Published by the National Book Trust, India, Sidharth Mishra’s Processing News: A Career in Journalism is a perfect combination of accessibility and range that is needed in any good introductory book. Mishra, a veteran journalist with over twenty years of experience under his belt, has put together a stellar array of facts and facets pertaining to Indian media, covering them both historically and by type.
Mishra’s approach to journalism and media, an ever-expanding universe of ideas and technologies, is simple yet comprehensive. In the Preface, he writes about the reason that prompted him to pen this book. “Since those opting for careers in journalism come from diverse backgrounds, it is a foremost requirement for them to have an understanding of the media history. The Indian media history runs parallel to the evolution of the nation’s history and vice-versa… The inspiration to write this book essentially came from a large number of my students and colleagues who appreciated my attempt at introducing them to less mundane topics of history, politics and language in addition to focusing on the daily chores of journalism,” he says.
Mishra never loses track of this essential thread running through all the chapters that cover diverse aspects of the media. Right from its beginnings in the Battle of Plassey and the colonial regime, that saw the setting up of Bengal Gazette in January 1780, the first published Indian newspaper, to the rage of new media and fashionable online portals, Mishra weaves in the myriad developments together, making a comprehensive but graspable narrative out of the many trends.
His chapters on print, radio and television journalism are excellent introductions to these spheres, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, there’s a section on ‘enterprise and editorship’ which talks about the changes in media since the opening up of the economy, particularly its contribution in creating contemporary stalwarts like Shekhar Gupta and Aroon Purie. However, in the same chapter, Mishra balances out the authorial hold of the all-powerful editor with his observation on the ‘rise of the columnist’, another unique result of the economic liberalization.
Mishra picks four – Swami Anklesaria S Aiyar, Arun Shourie, Swapan Dasgupta and Ramachandra Guha – as the independent writers having maximum impact on the minds of the post-1991 readers. But he’s equally astute in acknowledging that in the current times, a handful of television journalists, particularly Prannoy Roy and Barkha Dutt of NDTV, Rajdeep Sardesai (presently with Headlines Today) and Arnab Goswami of Times Now, set the national agenda.
But the dynamic environment of the modern-day newsroom never fails to excite and amuse Mishra. He passes on the excitement to the readers successfully.