My America Tour -9

Telugu Original : Avula Gopala Krishna Murty (AGK)

English Translation: Komala Venigalla

News Papers and Journalism

          Democracy is promoted and protected by four pillars–education, local bodies, law courts and news papers-media.

          This is true not only in America but also in our country. Dictatorships function differently. We have nothing to do with them.

          President of India Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan said that India and America are the biggest democracies in the world.  News world is one of the  strongest bases  of democracy. Individual freedom is primarily and prominently regarded as the first principle in democracy. To understand  whether  an individual is free and whether he has freedom to speak, we have to look at the freedom for news papers and freedom to hold meetings for a cause. Freedom of speech  is strengthened  in newspaper freedom and holding meetings freely.

          With all these freedoms an individual can have a safe haven in the society.

          Free news paper world will help to promote and establish individual freedom. Hence  it is essential to know about the news world and journalism.

          For a steady democracy the news and print media should  have absolute freedom.

          If we have to interpret whether America is a steady democracy we have to look into their various news papers. They provide us with the essential picture of their country.

          Having paid serious attention to their news world I  came to the conclusion that this aspect in America enjoys  utmost priority and freedom and remains a powerful social system.

          The duty of the news papers is to tell the government the ideas, opinions and needs of  its people and explain the  people what a government is doing for them. The news world should from time to time suggest what is good for people in their system of government and also show them if there are any defects on either side. If this news paper world takes a wrong direction it will be a blow to the general life of people.

          In dictatorship the news paper world works like another government department. News papers are used only to show that  anything and everything done by the government is right. They cannot correct the mistakes or wrong steps of government. The news world in dictatorships demeans, degrades it self which is equal to suicide.

          America is superior democracy and its news papers maintain  equally superior standards.

          Rabindranath Tagore said that the literature  of the particular people will show us what their culture is. On the similar analogy we may say– show us your country’s news papers, we will tell you what your culture is –May be Radhakrishnan`s remark means the same!

          There are a great number of news papers in America and every person reads  some news paper or the other.

          All kinds of news papers put together there are 12 thousand of them in America.  There are 1890 dailies, 9500  weeklies, rest of them are monthlies and bimonthlies. They have news papers even in remote corners. People are educated, they have money to buy news papers readily available in their area.

          Dailies are sold upto 6 crore copies and weeklies 2.50 crores each day. In bigger cities they take out 5 or 6 editions of a paper. They publish Sunday specials on a very large scale.

          A small number of news papers are run by Republican and Democratic parties. Though not much to do with those parties they support these parties for promotion of their business. Major number of news papers are published by private business  people. they run them as per their views and values.

          Very few weeklies are  in the hands of parties

          majority papers are run independently with the news value.

          They have a variety of news papers which reach even the remote villages.Their  news paper size is shockingly big, even smallest papers are big in size when compared to our big news papers. Even the news papers in remote areas have not less than 50 pages. Sunday editions crosses 100 pages. News papers in major cities contain 100 to 150 pages daily. On Sunday they go up to  200 to 300 pages. On Sunday they bring out even up to 500 pages and some even have up to 600 pages too. I heard that their Christmas, Independence day  editions have  700 pages. New York Times and Los Angeles  Times did that.

          The size of their dailies leave us wonder struck .

          The news print used annually by the New York Times alone is  equal to the news paper used by all our news papers put together. With that information in view we can surmize the size of their larger news papers.

          I have seen the Washington Post, The New York Times, New York Herald, Chicago Tribune, Dayton times, Milwaukee Sentinel , Milwaukee Journal, Minneapolis Star, Minneapolis Tribune, the San-Fransisco  Times, The Los Angeles Times. They are among the largest news papers.

          Almost all the news papers allot more than half space for advertisements. Some news papers charge highly for an advertisement. The New York Times a full page advertisement costs $ 6000 approximately.

          Majority of the news papers are published by individuals. There are chain news papers nationally. There are papers run on cooperative  basis. Some papers are run by employees themselves who have 75% share in them. They don`t have papers owned by the government. Even we don’t have government news papers.

          Majority of the papers do not support any party or its ideology. Some publish news papers independently depending on issues and the occasion. Such papers are large in numbers. Very few lean towards either Republican or Democratic party. Some have a via media approach.

          In these papers there are advertisement politics which play a significant role.

          A kind of superficial reporting is mostly seen. Very few go deep into the matter  and report it. Those who read the news do not pay much attention to what was happening in other countries. We take more interest in prominent events of the world. May be it is our national chatacteristic.

          We are under foreign rule when news papers were taking shape in our country. Most of them were following the British tradition. Our papers started giving first place to news from Britain and Europe, second place  to our national news and third  to our state news. Even now we see that sort of approach. All our papers are national and international ones, hence their news  takes priority . Of late a bit of change is seen but  very slow change is on the way.

          We have more fascination for national and international news than the local news. We have to study this aspect-whether we  became like that because of our news papers or our news papers are like that because of us.

          American news papers prioritize local news  primarily giving national news second and international news third place. And hence people give preference  to the local news. Perhaps their way may not appeal to us much.

          All news papers in Europe, England are similar.Among them Russian system is a bit different.

          That is the reason why very few discuss foreign  affairs here. This could possibly be so because of the effect of James Monroe scheme. For over a hundred years the Americans  kept themselves confined to  their life, their country and lived in a kind of isolation  making it their national characteristic .

          Of all American news papers The New York Times is considered the most important national news paper. Not only in New York but also in the  west coast this paper has  special publication. They bring out European edition in Paris. Apart from this The New York Herald, The Los Angeles Ties, The Washington post and Chicago Tribune come under national papers.

          During my two months tour in America, I happened to see the news about India in American press only four or five times. Some papers publish news received from the special reporters from Delhi. If we miss seeing Sunday papers we have to wait for the following Sunday for Indian News. The New York Times  ,The New York Herald, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times publish such news on Sunday.

          For example Nehru dropped many ministers from his cabinet in the name of Kamaraj scheme . I came to know of it only through letters from friends. It is a great news for us. But here the news papers didn’t  carry that news at all. Even European papers are  like that. Being once upon a time our rulers Britain is a bit better in this aspect.

          People here buy weeklies. I thought they would not read them much. I went to a dinner at the invitation of lady. There are many news papers in Tennessee state. I asked her what she was interested  in those papers. She guessed my interest. She said ask me about any main article in those papers, I can talk about it.` I told her that I was not testing her. She said that people here read news papers. Both of us shared the laughter when I said that they may be having problem with books.

          The way they sell the news papers is interesting to note. They keep papers at the street corners along with  a bar to drop the price in. The person picks a paper and drops money-10 cents on week days, 20 cents on Sunday issue in the box. There is every possibility to steal the paper and also money from the box. But nobody does that there. In the past 25 years such a thing ( stealing)  happened once or twice , I heard.

          The papers are sold through machine. You drop 10 cents in the slot , one news paper comes out of the machine. If you don`t drop money you cannot get the paper out.

          You can buy news papers in the book shops, hawkers sell  them in the streets and there is home delivery too.

          Their papers are voluminous. Apart from local , national and international  news there  are separate sections for women, sports,entertainment, and also kids section, story section. You not only find advertisements in all pages but also include special sections for classified ads.

          In our papers we find news by ` our reporter` or `our special reporter`. Here the news is given with the name of that particular reporter . It is a good method.People can see which reporter is efficient  in presenting the news. There is possibility for the new reporters to come up in career as good reporters. Their photos are also given along with their names. This is an important aspect of their news world.

          I am a news paper writer. I am associated with small papers like -Radical Humanist, and Sameeksha (Telugu monthly).Hence I took special interest in American news papers having been a special guest in their country.

          I went to The Washington Post`s office in Washington. I was talking to the editor-meanwhile it was time for him to attend the daily meeting with the other members of  his editorial board. He took me to their meeting as  a  friend.

          We don`t have such routine here in India, though the editor gives suggestions and other members carry them out.

          In that meeting 32 members were present. Their daily carries 100 pages each day. It has different sections. Leaving the space for advertisements specified by the manager, they discussed what news has to be given prominence, which news goes in which page etc. Some reporters demanded for more space for their features, the managing editor settled the matter.

          As per their discussion  white pages are given to all with marking of the  news, secifying  certain news. The meeting takes place between 2-3 in the afternoon everyday. They leave the meeting  and start working according to the plan. The next day I saw the paper .Every bit of news was published as per the plan in the previous day meeting. Attending their editorial board meeting has been `education` to me.

          The friend asked me whether our news papers follow  a similar system. The lady in charge of women`s section asked me whether we have such a section.

          I said `we don`t have such large papers. On week days they  print 6 to 8 pages, on Sundays  10 to 12 pages`. One editor wondered what  could we write in such small size papers.I smiled saying that our papers publish news basing on its value or importance. The paper has circulation of 4.50 lakh on week days and  5.50 lakhs on Sunday.

          The chief editor meets other editorial board members each day and helps shape the next day`s issue. He does`nt have business responsibility.

          The American New Papers have an editorial page editor with his assistants. they all write editorials on different subjects.

          I have seen our big news papers. I have seen their big news papers. The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times. There is no comparison. They have mechanical facilities which involve huge expenditure. We don`t have such facility.

          The circulation of The New York Times is 7,16,210 on week days  and on Sunday -12 47 782 copies.

          The Los Angeles Times prints 7 lakh copies on each day and 10 lakhs on Sunday.

          All large papers print  200 to 300 pages on week days  and 400 to 500 pages on Sunday. Of all these papers The Los Angeles Times  has some modern mechanical facilities. they have one `thinking machine`. It is called ` brain computer`, it is a very strange machine.

          One dictates the news item, another types, a third records it on the tape recorder. This taped news is taken care of by 3 or 4 others who add or cut the news as per the importance. That copy is finally approved by the chief editor.

          They feed this final copy and tape recorded copy into the ` thinking machine` and press the switch. Both the copies go in and a corrected version comes out from the other end of  machine- it carries all the corrections done in the typed copy. The final ` ready  to print` comes out immediately.

          This final corrected version is fed into composing machine. It prints 10 columns a minute and continues working like that .

          Such a machine is there in The Los Angeles Times office. 350 people work there in the editorial section.

          With this `automation` paper work has become easy  with the possibility of losing jobs for many. Hence the management , instead of  losing the existing staff , gives them `automation` training and allot them different types of work.

          I went to the office  of The Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Sentinel. The journal favors the Democratic party and Sentinel favors the Republican party. Journal news paper bought the Sentinel. The Journal has daily circulation of 3.50 lakh copies. The journal is the evening paper. The Journal staff and Sentinel staff have 7.50% shares.  H.S Ringer and Russell Austin are the backbone to these papers. I went into their building and saw their machines.

          I saw Minneapolis Tribune and Minneapolis Star-both are run by one management. Tribune is the morning edition and Star is the evening edition. I saw their work efficiency and their machines. My interaction with Paul G. Pearson and his staff was very interesting and hearty. He is one among the best individuals I met in America.

          I could understand a number of news aspects in the news world there by going to major news paper  offices and meeting their great editors . Their honesty and dedication to work is clearly evident and it is a great experience to me.

          Some of their news papers conduct competitions in education, social activities to the students.They give gifts to the winners. They motivate students to take interest in social issues and activities as a means of  cultivating  social awareness.

          Minneapolis Star and Tribune have been conducting such programs for the past 16 years. Ten lakh students and teachers were benefited under their  projects. Even other papers are getting ready to involve themselves in such useful social activities.

          Just as we have untouchables problem, the Americans have Blacks problem. To solve that problem they have special daily , weekly and monthly news papers. One such paper I saw in Chicago daily Defender. I discussed their problems with  them. They are all small papers.   They give free space to publish their problems.There may not be a need for  special papers for Blacks but each revolution needs to establish its won papers. Once established they should be promoted and run regularly.

          There are radios and TVs for relaying and broadcasting  news. There are 4 crore 8 lakh families in America. There are 4250 radio stations and 625 TV stations .

          All these are under private managements like their news papers. Though government doesnot exercise its power on them there are federal commission regulations. They are not under any pressure from the government.

          Some news papers grow their own special forests and they have machinery to prepare news print for their consumption. The Los Angeles Times has such resources and arrangements. With this we can understand what a big level business it is to run a news paper in America.

          Though the news papers economically depend upon the advertisements they are not effected by the politics of the advertisers. Even chain news papers are not bound  to stick to one particular kind of publishing news. Mostly small news papers only seem to have their impact on American people`s psychology.

          John Peter  opposed New York governor in 1733, criticized him and was put in prison . But he continued his criticism and finally won the case in the court. From that time onwards  the Americans have a fascination for freedom of press . They never forget that right of theirs. They have constitutional protection and also the protection given by the court judgements. They have the special love and dedication towards news paper freedom.  That is why the news world in America is so strong an institution .That is one of the  paramount support base for their democracy.


(to be continued…)

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