Bye for now! Why journalism, and this column, need to pause and reflect

I write this amid a lockdown caused by the coronavirus, which I believe will make us pause and reflect on many aspects of our lives; our world, our homes, our professions, our priorities. I believe it is a perfect time for this column to say “Bye for now”. ScribeView needs a break to pause and reflect. It is the last column of this financial year, and it is a good time for us to take stock to press the reset button on many aspects.

This column has essentially been about a journalist’s reflections on his profession or the professional’s view of a few things outside of the profession. But it is intended audience is of the public relations community. The relationship between PR and journalism is one of an uneasy symbiosis because we do not necessarily bat for the same purpose. The journalist’s job is considered often to be something that looks above, beyond and beneath PR. The PR person, on the other hand, must try and influence the journalist on behalf of the clients she  represents, much like a corporate lawyer.

It is a relationship in which difficult clients can push PR folks towards less professional ways. And when that happens, ironically or strangely, the journalist is also pushed towards less professional ways! I do believe a healthy tension with mutual respect and cordiality is the best working equation between a PR pro and a journalist. Should one call it “social distancing” –being the fashionable expression this month as people across the planet try to avoid a harmful infection? 

After having written more than 100 columns of ‘ScribeView’ I intend to pause and reflect on this and much more. I may try to look back and turn my writings into a value-added book. Or I may change tack and come back with a fresh pair of eyes or a new focus or angle.  I have to look at ScribeView through the rear-view mirror first.

As a journalist, I have looked at the business of brands with several pairs of eyes. One is of a socially concerned citizen, another is of an entrepreneur, and a third of a journalist trying to find the golden mean between what is good for the audience and what might be plain old advertising. The fourth pair may be of a philosopher, who likes to muse on a world in which conflict and cooperation often exist together.

Journalism has seen many ups and downs in the three decades I have been in it. From monolithic newspapers and magazines to multiple TV news channels to an explosion of websites to the ‘everybody-is-a-journalist’ era of fake news and social media, I have seen a lot.  There is plenty for me to ponder about, drawing from experience and perception alike. There is a need for me (and indeed my profession) to pause and reflect on whether changing technologies, political landscapes, financial options, and business models have made journalism better or worse. And whether there is room to re-wire everything.

Pausing and reflecting is good. It helps us remove unwanted viruses and reboot our own selves. It helps us add value to others and to ourselves. The publisher of Reputation Today, Amith Prabhu, has given me an unfettered run, something rare even in mainstream publications fiercely proud of their independence. While I thank him for that,  I admire him and many of the PR tribe whom I know closely, for understanding and respecting journalistic values. Thanks are also due to Anubhuti Mathur, content director who chaperoned the column, for arguably being the most courteous and friendly editor I have engaged with.

So, dear reader, especially if you have been a regular one, it is time for me to thank you as well. A journalist writing week after week on journalism is a bit of an indulgence. But it is also a good one because it forces one to look within. On that spiritual note, let me say: Till we meet again, ScribeView takes your leave.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Madhavan Narayanan
N Madhavan is a senior journalist and editor who has worked for Reuters, Business Standard and Hindustan Times. He is currently an independent media entrepreneur, consultant and columnist.

He is listed among the top 200 Indian influencers on Twitter. He tweets as @madversity.

1 Comment on "Bye for now! Why journalism, and this column, need to pause and reflect"

  1. Look forward to have you back and you are correct, it is important for all to Pause and Reflect.

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