Reflections of readers

A gathering of journalists, academics and the public at “Fourth Pillar: India Journalism Week” turned out to be another open house. This was an initiative by Academe India and the University of Chicago Center in Delhi to examine the role of journalism in democracies. Along with Pamela Philipose, Public Editor of The Wire, and C. Rammanohar Reddy, Readers’ Editor of Scroll till recently, I was asked to reflect on this crucial institution. Questions were posed about the growing trust deficit in the media, the differences between various media houses, and the plurality of views in the public sphere, among other things. While the participating news ombudsmen had different perceptions on the role of the Readers’ Editor, there seemed to be some consensus. One, we agreed that a good public editor is one who will take your criticism and fairly examine whether it is correct or not. And two, we agreed on the importance of accommodating questions from social media, which is a new and growing trend. Having an internal critic is not only important to enhance the quality of journalism and hold journalists accountable for their reportage, but also to have a constant dialogue with the readers. I must confess that personal interactions often work better for me than a virtual exchange of ideas. Some suggestions During the lunch break on December 16, we heard that Ranil Wickremesinghe had been reinstated as Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister. One of the participants referred to some of my columns such as “The RE is an inversion of the Rashomon effect” (November 12), “Reporting is not parroting” (November 5), “Discussing an editorial” (December 3) and “The numbers don’t add up” (July 9) and said that they stood testimony to the effectiveness of the Readers’ Editor’s office. “Your criticism of the critics of the newspaper in the case of reporting and editorialising on the developments in Sri Lanka was vindicated by the subsequent Supreme Court ruling in the country. Your disagreement with the newspaper with reference to official numbers was not restricted to the single column on the editorial on GDP back series but was a continuum of your reading on metadata over a period of five years. I think the RE should do a half-yearly report card on issues where later developments either vindicated the RE’s stance or proved his contentions wrong,” he said.

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