Editor's Note on Special Issue

Print edition : January 15, 2010

I DONT think it would be an exaggeration to state that Frontline, which was launched in November 1984, is regarded by its committed readers in India and abroad as an unusual, even unique, magazine. It takes its genre of journalism, and the intellectual, social and ethical values behind it, seriously. It proceeds from the understanding that there is a place out there for a critical and progressive journalism that values freedom of expression and social responsibility equally, that on top of its credible-information function, seeks to make reasoned analysis, investigation, comment, and agenda-building its strong suit.

Acutely aware of the limitations of space in most forms of print journalism and the constraints they place on the presentation of deep-going analysis, investigation, argument, and comment, Frontline has consciously, from the start, offered space for long-form journalism, including picture features, on a variety of subjects. But it has sought to balance this with compactly written news analyses and opinion columns and attractive production values.

All this implies, especially for a fortnightly magazine, a strong concentration on key issues political, economic, social, cultural, and intellectual issues that matter now and over the longer term.

Frontline has made no secret of its secular, pro-people, and progressive orientation and its critical spirit. But within the journalistic framework it has worked out for itself, it also seeks consciously to provide space for contrary views, arguments and criticisms, especially through interviews, opinion columns, and responses.

Professor Venkatesh Athreyas comment, based on an in-house content analysis of Frontline from the time it was launched, is published in this issue. It highlights some distinctive attributes of our magazine. Roughly one-fifth of the articles over the quarter century relate to international affairs, which generally receive poor coverage in the Indian press, and the share of economic stories has remained steady at around 5.5 per cent to 6 per cent. We particularly value the economists comment that considering the analytical character of Frontline stories on the economy, one can see that this is indeed a major contribution to public education. We are also pleased to learn that close to 20 per cent of the articles published by Frontline over the quarter century deal with social and development issues, that the weight of this coverage has increased over the years, that the space allotted to cultural stories does not lag far behind, and that the coverage of the environment and science and technology has been quite reasonable.

The content profile of any publication changes over the years in response to various considerations and factors. We are proud of the sustained nature of the coverage of issues, movements, and tendencies and the improvements in our story profile. But we are also aware of the deficits and the shortcomings in Frontlines content, for example, the declining attention and space given to quality picture features, especially those relating to nature and wildlife, which has disappointed a section of readers, and the slackening of journalistic efforts needed to produce first-rate investigative stories relating to livelihood issues, which used to be a strong point of Frontline some years ago.

This Special Issue of 176 pages commemorates the magazines completion of 25 years. It has involved an extremely strenuous, but we hope not thankless, job of selection of content by our editorial team, in which I have chosen not to interfere.

It has nine articles offering an overview of major developments over the last 25 years in the areas of politics, economy, communalism, social justice, world affairs, public health, education, environment, and science. There is a bonus article that looks at how Frontline covered history. Each article is backed up by a Best of Frontline section, which I wont give away here. We also have excerpts from some of our best articles on art, music, film, and literature.

The Special Issue reproduces a column by Frontlines most distinguished and prolific columnist, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, whose birth centenary is being celebrated this year, and our note on EMS our columnist.

We also have a selection of representative and iconic pictures.

For those who want to know more about Frontline, we have a content analysis and comment on what it has had to offer in its 615 issues published over an eventful quarter century.

Credit for researching, selecting, and processing the content, and putting this issue together goes to our editorial team comprising R. Vijaya Sankar, K.K. Kesava Menon, V.M. Rajasekhar, K. Jayanthi, R. Krishnakumar, Sarbari Sinha, and Samuel Abraham; Photo Editor D. Krishnan; Chief Librarian and Archivist K. Rajendrababu and his team; designers U. Udaya Shankar and V. Srinivasan; and the graphics team led by R.P. Lakshmivenkatraman. Credit goes to the advertisement and circulation departments for backing up this editorial effort enthusiastically.

N. Ram Editor-in-Chief
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