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20 March, 2008

Indian media coverage of Arthur C. Clarke's death

The Indian media’s coverage of Arthur C. Clarke’s death is illustrative of its professional weakness. Here is a man who foresaw the technological developments which made a big difference to the way the media functions. He lived in our neighbourhood, having taken up residence in Sri Lanka in 1956. Yet no Indian newspaper had a worthwhile obituary.

The Hindu carried a three-paragraph report from its Colombo correspondent on Clarke’s death under a single-column headline. Alongside, it featured under a six-column headline the syndicated New York Times obit.

The Times of India is not a newspaper to which one turns for good reading material these days. It redeemed itself somewhat this time by publishing a write-up by one of its staffers, Narayani Ganesh. It was not an obit but an account of a meeting she had with Clarke in Colombo.

(Narayani Ganesh is a daughter of the late Gemini Ganesh, eternal lover of Tamil cinema)

The poor performance of the newspapers can be attributed to bankruptcy at the higher levels. Clarke died early on Wednesday. Access to material is easy these days and most of the big newspapers have on their staff persons who are capable of producing a good write-up in time for Thursday’s edition. The editors did not put the resources at their disposal to proper use probably because such activity is not very important in their scheme of things.

Arthur C. Clarke’s death, of course, is not an event with political relevance. But even on political developments with implications for our country, the major newspapers, including The Hindu, routinely carry syndicated material from abroad.

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