Job with a View

The only magazine I buy regularly is the Frontline.  The reason is that every report [let alone the columns] in it has a personality behind it.  The Frontline goes beyond mere reporting of “facts.”  It presents the matter in a historical perspective.

As an exception I bought the Outlook [dated Oct 17] today along with the Frontline [dated Oct 21].  The reason is the article on Ethiopia.  The contents page of the Outlook said this: “Colonising  Ethiopia: Several Indian firms have been given huge tracts of land at rock bottom prices in Ethiopia.  To clear the land, thousands of locals have been displaced and deprived of their livelihood.  A special report by Outlook.”

I hesitated two times before shelling out Rs 30 [less than $1, but almost equal to the amount stipulated by the Government of India as the cost of living for an Indian per day] for the magazine which hardly enthuses me except for the occasional articles it carries [with a lot of propaganda too] by Arundhati Roy.  Finally I bought it thinking of Ethiopia, the country I had thought of working in as a teacher some time ago, one of the poorest countries in the world.

The article, as expected [by me] was disappointing.  It turned out to be another exercise in journalistic acrobatics.  It ends up giving opinions of some people as reported by a journalist whose job, of course, is to report. 

The article tells us that many Indian corporations are buying up lands in thousands of acres in Ethiopia.  It tells us that “Many [people in Ethiopia] are describing India as a ‘neo-coloniser.’”   The report merely quotes a lot of people who speak for or against the issues involved without ever committing itself to any ideology. 

For example, a Bangalore-based corporation, Karuturi, has acquired about 300,000 hectares of land in Gambela for a nominal lease of $1.25 per year per hectare for 50 years.  What has the Outlook reporter to say about it?  Let me quote the report:

 “A report on the impact of land by the Oakland Institute, California, has highlighted some concerns around Karuturi’s lease.  These range from the forced relocation of locals to resettlement of villages and transfer of land coming under the Gambela National Park to Karuturi.  Felix Horne, the report’s author… tells…”

And much of the report is what Felix Horne “tells.”  Or what somebody else tells.  Why hasn’t the reporter of the Outlook got something to “tell”?  The article ends by quoting [reporting?] Anuradha Mittal, “the New Delhi-educated founder of the Oakland Institute [California]”: “Our investment policies must focus on development for all…”

Finally, I’m left wondering what Outlook has to say about Ethiopia and India’s ‘colonisation’ of its lands.  That’s why I won’t even look at that magazine at the newsstand for months to come.

Journalism is no more about reporting what is seen or heard than is teaching about following a lesson plan or management about running the show.  There’s a mission behind every profession.  There’s a view [if not a vision or at least an ideology] that every professional must have about what he/she is dealing with.   Shorn of that view, what you do ends up as junk.


About matheikal

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9 Responses to Job with a View

  1. Sid says:

    Sir, you know I love your posts, so I subscribed to them. Hence a comment(hope u dont mind sir ! :D).

    Sir any piece of journalism is highly inspired by its chief editor. I think you should sometime hear Vinod Mehta, Outlooks chief editor, at Times Now’s Newhour at 9, I was forced to ban the program at my place since VM became a regular feature of the show. He appears to be drunk more often then not. And has views like that of a kindergarten kid(its gross generalization, i know but that’s the aptest way you define his intellect).

    Sir I’ll suggest if you haven’t already read, try EPW(Economic and Political weekly).Although a little left-leaning, in my view it outdoes Frontline on the intellect front. I read it regularly.

    • matheikal says:

      Thanks, Sid, for the comment. Interesting observations. I too don’t hold VM in high regard. You are also right that the chief editor determines the policies of the magazine.

      I do want to get hold of EPW copies regularly. But it is not available anywhere near our place, you know that.

      • Aditi says:

        Matheikal, read EPW on-line. Reading the current issue and 3 immediate back issues is free at

        For reading archives however, you would need a paid subscription.

  2. I… A frontline gorge-er , with similar views on the out look.Cheers,,

  3. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    I really loved your contextualization of Rs. 30/-. This is simply, simply … brilliant, awesome and whatever else one may want to add to that tone.

    About FL, let me tell you what I liked most in the issue dated October 21, 2011 – the book review by Lawrence Surendra of the book “Encircling the seamless …” by A Damodaran. This piece attests to what you said about having a personality behind the writing – here there are at least two personalities – one the author of the book and two, the review writer. Likewise, “veil by Choice”, book by Leila Ahmed and review by A G Noornai (though I do not like him all that much), “Age Factor” by Abhinav Chandrachud … You get the point, of course.

    Raghuram Ekambaram

  4. matheikal says:

    Raghuram, it’s interesting that my parenthetical comment wins so much accolade from you. Thanks.

    In my youth I suffered from a severe setback as a writer – lack of ‘personality’ in my writing. Perhaps, it reflected a problem of my youth itself. Eventually I learnt the vital importance of that thing in whatever one does.

  5. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    Now, I am at the stage where you were in your youth, because I started out very late sharing my thoughts beyond orally. I am yet to infuse my personality into whatever I write. My pieces, I believe, carry the tone of issues I discuss, for good or bad.

    Raghuram Ekambaram

    • matheikal says:

      You are wrong, Raghuram. [At least for once I’m in a position to say this to you.] Your writing is suffused with your personality. Why else do you think I’d showcase it in my blog? Why else do you think I’m your regular reader?

      You write more about objective truth or at least truth that can be objective to a great extent. So the writer’s personality makes the least appearance.

  6. matheikal says:

    Thanks, Aditi. In fact, just yesterday I checked out their website. What you’re suggesting is a good idea indeed though I find it more enjoyable to sit with the print edition and read at my own pace.

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