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.