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New Year greetings from Frontline

Published : Jan 14, 2011 00:00 IST

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Frontline

FROM the day the inaugural issue came out in December 1984, Frontline has sought to be a magazine of a new type on the Indian publishing scene committed to analytical journalism that keeps the focus on key political, social and economic issues, issues that matter to people, society, and nature. This has meant being bold, critical, investigative, progressive, just, and socially responsible. It has meant setting goals of excellence in analysis and comment, in presentation, and in visual appeal. It has meant striving to be serious, relevant and interesting at the same time, something that is not easy to achieve in any field.

It is natural that over the years Frontline has experimented with the balance and mix of its content, its analysis, comment, features, photographs, and graphics. Through all this, it has remained steadfast in its fealty to intellectual seriousness, secularism, social justice, and progressive internationalism. Not everything it has produced can claim to be in-depth journalism of enduring value. But the special issue commemorating the fortnightly's 25th anniversary we brought out in January 2010 speaks to the sustained focus Frontline has kept on issues that affect the lives of ordinary people, especially issues of deprivation, denial of entitlements, justice, and humanity. It also speaks to an unusual versatility of coverage, including a robust interest in the world at large.

Frontline's orientation has never been in doubt: it is secular, democratic, progressive, pro-people. Over time, we have come to realise that we need to work within a conceptual framework of journalism with clearly demarcated functions or roles. These may be categorised as (a) the credible-informational, (b) the critical-investigative-analytical-adversarial, (c) educational, and (d) agenda-building functions or roles.

Frontline has regard and admiration for another publication with a difference on the Indian publishing scene, the Economic and Political Weekly, with which it shares editorial values and goals and a progressive orientation. Over many decades, EPW has striven to build high standards of analytical journalism and offer the best in the realm of ideas and scholarship in an accessible form to a variety of readers, including policy-makers. Frontline, seeking a somewhat larger readership, is in a different slot but the commonalities are important. Journalism being a discipline of verification and diversity, both publications strive professionally for factuality, accuracy, nuance, and offer space for diverse, contrary viewpoints.

Speaking for Frontline, we try to give readers a fortnightly opportunity to look beyond their immediate surroundings, to see the world from the points of view of the rest of humanity, and understand and reflect on the condition of losers in the world development game. Go to our freely accessible online Archives (www.Frontline.in) and you will find that few subjects of contemporary relevance have remained unexplored by Frontline. It has consistently monitored governments as well as social, economic and political movements, good and bad. It has offered insights on the happenings around the world, especially in India's neighbourhood. It has covered a broad range of topics, starting with politics, ideas, the economy, and international affairs and encompassing science and technology, education, history, the arts, heritage, nature, the environment, the judiciary, the civil services, nuclear energy, science fraud.

In the world at large, journalism is in an unprecedented state of uncertainty and confusion, although many good things are happening in print, in broadcast, and increasingly on the digital platforms. The situation approximates an existential crisis, which is the making of circumstances and factors that need not concern us here. But what concerns us is that this crisis and questions about the future of journalism put enormous pressure on the standards, practices, and core values of journalism.

The live and present danger to journalism is hyper-commercialisation. In a fast-changing milieu where newspapers and magazines are burdened with a tendency to over-simplify, sensationalise, trivialise, resort to the excitative, be brief to the point of losing meaning, a platform for long-form journalism is a professional and intellectual imperative. But it needs to be accessible, lively, and interesting as well. In a significant attempt to give its offerings a more modern, structured, newsy and pure look and feel, Frontline went in for a complete redesign by Mario Garcia's team of designers from Garcia Media in 2006 and the process brought subtle changes of content as well.

We believe that Frontline's is a special kind of journalism in a challenging scenario and that it offers real value to readers including, in considerable measure, young readers and professionals in search of knowledge and insights for making informed choices that are essential to the survival and flourishing of a democratic and progressive society that cares for ordinary people. As we greet our readers this New Year, this is the upbeat message we wish to share with them.

N. Ram Editor-in-Chief

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Jan 14, 2011.)

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