- Though The Hindu’s transparency, commitment, and “altruism” towards society and its readers is not to be taken too seriously, one can’t not deny the fact that The Hindu is probably the only newspaper in India which has an ombudsman. True, the Reader’s Editor does not have the freedom to express freely, or criticise the newspaper and make ‘fair’ and ‘free demands’ on the paper, as -a good, literate, responsible society would expect, and- the paper says it is committed to. But the fact that the institution is there, itself is a good sign.
- N. Ram
A decade with our independent news ombudsmen.
Newspapers continue to play an important role in society and politics. In some respects they play an enhanced and widening role in this digital age, even as they have come under disruptive pressure of varying degrees. Typically, in India as well as in most other countries, daily newspapers have become contested, at times bitterly contested, sites where various extraneous as well as internal factors and interests are at play, often having it out. The rise of social media — its positive, corrective, and value-adding side as well as its trolling, noisy, and truth-distorting side — has increased in no small measure the daily pressure the mainstream press and professional journalists face in the increasingly contested space.
In this situation, protecting and revitalising the core functions, standards, and values of professional journalism has become absolutely vital to democracy, to the public interest, and, of course, to the newspaper industry’s own health. Newspapers perform several roles in relation to their vast and diverse readership, and some of these have declined, faded away, or simply changed over time. But the two central functions of serious, independent journalism have remained constant — the credible-informational and the critical-investigative-adversarial. There are also derivatives of these central functions, notably the agency of the press in public education, serving as a forum for analysis, criticism, disputation, comment, and agenda building, which are all invaluable to any society. Newspapers that perform these functions effectively over the long term establish a reputation for reliability: in other words, a bond of trust forms between the newspaper and its readers and this gets strengthened over time, provided the functions, standards, and values are protected and nourished.
Demand for regulation
There is a new challenge newspapers face in many countries, including India, and this is the increasingly heard political demand for regulation of the ways of an allegedly irresponsible, wayward, and venal press. There is little question that in many cases the demand reflects, or at least draws upon,………