The newspaper is all-important these days. Carlyle called it ‘the fourth estate’. It is almost the first thing that greets you in the morning. It is perhaps the last thing over which you drowse at the close of a hard day’s work. It makes you feel one with the rest of mankind. You read what is happening in all parts of the world and for a while get out of the narrow circle of your personal affairs. You interests are broadened. You are forced out of your egoism. The horizon of your mind is extended. You become alert, inquisitive, and intellectually wide awake. So much is happening every day, so quickly are things changing everywhere, that unless you keep yourself abreast of the changes you cannot adjust yourself to them or move with the times smoothly and easily.
A modern newspaper is a chronicle-and encyclopedia in miniature. It records events that happen and the advance in knowledge that are being made from day to day. It seeks not only to inform but to interest, to stimulate, and to excite. For a busy man and we all have to be busy these days more or less –t is hardly possible to read everything that it contains. There must be selection and a distribution of emphasis. First of course, one must consult one’s personal taste. One man is interested in political, another in sports; or one may be drawn to one topic more than to another. These are matters of personal preference. But generally, it is necessary for all alike to read the progress that is being made from day to day in the affairs of your country and in the affairs to the world. Without this, one can hardly take an intelligent part in discussions or conversations in an educated society. Redding a newspaper makes a man fit to participate usefully in a cultivated society.
But newspapers contain much that is useless or even harmful. There is a thing called ‘Yellow Press’ journalism. It deals in mere sensationalism. It rouses popular passions against a country or a people or a community by giving exaggerated versions of minor incidents. Newspapers have trick of handling sensational news that excites national passions. These are a part of the means to increase circulation. They also help to decry or boost up political parties according to the color of the newspaper. A reader must be particularly on guard against this type of journalism. He must be critical and circumspect. A grain of intellectual skepticism is always a needed virtue in readers of newspapers. In a multi-racial country like ours, where it is so easy to rouse one community against another, one must be always on guard against this sort of journalism.
Some equipment is certainly necessary in order that newspapers may be helpfully utilized. It is necessary to have basic knowledge of history and geography, or political and economic theories. Unless one knows the historical background or the geographical location of events reported, they will convey little of value of importance. Basic conception of political and economic ideas is also necessary in order to be able to make one’s own deductions, to preserve one’s independence of judgment. The prevalence of “Yellow Press” journalism makes it necessary to exercise some amount of critical insight in order to keep one’s balance and not ‘be blown about by every wind of fashionable doctrine.’ Newspapers should guide one’s mind but must never dictate one’s judgment. It short, one must bring to the reading of newspapers an educated mind, an informed judgment, and an essentially critical understanding if they are to serve any purpose other than mere bazaar gossip.
Newspapers help one to find an interest in the world in general. It keeps us informed of what is taking place around us. It tells us not only of political or sensational events, but also of new inventions and new discoveries, and what the world is thinking about, so that we may join in the pulsating life that is going on around us. It is useful to all classes of people, and each will find in it what it wants. In the special articles, there will be much that has an educative value; in the editorials must that offers useful guidance. Even the advertisements have their value-not only to their businessman who finds them indispensable in the discharge of his duties; not only to the student of economics to whom they offer useful hints in studying market-trends: but the busy housewife as well to the listless dawdler after the day’s hard work. In these days a newspaper is indispensable to life.
But if newspapers are read in search of sensationalism, it becomes a real evil in life. A good deal is reported that is of passing interest. A good deal is often misreported that leads to dangerous consequences. The propaganda machinery of newspapers is vehicles of political parties, and neutral reader fined it difficult to arrive at a balanced judgment. Of course, whether life has any scope for neutralism is a different question. One of the best newspapers of England-the times-advertises its aim is being the service to ‘no cause except that of keeping its readers informed.’ It labors on argument, favors no group or region’. It reads very well as far as an ideal goes, but is always a moot question if news and views can always be kept apart. Newspapers cannot certainly be expected to give us only ‘the bare bones of life’; they must tell us the cause and effect of the readers, then, is the only check against any ‘palpable’ or cloaked design.
It is also good to remember that the newspaper is a highly organized industry today. There is big money in it. The owners often exercise an unwholesome influence and the over-all policy of a newspaper is subservient to the interests of an owner or the class or party or community to which is belongs. A critical and independent readership alone can bring the owner to heel, whenever necessary.