Never before perhaps in the history of the print media industry, has the newspaper not reached homes day after day, despite being printed.
They do not reach the reader’s homes due to restrictions of movement of vendors in this pandemic and the mistaken fear that it could be a carrier of COVID-19.
Today, I write a tribute to its indispensability…
Ah, that morning cup of tea is insipid without the spicy bits of news that you glance through a newspaper, as you sip it.
No, not even a masala chai would compensate for this traditional partner – all dressed in black and white and punctuated with colour too. Its typical aroma that emanates as you flip pages also triggers your grey cells as you read and breathe information.
And hey, suddenly there is a heart-break!
The newspaper is unreachable although it very much exists at the newspaper’s office. There’s no one to carry it to your door; the coronavirus pandemic, being the spoiler!
So, how do you feel about it? Let down? Lonely? Boring? But then, you can read the pdf of the newspaper that is being circulated through WhatsApp? Or read it online? While for a minute section of tech-savvy readers, the hand holding of a newspaper does not matter, to most it is like missing the dearest thing in your life, on waking up.
I was surprised when my friend called up and complained about missing her newspaper.
But I reminded her that I’ve been sending her the pdfs and in any case the news that appears is already bombarded the earlier day. To this she said to my surprise, “you know, it is so different to hold the newspaper in your hands and run through those small news pieces that tell you all about the local events and communities. TV does not give that news.’’
Indeed, it struck me that the micro-news which is the community news and the city news is still a USP for the newspapers.
With the blitzkrieg of the electronic media, the social media and the online media; the print media has been the major sufferer as it finds it hard to sustain. However, what provide affinity to its readers who know what’s going around in the world in a few minutes; is the happenings in their own neighbourhood, communities and in their own city or town, that’s prominently published.
At the helm of the connection between the reader and the newspaper is the humble newspaper vendor. He wakes up as early as 3 a m – and there are hundreds of young boys who traditionally work as such vendors in our city – so that he reaches the distribution centres by 4 a m which are the footpaths of various parts of the city.
Earlier, he would pile them up on his bicycle by 5 a m and ride through the lanes to deliver the newspapers. The little money he got from this part-time job would provide him finance to help his family needs or perhaps education. He would beat the fearsome stray dogs and sometimes even bear the wrath of his customer who would `bark’ at him if he delivered the paper late. It was a common phenomenon for people to go in and out of their balcony, impatiently waiting for their newspaper. There are newspaper vendors now, but mostly on motorized two-wheelers and many are not teenage boys.
Now, things are different since the last decade or so. Several years back, I saw that our newspaper agent, who used to come only once to collect the money, was delivering the newspaper everyday on his scooter.
When I asked the reason he said that, “these days, we don’t get young boys who would like to do this part time job so early in the morning. And those who we hire are not regular, sometimes they come and sometimes they don’t. So, it’s better that I do the work myself. ‘’
Also, in these days of the pandemic lockdown, housing societies have banned newspaper delivery boys. Tragically, the reason is not only because outsiders are banned, but because of the perception that the newspaper itself could be a carrier of the deadly coronavirus (which is not an established fact).
However, it would not be an exaggeration to state that this could be perhaps the last straw on the camel’s back. For, to get back your readership when there is an untold scare about the coronavirus contamination in the paper, would be a challenge in the coming months. Besides, the slide has been over the years the commercial-mindedness of the newspapers has literally driven away their readers.
To give an example, when I, as a young journalist, was pursuing the profession, the newspaper was targeted at totally at the primary reader (the actual reader who is hungry for credible news) and not the secondary reader (the advertiser, who is hungry for commercial interests).
However, since early 2000s, the top notch English newspaper turned the tables and blatantly made the secondary reader, as its primary reader. Others followed suit and today, the newspaper (which of course does carry news that matters) of any stable, eyes profit and only profit. We are in a situation where editors of dailies of various languages have to meet advertisement target by they themselves soliciting for them. Can you believe how degrading it is? Reporters are asked to spike news if it hurts commercial interests.
Can you imagine how frustrating it is for the media professional? So, it is not surprising that readers have got alienated from the print media.
However, this pandemic has shown that still affinity remains and newspapers can to a turnaround by winning respect of the readers. But, is it too late?
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,