18 December 2005

Why I changed my newspaper

Ok Old Goa has to be the next post then. Today I made a deep impact conclusive decision. I changed my long time newspaper Times Of India to an absolutely new broadsheet 'DNA'. I've been reading Times Of India as long as I can remember - may be last 17 years with a gap here and there. There was a time when Times was published from very few places and Bhubaneswar was not one of them. So we used to get our paper a day late (from Delhi) and that too the 'National' edition - without any frills. But my parents were that kind who would rather read the 'Times' a day late than read any other newpaper. It was the age long before Sunday supplements arrived but Times carried two sections extra of, which particular interest was Section II - covering, literature, arts and entertainment in staid black and white esoteric articles rather than glossy colourful pages. The people whose articles I can remember are Dom Moraes, Jug Suraiya, Swaminathan Aiyar, Bachi Karkaria, Dileep Padgaonkar and ofcourse the guy who wrote MindSport. Gradually changes began occuring initially for the better - the sunday special report, Open Space (I was a proud boy the day my question got published in it!) and some good columnists - Rajdeep Sardesai, and that day too arrived when TOI began publshing from Bhubaneswar. But then something else also started happening, indiatimes and other things got brazenly advertised in the text of the newspaper. For some time the 'middle' and the enormously interesting 'third editorial' vanished. (They have now reappeared) The sunday supplement deteriorated into a crass glossy section featuring people whom I had no interest in. The book reviews, music and arts section all but vanished(They are making a comeback now). There were times when the newspaper from bhubaneswar featured only tender notices on the international page! But still TOI was the most readable of all the newspapers. Then something has happened over the last few months which have finally made me take this momentous and sad decision: inaccurate reporting and factual errors. TOI has been known for its authentic reporting and intellectually stimulating analyses. So when I saw the photo of a CRPF personnel labeled as 'Army man' in an article for carrier options in the army I was aghast. Soon, more was to follow. During the recent election results of Bihar ther was an article comparing Bihar with the nation in certain statistical indices, interestingly the Infant Mortality Rate was shown to be lower than that of the national average and it was commented upon as being worse. It meant that not only the statistic was wrong but also that the person writing the article had little clue what he was writing about. The final straw was in the reporting of the recent illness of Amitabh Bachhan. While on the first page his diagnosis was written as 'Diversiculosis' (there is no such medical condition), on the page2 it was written (correctly) as 'Diverticulitis'. Such an error for a lesser paper might have been pardonable but for TOI it meant fall from grace. I remember TOI was regarded as second only to the Oxford Advanced Learner's in my home in my childhood, unfortunately, No Longer. To top it all the bulky step child in the name of Mumbai Mirror is handed day after day which straight goes to my trash bin. For me Mumbai Mirror symbolises everything which TOI was not. I guess the people who are writing the TOI these days are not the people who read the paper in their younger days. Now I have switched over to DNA. I do not have high expectations, its a new paper with bright young people who may make mistakes once in a while because after all they are not TOI!
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