These are troubled times for journalism. Veteran journalists are wondering whether the fabric of the once proud profession is slowly coming unravelled by the relentless pull of populism, politics and profits on its fraying seams. Official versions of stories have made journalistic practice veer closely to the role of publicists and public relations. Journalism schools teach their students that negative events make newsworthy stories. A train accident or a plane crash, lightning striking people, mindless terrorist attacks, floods and epidemics are all grist to the journalistic mill.
Amidst this mileu, I am happy to see my friend Vinoj Kumar treading an untrodden path by launching The Weekend Leader, a portal devoted to positive journalism. Unlike the popular media full of negative stories, and criticism treated as an end in itself, which is destructive, The Weekend Leader concentrates exclusively on positive stories. Positive journalism is journalism of hope.. Its stories are about something surprising, something we did not already know that will either affect the readers directly, or in the case of human interest stories, inspire their empathy or interest.
We are living in a society facing multiple crises-- cultural, ecological, economic and political. If the existing systems and structures of power continue on their present trajectory, a permanent decline is inevitable. The world we live in is profoundly unjust in the distribution of wealth and power, and fundamentally unsustainable in our use of the ecological resources of the planet. The task of journalism is to deepen our understanding of these challenges and communicate that understanding to the public to foster a meaningful dialogue necessary for real democracy and growth.
As the newspaper industry faces a failed business model and struggles for solutions, there are great opportunities to reshape journalism to serve people and the planet, following the traditions of the spirited independent journalists of the past. The Weekend Leader offers an exciting opportunity to young journalists to break new grounds in which justice and sustainability define not just our dreams but our lives.
On this occasion of the inauguration of The Weekend Leader, it is worth recalling what our former President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, has written in his book, Spirit of India: Reflecting the concerns, aspirations and dreams of the Indian Youth: “A borderless society with no divisions of caste and community can only arise from borderless minds. It has taken centuries for our society to evolve into the present structure of caste and community. Love, patience, good laws and fair justice are the best instruments of our society to transform itself into a borderless community where hands that serve are better than lips that pray. If the 540 million youth work with the spirit 'I can do it, we can do it and India can do it,' nothing can stop India from becoming a developed country.”
A group of social workers in the temple town of Kanchipuram meet every week to chart their down to earth projects. All of them teetotalers, not by scheme, they work at the grassroots level but seek no external aid. P C Vinoj Kumar meets them
In the chilly heights of Ladakh, Thinlas Chorol stands out as a social entrepreneur, trekking guide, ice hockey player and a writer rolled into one. Her remarkable role is changing the face of tourism up there, says Kavita Kanan Chandra
Fetching water takes such considerable time for rural women that they expend most of their time and energy on that. But ‘Water Wheel’, a recent innovation, is ushering a change in the lives of women in some villages, says Souzeina S Mushtaq
He once wanted to create a 'Shangrila' in the Himalayas. In 1993, he was into mergers and acquisitions in Citibank. But now Ramji Raghavan promotes scientific temper and the spirit of enquiry among poor children, says Kavita Kanan Chandra
Yankanma wanted to be a cook. Today she teaches English to her son. Rajesh Bhat, who quit a well-paid job to be a social entrepreneur, has many such rural success tales to narrate as he tells Souzeina S Mushtaq about his NGO, Head Held High
Students of IIT, Kanpur, are learning more about society by taking classes to underprivileged children around their campus. 'Shiksha Sopan’, a students' organization, enables many of its poor charges do what they couldn't have done otherwise
He helps students from poor families to pursue their higher studies and trains many for competitive exams, but shies away from publicity. He wouldn’t even want his photo to be published. P C Vinoj Kumar meets the founder of Mugavari, K Ramesh
If you hear the laughter of a disabled child, think of Kilikili, which literally means child's warbling laughter. Founded by Kavitha Krishnamoorthy, the NGO strove for making parks disabled-friendly. Souzeina Mushtaq tells us how it started