India Uncut

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Friday, January 14, 2005

Journalist as activist?

Of the dozens of emails I've got in the last few days, while travelling through Tamil Nadu, a handful have asked me to take up some of the issues I've reported on "more seriously", with a couple urging me to file a public interest litigation in the case of the Sipcot companies in Cuddalore. One gentleman wrote, "What is the use of just writing about it and just walk[ing] off to your comfortable homes. YOU must do something about it ... We need more journalists to work for social justice."

Well, I'm one of those who takes the dharma of being a journalist seriously, believing that the vocation brings with it certain responsibilities – but I don't think activism is one of them. The practical argument for that is that if all journalists took up activism for the causes they believed in, the good ones would eventually have no time left to actually write. More importantly, I believe that the function journalists ideally perform, of providing information and insight, is too important to be diluted by anything. A good journalist, when he writes on issues of social importance, should be able to inspire and enable action from others, a task he would not be able to perform if he was to get into the trenches himself. (I do not imply, of course, that I am one, but if you are kind enough to think I am, then please vote for India Uncut here.)

Sometimes, of course, a small piece of activism by a journalist can make for a good story by the same journalist. Mid Day occasionally does stories like that, as Vinod Kumar Menon demonstrates while helping out a “maggot-infected patient”.
amit varma, 2:20 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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