Ranjona Banerji: Are edit pages in newspapers an exercise in futility?

17 Jul,2015

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Senior journalist and columnist with the Business Standard, TCA Srinivasa Raghavan has written a controversial and intriguing opinion piece for the media watchdog website, thehoot.org.

 

He argues that edit pages have outlived their usefulness and are rather like male nipples, “decorative but useless”.

 

This saucy analogy aside, sadly, none of the arguments he makes are new nor are they any that we have not heard before. To wit: young people do not read them, only old people read them, they take up space, the money spent on the salaries of edit writers could be put to better use and so forth. He also takes up the example of senior journalist R Jagannathan, who removed the edit page when he was editor of the Financial Express. What Mr Raghavan does not mention is that Jaggi did not get rid of the edit page when he was editor of DNA. In fact, he took a close interest in it. I know because I was there. Mr Jagannathan is now the editor and foremost opinion writer at firstpost.com. In fact it was the DNA editor after Jaggi, Aditya Sinha who did away with the edit page but not with edits themselves which were sprinkled all over the newspaper. The editor who came after Aditya restored the edit page. Yeah, in its 10 years, DNA has had a lot of editors.

 

But I gather from Mr Raghavan’s argument that he is not opposed to opinion-writing per se. He just feels that newspapers don’t need edit pages. The Times of India tried this once in its Calcutta edition. It also sprinkled edits and columns all over the paper, trying to match the opinions to news stories. The experiment was not a success. In such cases, the argument becomes cosmetic. It is not opinion that you are against but that all opinions in one place. However, this collection of edits and columns on one page is just convenience, for the reader as much as anyone else. It is not some earth-shattering idea that needs to be shattered. You might as well argue that people get bored of turning to the last pages to read sports stories so sports stories should be chucked around here and there so the sports enthusiast gets his or her kick on every page.

 

The money question is even less logical. Part of the anti-edit page argument is that it costs too much money and you don’t make anything from advertising because of a no-advertisement convention. But take a look around you. Websites – firstpost.com is at the top of this list – are based on opinions. Blogs started this when they first ruled the internet. People are interested in opinions whether from a known person or an unknown person. If indeed edit pages are such a drain (by the way, should newspapers also do away with columnists on business pages, entertainment pages, sports pages, city pages, nation pages and the rest?), maybe it is possible to introduce some sort of discreet advertising..? However, the fact that the Times of India has not done that yet – and it is a pioneer when it comes to breaking old fuddy-duddy rules – perhaps points us to some reasons why.

 

It is not just about gravitas and old people. Sometimes, newspapers like to take a stand. The edit page gives them that chance. There are good edit pages and bad edit pages like there are good and bad newspapers. This is not germane to the argument. Edit pages give the reader a direction. I don’t hold with the reasoning that young people are too stupid to understand edit pages. This is a form of patronising that I find abhorrent. I am also slightly offended that anyone above the age of 50 is seen as redundant! Okay, that was a joke. On which note, please do read the piece and see what you think:

http://www.thehoot.org/web/The-edit-page—A-relic-of-a-bygone-era-/8439-1-1-10-true.html

 

 

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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Are edit pages in newspapers an exercise in futility?”

  1. ashok759 says:

    Young readers seem more inclined to the female version …

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