Death of an Emotion!

Yesterday was one of those days. That too a Saturday. I had not seen or touched the day’s newspaper till about 5.00 PM in the evening! It doesn’t happen this way. Usually, the newspaper is dissected in the early hours in the morning and by evening it is consigned to a heap meant for raddiwala. The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a lot of changes in our lives and lifestyles. Some temporary and some I reckon would be permanent. Our connect with the newspaper would probably fall in the latter category.

When a complete lock down was announced in March, among other things, the daily newspaper became a casualty. Media houses had to suspend printing of the newspaper and so there was no door to door distribution. For few days, there was an intense sense of withdrawal symptoms in the morning without getting to read the newspaper. And why not? After all, the daily newspaper has been a fellow traveller in our lives all these years.

When I was growing up in Trichy (Tamil Nadu), The Hindu newspaper was part of our lives. Initially for reading in detail mostly the sports column in the last page. Descriptive analysis of Rajan Bala about the previous day “Test Cricket” or Nirmal Shekhar’s take on the Tennis match the previous day were part of my daily routine. When I was over ten years, the attention started going to other pages as well to cover politics, arts, films etc. Reading of The Hindu served many purposes. Apart from helping us to keep up to date on the news and happenings of the day, it helped to polish our English language skills immensely.

When I moved to Bombay later for further studies, I had to shift from The Hindu to The Times Of India as Hindu was not available in the mornings. It was not printed in Bombay those days and the day’s edition used to come by the evening flight and was available for sale only after 3.00 PM that too in select outlets in select suburbs like Matunga. Those who have read The Hindu for long would admit that adjusting to any other newspaper was so difficult then.

Eventually that adjustment happened. So much so, reading any other newspaper then became difficult. It was the 90’s and India was witnessing the first waves of consumer boom. The manifestation of this was being witnessed in the media whether it was Television or the Newspaper.  A medium like The Times of India joined the party early, while it took a while for others and eventually almost every newspaper started emulating the Times!  I don’t want to make this piece as a commentary or comparison between different newspapers. But enough to say the newspaper would change but reading the newspaper in the morning as a habit continued to thrive all along.

This trend continued through the next two decades of the internet boom. The obituary of the newspaper has been in the works for a long time now. Particularly with the advent of the mobile phones, TABs and more importantly cheap connectivity. I don’t want to comment on other countries where the dynamics are different. But in India, even till last year, the print media readership overall grew by 4.4% over the previous year.

In spite of the possibility to read newspapers online, somehow most of us were still hooked on to reading the physical newspaper that too first thing in the morning every day. We might have caught up with the main news the previous day itself on TV and would have seen some of the headlines on social media then and there. But still, reading the newspaper was a morning fix. For many, particularly of the previous generations, newspaper in the morning with the coffee or tea had even a romantic ring to it. And for few, the daily chore of emptying their bowels would not happen without the newspaper in hand. And there are those who get depressed in the morning after a national holiday when the newspaper doesn’t make the morning appearance at the doorstep.

The pandemic though has changed everything. There was no newspaper at all till June. By then, we had survived the initial withdrawal symptoms and learnt to manage without the morning physical newspaper. After the initial few weeks, many of the media houses smartly started sending the links for their E-papers. We started reading the same though grudgingly. Then they allowed the physical printing and distribution of newspapers around July, even then there were very few takers. Considering the nature of the Corona Virus spread, newspapers were seen as a major threat. And finally around September when we all started reconciling to a co-existent life with Corona, we allowed newspapers to be distributed as before. But then somethings have changed at least for me.

At home, I don’t rush to the door in the morning to pick up the newspaper when the bell goes. The newspaper remains at the door for a long time till one of us remembers to pick it up.  Even after that, it is left in a corner untouched for some time. And after few hours during breaks, I glance through it very quickly.

Yesterday was one of those days when I didn’t look at the paper till evening! Today is a Sunday and as I type this piece, I have still not read today’s newspaper. What a climb down from a time when during weekends we used to call for an additional newspaper like The Indian Express in addition to the regular newspaper and spend more than an hour poring over from top to bottom. Post Covid, things may be limping back to normal. Newspaper business may not be dead yet. But I can vouch that the newspaper emotion is dead.  Do you agree?

11 thoughts on “Death of an Emotion!

  1. PS Kannan says:

    Well written RSA…You have spoken for the lakhs of newspaper buffs..Totally identify with the sentiments expressed of the growing up days..Though I wasnt much of a cricket buff…Yes..After a weeks of difficulty in adjusting to life without the Newsprint…and struggling to get comfy with the e-edition on the desktop..Didnt realise how quickly i”ve outgrown the need for ‘feeling’ the physical form of the daily News!..And surprise of surprises..outgrowing the ‘Fix’ of the Sunday TOI paper with all its supplements…(at times i feel liberated..as over the last few years ..i felt ToI was beginning to get very pathetic in content and coverage..referring to Bengaluru, Chennai & Nashik editions!!)An enjoyable article..U nailed it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mukund S says:

    Very well written Anand. I agree the urge to rush to the door in the morning to pick the newspaper has gone.
    2 things contributed, according to me
    – Availability of news through other media n that too instantly. E.g the key news items on the next morning newspaper would have appeared on the previous day itself via the digital medium
    – Credibility of the newspaper. Now a days it’s so poor. Even the newspapers of the caliber of *TheHindu* is blatantly one sided. There is no harm in taking a position in the editorials or opinion pages, but it is atrocious to do so in reporting

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mukund. You have made very very valid points. My point was that even before the pandemic, the scenario as you have mentioned existed. But the physical newspaper was being read. But somehow after the Covid induced break, the physical newspaper has lost its charm! And I was wondering if this was happening to others as well!

      Like

  3. Ramachandran Narayanaswamy says:

    Interesting points.

    Actually, in our home we have gone the other way. We now get 2 newspapers instead of 1.

    The only TV news that we watch is 9 headlines at 9 (not that I am a Sardesai fan, but we found that those capsules are reasonably neutral). And as a matter of principle (and some inside knowledge) I stay away from ‘news’ pushed on the phone. Because they start pushing only ‘similar’ news thereby slowly nudging me to one side of the spectrum.

    For obvious reasons, Hindu cannot be stopped. But as Mukund said, they are so blatantly one sided. So, Deccan Herald it is (no TOIlet papers😂)

    The fact that the newsprint has limited space and hence hopefully focus on the right issues with the right intensity. Rather than the 24/7 breaking news cycles.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rishya Shringa says:

    Sir, your blog brings to words , the thinning cord between newspapers and the readers. That cord held the readers in once own visualization of the far away 4 person, place, incident about which one is reading. Those times you talk about Rajan Bala,Test matches, Sports-news etc. seem to be 30 or 40 years back.

    Those days the source of information were referenced as PTI Reuters etc. The printed news were much valued by readers, elite or other alike.The newspapers reported the developements, the verbatim version of news you can read in different publications.There was not much on analysis part. The readers have to do that.

    The change came step by step here.The investors of the daily/journal entered into day to day functioning,the result is catastrophe for journalism.

    Affliation to some group, accomodative to business houses , the time(s)line selling cost of newspapers brought down and literal dual among transport/distribution persons, paid news – parliamentary outcry, all are only in some corner of people memory, because of the flooding of information, data in TBs.

    The social media, cable TV cited are not the only reasons for declining interest in newspapers. The jounalism is being done as a business than with a professionalism.

    The on-line news you read in full and you see the time stamps of last published and updated etc. The same reporter, we may not read again.Disclaimer by the publisher in every article tells on sanctity of the narration. News topic priority are dynamic. Content need not be so correct in online news.

    Years back read an article that ,Urdu newspaper font-writers were important for the publisher (what they write gets photo-processed etc and printed). Computers have come now. The font writers have to give way.

    Vernacular papers try to retain readers by repeating the nostalgia topics and supplements. The tag line for a Tamil daily is ‘today’s news is tomorrow’s history ‘. The newspaper history is written by you.

    Stage-Drama , Music, Photography many crafts are facing the wrath of TeraByte technology.

    Knowledge and skills plenty, available easily in online platforms. The catch is you conprimise your private choices.

    The eco friendly e-jounal , we have to accept and of course subscribe to benefit from quality journalism.
    The print journal retains importance for research publications in academia. Not pun , but people go immediately to internet for hot-topics, never wait for next day newspaper. For decades public exam results were only seen in newspapers.

    The emotion part is due to the decline in mindfulness for one and all, the limited list of daily chores one used to have those days when everything was more perfect than now.

    Presently everybody wants to do many different things , the social media, online websites are easily accessible and everybody joins the race lest be a dino.

    Thought provoking article Sir, please write often.

    Like

  5. Rishya Shringa says:

    Sir, your blog brings to words , the thinning cord between newspapers and the readers. That cord held the readers in once own visualization of the far away 4 person, place, incident about which one is reading. Those times you talk about Rajan Bala,Test matches, Sports-news etc. seem to be 30 or 40 years back.

    Those days the source of information were referenced as PTI Reuters etc. The printed news were much valued by readers, elite or other alike.The newspapers reported the developements, the verbatim version of news you can read in different publications.There was not much on analysis part. The readers have to do that.

    The change came step by step here.The investors of the daily/journal entered into day to day functioning,the result is catastrophe for journalism.

    Affliation to some group, accomodative to business houses , the time(s)line selling cost of newspapers brought down and literal dual among transport/distribution persons, paid news – parliamentary outcry, all are only in some corner of people memory, because of the flooding of information, data in TBs.

    The social media, cable TV cited are not the only reasons for declining interest in newspapers. The jounalism is being done as a business than with a professionalism.

    The on-line news you read in full and you see the time stamps of last published and updated etc. The same reporter, we may not read again.Disclaimer by the publisher in every article tells on sanctity of the narration. News topic priority are dynamic. Content need not be so correct in online news.

    Years back read an article that ,Urdu newspaper font-writers were important for the publisher (what they write gets photo-processed etc and printed). Computers have come now. The font writers have to give way.

    Vernacular papers try to retain readers by repeating the nostalgia topics and supplements. The tag line for a Tamil daily is ‘today’s news is tomorrow’s history ‘. The newspaper history is written by you.

    Stage-Drama , Music, Photography many crafts are facing the wrath of TeraByte technology.

    Knowledge and skills plenty, available easily in online platforms. The catch is you conprimise your private choices.

    The eco friendly e-jounal , we have to accept and of course subscribe to benefit from quality journalism.
    The print journal retains importance for research publications in academia. Not pun , but people go immediately to internet for hot-topics, never wait for next day newspaper. For decades public exam results were only seen in newspapers.

    The emotion part is due to the decline in mindfulness for one and all, the limited list of daily chores one used to have those days when everything was more perfect than now.

    Presently everybody wants to do many different things , the social media, online websites are easily accessible and everybody joins the race lest be a dino. Print newspaper is becoming an emotion.

    Thought provoking article Sir, please write often.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It was nostalgic. However, even during the COVID, Hindu was made available in our vicinity in Pondicherry.
    Though something irrelevant to the post, I was surprised to see that there was no month without a blogpost since 2012 till date in this blog, something I seldom follow, but keeping paying and renewing my domain name.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s