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Dhaka Tribune

Print media and society

Update : 24 Apr 2013, 08:26 AM

Human beings are by nature garrulous and gossipy; they love to talk and must have others to listen.

Newspapers are born, and continue to proliferate, on these very basic human instincts. In practice, a trade is not a trade if it does not develop and institutionalise both its internal system and public image.

The print media industry is no different; it has to develop just as any other trade or business practice. While internal processes may vary by organisation, the industry has done well in making itself indispensable to the public.

They have built a mass culture in which the nation’s citizens need the industry’s output, namely the newspaper, as they need their morning cup of tea. In other words, the paper has been able to create – by harnessing people’s basic instincts of curiosity and thirst for knowledge – and then tap into a culture where people want to know what happens around them and how they are governed.

In essence, this culture is what democracy is all about, and the point naturally veers around to the question of the relation between democratic governance and the role of newspapers. Ideally, the democratic system of governance is run on the basis of participation and consensus, which depends on making sure that there are few, or no, information gaps: information is key.

The most common and widely used vehicle in this information-sharing process is the newspaper. Of course there are plenty of other modes of communication, such as radio, television, online news outlets and social media. Amongst all of these mediums, the newspaper remains the most effective and convenient.

Newspapers vivify the socio-political landscape of a country by, on the one hand, objectively reporting on political, social and economic national matters, while, on the other hand, providing context to the news by reflecting upon.

They serve the public by constantly keeping the public informed and helping form public opinion. There is a reason that newspapers are referred to as an estate within the state.

In its coverage of a wide variety of subjects, newspapers cannot help but be generational as well as cosmopolitan. People, according to their interests (generational and otherwise), use the newspaper as a means to become aware of daily happenings; it educates them through cultural orientation and enlightenment.

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, branded the indispensability of newspapers with the following words: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Professor Dr Nurul Islam is Vice Chancellor, Eastern University.  

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