Need to draw systematic relationship between academic research and journalism

August 01, 2017 01:19 AM

A.S. Panneerselvan

Is it possible to work out a systematic relationship between academic research and journalism?

It has been a truly exciting journey — writing 250 columns and addressing nearly 5,000 queries from concerned readers. The defining element of this journey has been the chance to reflect on the craft of journalism and its intrinsic value as a public good. There was not a single query that did not force me to look at the fundamentals of the narrative in the public sphere.

I was driven to literature, philosophy, law, ethics and an entire oeuvre of theories on journalism during the past five years to earnestly address the questions from readers, without fear or favour. At a deeper level, I am grateful for this opportunity to look at journalism, which in the words of Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the best job in the world, both from a practitioner’s perspective and a readers’ perspective.

Australian philosopher David Chalmers in his 1996 book The Conscious Mindraised some important questions: what is the relationship between brain and mind? What is the nature of subjective experience? Why do we have vividly felt experiences of the world? Why is there someone home inside our heads? He repudiated the pure neurological explanations of this wonder, which is as complex as time, space and matter.

Brain, mind, consciousness

I have a penchant for analogous learning. I could not resist grafting Mr. Chalmers’s idea onto journalism. If the brain is the newspaper, then the mind is the reader and consciousness is the relationship between the newspaper and the reader. It poses the same intractable challenges in understanding as of that in the relationship between brain and mind.

The sheer multitude of possibilities makes the task of a Readers’ Editor difficult but also stimulating. A new perspective, which one had never encountered as a reporter, springs up in unsuspecting moments. From the quaint to the commonsensical, from the profound to the commonplace, there is a new light that readers shine on some of the certitudes that guided one’s work for decades. The communications I receive have made me less affirmative and more interrogative.

This inquisitiveness has rendered me into a modern day Oliver Twist. I ask readers: “Please, sir/madam, I want some more.” The courage to ask also flows from the fact that the editorial team has been responsive to the voices of readers and has the mental and psychological framework to make amends where necessary, to incorporate good suggestions and to accept criticism as healthy feedback.

The ‘Slater village’ studies

I also have a request to the editorial team. In the early 1990s, when India opened its economy and the liberalisation process was subjected to competing rhetorical scrutiny, two economists, S. Guhan and J. Jeyaranjan, asked me to look at the lives of the people more closely to understand the efficacy of any policy change. They introduced me to the ‘Slater village’ studies. (From The Hindu)

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