“Newspapers always excite curiosity. No one ever lay down one without a feeling of disappointment,” said Charles Lamb. It is the art of generating curiosity that compels its reader to continue. Hence, even ordinary, banal news can be presented in way that can immediately catch the attention of the reader, leaving behind plethora of substandard news for the consumption of masses.
Newspaper is the most important and effective means of mass communication. Besides current affairs, it has always played a pivotal role in forming and moulding public opinion. During our struggle for independence, newspapers were the catalyst of nationwide movements and became mouthpieces of national leaders to organize mass movements. Even after independence, it has on many occasions acted as a crusader to raise issues that are contentious, but nevertheless require public debate. It has also helped to keep the democratic traditions alive, by offering a forceful voice of dissent, which is the lifeline for any true democracy to flourish. A free press works like a watchdog in a democracy.
Presenting news to the readers is only one facet of a newspaper, for which it has many competitors. There is radio, television and lately internet, that provides instant news from across the world. However, what sets it apart from other media is its forcefuless and objectivity. Moreover, there is an element of credibility in the written word which makes the readers hold on to it. Newspapers thus helps the common man to form his own opinion on diverse subjects like politics, economics and other social aspects of life. So profoundly do they affect the minds of the reader, that you can tell the paper that a person reads from the opinion they voice.
The editors of the newspaper have a very important role to play. However, unfortunately, every newspaper is unconsciously or consciously coloured by its own definite policy. This is because most newspapers owe their allegiance to some business house, or a political party, that have a pro or anti-government leaning. There is, therefore, danger for the average reader being influenced and biased on account of this prejudiced reporting. In the rush for increasing circulation, some small and regional newspapers resort to sensationalising news, so as to increase their readership. This gives rise to what is called yellow journalism. This initially may be commercially rewarding to the media bosses, but the public has now learnt to take such reports in their stride. It lowers the credibility of such dailies invariably, and is therefore not wise ethically or commercially.
The newspapers have a potent role to play in a democracy. They not only help in forming public opinion on major contentious issues, but can also help the to instill the sense of seeking information in common people. They are, therefore, referred as the fourth estate of a democracy, the other three being the parliament, executive and the judiciary. As much as the power, they have a great responsibility. And hence, they should rise above commercial or narrow-minded considerations in order to justify the trust posed on them by the public.
Richa Singh is a student pursuing Economics from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Nuzhat Khan
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.