Not all news is paid for: Nihal Singh

New Delhi:About 10 percent of news in the papers is paid for, estimates veteran journalist and author S. Nihal Singh, discounting the view that there is largescale corruption in the media.

Nihal Singh, who believes that electronic media will grow more rapidly than print media in the country, does not concur with critics who say “everybody in the press is corrupt in India”.

“Not all news is paid for – page 3 of newspapers is often paid for and all the social activities that you see. In the business section you can imagine, a certain percentage of news is paid for. My guess is that paid news is about 10 percent,” the award winning journalist said in an informal discussion with the media Tuesday evening.

The discussion was sponsored by Hay House, the publisher of his new book, “Ink in My Veins: A Life in Journalism”.

Discussing the future of the print media, he said it was doing very well in India as compared to the West, where the “press is languishing and some are giving up print editions totally”.

The former editor of The Statesman and Indian Express said changes were inevitable in today’s age of technology.

“You have online versions of all the big papers. Internet is influencing media around the world.”

In his book, he says the biggest impact of the new technology on Indian media, in line with the world trends, has been in personalising news. In the old days, bylines were a rarity.

“It took me several years to earn a byline for some stories that deserved it. But the role of the anchors in presenting television news and commentaries has inevitably highlighted the person as much as the news.”

Pointing to trends in the media, Nihal Singh said the while corporate influences in the media had grown because of the money, the editor’s post had been downgraded.

“Corporate money is needed to run the national media and if you downgrade the authority of an editor the more you will downgrade the editorial sections of the newspapers… Then the government will try to influence newspapers.”

He hoped that India would see a new breed of independent editors in the future.

Pushing for “greater standards of objectivity in the print media”, he said today’s media presents a mix of good and bad stories.

Recalling the era of repression in journalism during the 1975-77 Emergency rule, Nihal Singh said the “India stories were then censored and tailored…”

He remembers instructing his staff at The Statesman to put all international stories on the front page and push India stories inside during Emergency.

“But today’s newspapers tend to be parochial. They should highlight accounts from around the world. Television picks up one story and runs away with it. We should take a holistic approach to what is happening in India, the region and the world,” Nihal Singh said.

The standard of editing has gone down, the journalist said.

“You have some excellent stories and others that are nonsense. There is no consistency.”

Asked about the emergence of development journalism as a genre, he said: “I think we (Indians) are too obsessed with politics in India to remove ourselves from it.

“Development journalism as such cannot take the lead. I think there will be a greater mix of political, social and development issues in journalism in the future than today.

“We are so obsessed with issues like corruption that we losing sight of more important of development – we are constraining India’s future growth.”

Nihal Singh, who started as a sub-editor in the 1950s, was also the founding editor of The Indian Post and the editor of the Khaleej Times, Dubai.

He was awarded the Editor of the Year Award in New York for his role as the editor of The Statesman during Emergency.

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