit of the news. Every news is not useful. A glance at the headline tells one whether to read the details that follow. Pocket cartoons by the late R K Laxman published in The Times of India were great treats. So were the cartoons of the late Mario Miranda in The Economic Times. The comic strips in The Times of India, particularly the travels of Archie, Veronica, Betty & Co. make great viewing. And who can resist the temptation of going through the antics of the darling ‘Denis, The Menace’?  Also, I always look for the cartoons under ‘Blinkers Off’ by Salaam in The Economic Times.  Amul ads occasionally reproduced in The Economic Times in the form of pocket cartoons ( )are witty commentaries on contemporary happenings. I view these ads daily in the internet. 

Newspapers and magazines serve me well in utilizing my time. Whenever I go somewhere (particularly accompanying the wife when she goes for buying sarees) I carry with me my unread newspaper. Whenever I have to wait, I utilize this time by reading my newspaper or magazine. Even when I visit a hair-cutting saloon or a doctor, I carry my unread newspaper and read it instead of going through the reading material provided there for ‘time-pass’ which are really ‘time-kill’.

Press reporters are advised to report only what is unusual. Elaborating on this, one Editor gave an example to a young reporter: 'When a dog bites a man, it is not news; however, when a man bites a dog, it is news'. Reporters are also advised to be brief in their reports, so that maximum news is covered in the available space of a newspaper. Taking this to heart, one Correspondent filed a report:  ‘A man opened the tank of his bike to see if there was enough petrol. It was dark. He lit his cigarette-lighter. Age 26 years.'  

A retired person is typically pictured as reclining in a chair, face hidden behind an open newspaper and a bald pate prominently in view. I read my newspapers, sitting in my comfortable rocking chair. Luckily, my top has still a good crop of dark hair, although not as dense as it was in yesteryears.


To understand the whole thing, we are advised to read between the lines of reports. And sometimes it is fun joining the lines of newspapers. Some headlines read as ‘House-wife Murdered’ and the next line, in smaller prints, would be ‘By Our Staff Reporter’ or ‘By Our Correspondent’. Try joining the two lines! Or take another example. One headline screams, ‘One Kg Heroin Powder Seized’ and the following line in smaller print reads, ‘From Our Correspondent’. Poor correspondent! Luckily, I have not come across a headline like, 'School-girl kidnapped and raped' followed by 'By Our.....'   


Ignoramus wants to know why the word ‘news’ is singular number and not plural.