The Training and Education of a Journalist: A Finale

This article is part 55 of 57 in the series Life and Legacy of DVG

Apart from the foregoing note about Vruttapatrike being a rich source of quotable quotes, one can also distill a wealth of invaluable practical advice for both an aspiring and professional journalist. Such a compilation will prove to be a constant companion that will guide, train, and offer succor and solace to the journalist. It will perchance also act as a chastity belt on the scribe’s conscience.

While this advice is interspersed throughout the book, it is concretised in two chapters titled, Patrikeya Chaturanga (The Four Organs of a Paper) and Kasabu, Tayari (Profession, Training). The following is a summarized paraphrase of the two chapters.  

But before that, we can cite a profound response[1] that DVG gave in an interview to All India Radio dated 1 August 1968 to Sri N.S. Sitarama Sastri, the then editor of Kannada Prabha, on the subject of journalism and literature.

About an hour before starting his concert, the great musical Vidwan, Sri Mahavaidyanatha Bhagavatar would sit alone and deliberately clear his throat. The throat has to first be tempered. Only then will the music be melodious. In the same manner, those who are engaged in journalistic or literary work must first clear their throat. The first thing that forms in the throat is phlegm. Unless it is spat out, the throat won’t become clear.

The Training of a Journalist[2]

Recently, a new fashion has emerged in the reporting style of our newspapers. It is the style of drama. The reporter first writes a preface: “the minister delivered the following speech today.” But he doesn’t report the speech in an orderly fashion. In this fashionable reporting style, the reporter picks up some random line from the minister’s speech and begins his report as follows: “There is no cooked rice without rice. There is no rice without paddy. There is no paddy without farming,” said the minister. Then he continues the report, “The minister further said that when paddy is threshed, rice is obtained. To cook rice, it must be boiled in water.”

Such reporting style is repulsive. It wastes time and doesn’t inform the mind in any manner. These are the latest journalistic fashions, perhaps directly influenced by the Americans.

There is absolutely no need for our papers to imitate the trends of American or any other foreign papers. Our papers are our own and they have to find their independent voices. Our papers must be in tune with and reflect our traditions and the nature of our society and people. In matters of conduct, manners, and behavior, our mores and etiquette vastly differ from that of the West. In fact, in many cases, they are the polar opposite. Using salacious language to describe the bodily parts of women or plastering provocative pictures of females are unacceptable both to the Hindu and the Muslim community. The same holds true for delving into the private lives of people. This unfortunate trend is being taken to unhealthy levels in American journalism.

Newspaper reporters are chiefly the servants and messengers of truth. They must neither sugarcoat the truth nor inject entertainment into it. Reporting the truth and facts is a work of purity, devotion.

Language and Writing

Writers and journalists of the previous era paid close attention to excellence in word usage and composition. This fact applies in equal measure to both Kannada and English papers. It appears that the downfall in the quality of writing in Kannada journalism is the direct consequence of the downfall in its English counterpart.

However, it is nobody’s contention that everything in the past is good and nothing in the present is good. In fact, newness in writing style has its own charm and beauty. However, this newness must have the solid foundation of fundamental and time-honoured linguistic and compositional traditions. As long as we use a language, we must first learn it with sincere effort, practice it for years and use it with the finesse it merits.

Kannada Journalism

Now a word about Kannada newspapers. The language itself is undergoing rapid change. Ours is an age of innovation, novelty. This extends to the sphere of language usage as well. Innovation is definitely a mark of progress. However, innovation must not be adopted untested because it contains inherent dangers and pitfalls.

Progress means change, and change must remain within certain boundaries. That which grows must not grow so much as to alter its original form. When an infant deer grows up, it must not resemble a wild elephant. This same caution eminently applies to language. The Kannada that we speak and write today must not become unrecognisable from that used in Pandit Kempu Narayana’s[3] time. An inextricable feature in the evolution of a language is unbroken continuity.

To achieve this in their own writing, our journalists must undergo a healthy dose of study and practice. At the minimum, they must have a solid grasp of Gadugina Bharata, Jaimini Bharata, Nalacharitre, Dhruvacharitre and other poetry composed in the Shatpadi style. [4] Additionally, they must study our Kannada inscriptions. The language used in all such literature is close to the Kannada we use today. A sustained practice of this literary corpus will hone the journalist’s linguistic skill. For contemporary prose style, the precedent set by Cha. Vasudevayya, M.S. Puttanna, and Prof. A.R. Krishnasastri is worth emulating for their vigour.

In essence, the aforementioned method of practice leading to the cultivation of good usage is essentially a development of refinement (Samskara). Linguistic freedom sans this Samskara leads to madness.

The Education of a Journalist

The standard of education of those who wish to enter journalism as a profession must be higher than it currently is. Merely because a journalist is endowed with the ability to string words together in an attractive or appealing fashion does not mean that he or she is a sufficient authority on everything. Apart from writing on specialised topics such as art and literature, journalists writing on everyday affairs of the world must, as a prerequisite, have knowledge in the following subjects:

·      Politics

·      Economics

·      Jurisprudence

·      Logic or the method of critical analysis (in reality, this is the subject of analysing opinions for what they really are)

It will also benefit the journalist if these are supplemented with studies in the history of different nations, ancient history, and a working knowledge of the social organisation in various cultures.

Indeed, there is no knowledge or fact that is not useful to a journalist. Anything that is related to the life of humans will prove useful for a journalist at some point. Therefore, a journalist must attempt to reach the goal of becoming Omniscient as far as possible.

It is self-evident that a journalist must be endowed with the ability to write in a style that is simple, clear, decisive, unambiguous, and tight. However, this must also be accompanied by a rigorous study in at least two branches of art or science. He must be well-versed in the history of his own country, and know its geography intimately. Because various countries and cultures have made inroads into India throughout history, the journalist must be acquainted with the geography, history, and culture of those countries and cultures as well. He must constantly and daily revise his knowledge in politics and economics. Likewise, he must also have authoritative knowledge in art, poetry, drama, music, and sculpture.

Therefore, unless the journalist inculcates specialised and in-depth knowledge in at least one field that falls outside the purview of his routine work, his standard will fail to rise higher than mediocrity. Those who lag in performing regular exercises in the field of knowledge will invariably stagnate and rot. This in turn, will reflect in the writing of the journalist, which becomes tepid and repetitive.

An Attitude of Responsibility

The greatest danger that confronts a journalist is the opportunities his profession affords for enacting drama. Perhaps no profession other than journalism, provides the opportunities and avenues for putting on a show of one’s ignorance as profound knowledge. The journalist has the luxury of selecting a random sentence from a famous work and another from a notorious work and stringing them together in an article.

Few people have the erudition to challenge the errors and fallacies in such articles, which therefore remain unexposed and become accepted as authoritative. Moreover, the journalist is the Master of the Printing Blocks. What he prints obtains circulation. But those who are actually qualified to expose his errors remain quiet owing to shyness, courtesy or for some other reason. Besides, who has the time to engage full-time in such an activity given the reams and reams of printed matter that is churned out every day? Other journalists can correct minor errors committed by one of their own fraternity; it is almost impossible for the common people to engage in this task.

Those who take advanced degrees in journalism and similar courses from universities must not forget that there is a limit to their scholarship. Like others, they too must remain perpetual students.

If a journalist always remembers the following crucial truth, he will be able to minimise the danger of treading the wrong path: on any topic that he writes, there will be at least one or two readers who are more knowledgeable than he himself is. He must ask himself what such people would think of his writing. Such an attitude inculcates a healthy fear, which is the root of responsible journalism. The greater this fear, the greater this sense of responsibility, and the greater it motivates the journalist to read widely, deeply, and examine any topic from as many perspectives as possible. Ultimately, this results in the greatest benefit to the reader. This is how the paper earns the respect of people and society.

I personally know many young journalists who walk around in public with thick books in their hands. Sometimes, they carry a different thick book each day. Knowledge has immense strength. But I don’t think it has the strength to automatically transport itself from the hand to the brain. One needs to tax the mind in order to acquire, earn and retain knowledge. Expansive knowledge is not attained by reading a hundred books; it is done by putting the mind through the grist-mill of just a few definitive books.

Personal Ability

The journalist must also be endowed with physical agility. He needs to run around from place to place, and at times, must do so at great speed. However, he must also ensure that his movements are the least conspicuous. His eyes need to focus on several things at the same time and must be able to grasp all of them in the same vision. He must not discard anything that he sees or hears. He must cultivate an outlook where every fact, every new titbit of information, however trivial, becomes useful to him. He must honestly work to earn the trust and respect of everyone he meets.

However, the primary and basic qualification for a journalist is to develop a character of culture and refinement.

A good journalist is one who is useful to the nation.

As we noted earlier, these two chapters of Vruttapatrike must be printed out and carried in the pocket of every aspiring and professional journalist. Whether the journalist attains excellence or eminence or no, he will most certainly not go astray.

As we noted earlier, these two chapters of Vruttapatrike must be printed out and carried in the pocket of every aspiring and professional journalist. Whether the journalist attains excellence or eminence or no, he will most certainly not go astray.

DVG’s Ideal Newspaper

The American writer and novelist, Howard Fast once said[1] that “there is no passive literature worth its salt,” a line that perfectly characterizes the awesome body of DVG’s journalistic work. When any work attains the pinnacle of excellence, manmade categories of convenience automatically disappear. Thus, one would be hard-pressed to detect where “journalism” stops and “literature” begins in the context of DVG. The argument that given the innately fleeting nature of journalistic writing doesn’t lend itself well to qualify as literature has minuscule exceptions to which DVG strikingly belongs, as we have seen so far. But there’s yet another reason why this is so: with the passage of nearly a century, most of the events he wrote about as a journalist are distant, dim and irrelevant, but when we study his journalism, we find a deeply inquiring quality embedded in it which is what gives it the greatness of a literary sort.

This selfsame transcendental quality of excellent is reflected in DVG’s conception of an ideal newspaper. Yet again, this was no theoretical conception. It was his encapsulated wisdom of more than half a century of starting and running papers. The following are a few highlights from his essay[2] titled Adarsha Patrike or Ideal Newspaper.

  • The ideal newspaper that he envisaged would not exceed four pages in the broadsheet format. The main news items would fill the cover page. The editorial was reserved for the second page. Editorials were not mandatory every day. They would be written only on important issues. Else, the page would publish extracts of speeches on various topics. The top half of the third page would feature letters to the editor and the bottom half, for specialist topics. The fourth page was reserved entirely for advertisements.   
  • In all, the paper would not occupy more than fifteen minutes of the reader’s time.
  • A special edition or supplement would be published during highly critical or extremely urgent occasions.
  • Those who value the wisdom, judgement, and independent thinking of the reading public will be abhorred by the practice of publishing bulky newspapers.
  • This is an era of hectic, routine activity. Work, factory, office, or business eat up roughly eight or nine hours of a person’s day. When we subtract this and also subtract the time spent for our natural functions and social activities, a person is left with about four hours. Thus, a person must somehow find at least an hour for reading newspapers. In that case, when and how will he find time to study serious and profound books? Where is the time for literature and art?
  • If the mind gets accustomed to reading petty questions and following trivial issues, it will soon develop an inability to even admit the existence of deep subjects. In this fashion, such bulky newspapers become the direct cause for promoting intellectual sloth and weakness.
  • An ideal paper should thus be small in size; it must cover news and issues ranked by importance and timeliness, and it must be written in a succinct style.

The Undivided Life

As we have seen so far, while journalism was an accidental profession DVG stumbled into, he embraced it as his sacred calling. But in discharging his professional duties, he was actually practicing Dharma, a term that is being used with great nonchalance of late as a verbal suffix, and not where it actually matters: action.

Even in his role as a journalist, DVG not only cleansed the minds of three generations, but uplifted them after cleansing. The phrase “holding the head high” became a profound reality in the lives of everyone fortunate enough to come into his close contact. It was a height that taught these folks to only look at and scale the Himalayas. Sri S.R. Ramaswamy continues to shine as a distinguished testimony of this truth.    

Indeed, DVG’s own response[3] in an interview best sums up his goal, approach and method.  

I have looked upon life as one undivided whole. All aspects of it are equal to me. Without good morals, there is no good citizenship; without culture, you can expect no good morals. I have tried to do that which occurred to me as the proper thing in every field of the life of our people… [if I was born again], I would like to carry on my work for the good life, viz., a life of purity, of devotion to truth and universal fellow-feeling.

These are not words but fragrant breeze befittingly wafting from this gentle forest-flower (Vanasuma) who gave so enormously but took almost nothing from the country and its people he so lovingly served for his entire life.

Concluded



Appendix I: List of Publications DVG Founded

  1. Bharati (Cofounder)
  2. Vande Matram Series
  3. Sumati
  4. The Karnataka
  5. Karnataka and the Indian Review of Reviews
  6. Public Affairs

Appendix II: List of Publications DVG Contributed to

  1. Suryodaya Prakashika (Kannada)
  2. The Evening Mail
  3. The Mysore Standard
  4. Nadegannadi (Kannada)
  5. Mysore Times (Assistant Editor)
  6. The Hindustan Review
  7. New India
  8. Servant of India
  9. The Hindu
  10. The Wealth of Mysore
  11. Daily Post
  12. Vishwa Karnataka (Kannada)
  13. The Pioneer
  14. Swarajya
  15. The Bombay Chronicle
  16. The Madras Mail
  17. Triveni Journal
  18. Current Science
  19. Daily News
  20. Deshabandhu
  21. Samyukta Karnataka (Kannada)
  22. The Indian Express
  23. Prajamata (Kannada)
  24. Prajavani (Kannada)
  25. Kannada Prabha (Kannada)
  26. Deccan Herald
  27. Mysindia
  28. The Literary Criterion Summer
  29. The Aryan Path
  30. Bhavan’s Journal
  31. Illustrated Weekly of India
  32. Kalki (Tamil)

Notes


[1] D.V. Gundappa. Sankeerna, DVG Krutishreni, Vol 11, Government of Karnataka, p 282.

[2] As mentioned the main text, this section is the paraphrased summary of the chapters in DVG’s Vruttapatrike titled Patrikeya Chaturanga (The Four Organs of a Paper) and Kasabu, Tayari (Profession, Training). D.V. Gundappa. Sankeerna, DVG Krutishreni, Vol 11, Government of Karnataka, pp 244-50 and 259-63. Emphases added.

[3] Kempu Narayana was a 19th century Kannada literary luminary best known for his prose work, Mudraa-Manjusha based on the famous story of Chanakya overthrowing the Nanda dynasty. It is considered to be a pioneering work of modern Kannada prose. Kempu Narayana flourished in the reign of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III.

[4] These works are the acclaimed classical works in Kannada, still widely studied and recited. Shatpadi is a meter in Kannada prosody that has been used extensively in Kannada poetry. The meter typically has six paadas (literally, foot) of syllables, divided into groups of various fixed numbers of maatras (length of time required to pronounce a short vowel) in each line.

[5] Howard Fast. The Naked God. Open Road Integrated Media, 2011

[6] D.V. Gundappa. Sankeerna, DVG Krutishreni, Vol 11, Government of Karnataka, pp 271-2.

[7] K.S. Ramaswami: Beloved D.V.G., Public Affairs, October-November 1949, Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs, Bangalore p 233. Emphasis added.

 

 

Author(s)

About:

Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

Prekshaa Publications

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...