Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The transition - Newspaper to Blogs

I grew up reading The Hindu. In Madras, if someone asks you, "Have you read Gautaman Bhaskaran's review in the 'paper?" you do not ask back, "Which 'paper?" But pick up the day's copy of The Hindu and look for the Movie section. So widely read (and respected [1]) is it in the city.

The paper is a bit resistant to change, mirroring the conservative nature of the city itself. Till around two years back, it was fully black-and-white, with no colour even in the photos; finally switching because the London Times (upon which it was modelled) did so. I think, of late, it has become more adaptive. [2]

Of course, in my family, we have always subscribed only to The Hindu throughout. Mother (the earliest riser at home) would hand over the day's edition to Grandfather, who would pore over it from end to end, sipping (as per the Madras tradition) the morning coffee. Next, it would pass on to Father who would browse through it before leaving for work. My brother and I would get hold of it only after getting back from school.

The paper had a number of writers I would look forward to: S. Muthiah on the history of Madras, Nirmal Shekar's reflections on sports, Gautaman Bhaskaran on movies, and P.V. Indiresan's guest articles. My favourite was the Sunday Magazine which would feature Gowri Ramnarayan who writes exquisitely on music, theatre and literature, V. Gangadhar's nostalgic slices of life, and Ramachandra Guha's columns.

What I liked best was the discussions in the form of arguments and rejoinders. The most enjoyable being the flame-war on the Harappan horse (or the lack of it), between Michael Witzel and David Frawley. Apart from the debate itself (Who doesn't love a good fight?), I came to know quite a bit about Sanskrit that I was not aware of before.

After coming to grad school (with the free Internet thrown in), I have now moved on to blogs as the source of news. E.g., India Uncut gives me an eclectic selection of the important and interesting stories from different sources. Other blogs (such as Sepia Mutiny) also host thought-provoking discussions in their comment sections. I have also much profited professionally from the well-written technical blogs, such as Joel on Software, the first ever blog that I came across.

Blogs give a better sense of participation than newspapers. I have seized opportunities wherever possible to flaunt my scanty knowledge, which gives me (atleast temporary) happiness... In addition, being by nature a little shy of meeting strangers, the blog world has made it possible for me to come in (virtual) contact with various people, with novel perspectives and absorbing styles, and be privy to intelligent conversations.

Multiple hours every day, I roam the blogosphere (time I should actually be working), just the way I would be lost to the world reading The Hindu Sunday Magazine for the better part of the weekend.

I have thus gained my third addiction (after books and newspapers) - blogs.

- - - - -

[1] The Hindu was started in Madras in the 1900's and is (in Indian terms) an old newspaper. Along with its founder (who was one of the early members of the Congress), it played an important part in the freedom struggle. The idea for the civil disobedience movement took shape when Gandhi and Rajaji met in the residence of its proprietor.

To take a recent example of the respect it commands, a journalist who was molested in a train was given due attention at police station (at least partly) because she was from The Hindu...

[2] Madras, every December, hosts the well-known Music Season, when there are scores of concerts everyday. But for some inexplicable reason, The Hindu would carry the concert reviews only once a week, trying to cover some ten performances in a single article! On the other hand, its rival Indian Express would feature a daily supplement covering the Season in detail.


Michael Higgins said...

Hi Srikanth
Interesting post.
Yes, you can spend a lot of time reading blogs and to some extent they might replace some parts of a newspaper: commentary and "think pieces" but not really news.

The nice thing about blogs is the opportunity to interact with the author (and the author interacting with the reader). It reminds me of grad school where you could chat with people about some really interesting subjects.

Sunil said...


I'm quite overwhelmed that you find my blog absorbing....I have along way to go before what I write becomes really absorbing.

But this comment is more about the Hindu. I used to enjoy reading it (during my engg college days). I also used to enjoy reading the Folio magazine which they had (but discontinued). Some of the finest articles I've ever read came from there. I don't know if you ever got a chance to read it.....you may have missed out on it. They stopped somewhere around 2000-01.

Srikanth said...

Michael: You are right, blogs cannot really replace newspapers as source of news. What they can do is present a selection of the important and interesting articles from various sources, sparing us effort.

And yes, it is wonderful to come to know so many different points of view, and have a chance to interact with the writers.

Sunil: Folio! I definitely remember it... it had great stuff, and the booklet was also well-designed. It used to be a pleasure to read them.

Though I have not explicitly mentioned Folio (it being a part of my Sunday reading), I have linked to it. (See "Gowri Ramnarayan.")

Charu said...

nice post Srikanth - blogs can surely act as supplementary sources of information, but I dont think they can ever completely replace mainstream media.

what i like even more about blogs is getting to hear the personal voice of the writer - as oppsoed to a newspaper / magazine where they writer is bound by ceratin restrictions.
as for the hIndu, I grew up with it too - miss it here in Bombay.

Sreedharan said...

Liked your evocation of the Magazine. The Shashi Tharoor Column is a must-read:informative, insightful, varied and wise. You can still get it on the Net! As for the Folio, I think it has been replaced by the Literary Review which comes out (separate from the Magazine) once a month.

Srikanth said...

Hi Sreedharan,
Welcome to my blog! The Literary Review I think has been there for a long time, even before Folio appeared. Shashi Tharoor's column is definitely a good read.

tilotamma said...

I don't know Srikanth - I still read the Hindu before the people in Madras too but I don't have the same respect for it now.

The quality of the writing/editing leaves a lot to be desired.

Srikanth said...

Hi Tilotamma,
Probably you are right...

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