We are not the world | india | Hindustan Times
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We are not the world

On January 6, Israel fired mortars at a United Nations’ school in Gaza that was sheltering Palestinian refugees. The bombing killed more than 40 Palestinians, almost all civilians, including many children. It was perhaps the bloodiest day since Israel had launched its most recent offensive 12 days earlier on this tiny strip of land to its southwest.

india Updated: Aug 28, 2009 15:31 IST
Sumana Ramanan

Sumana Ramanan
Senior Editor

On January 6, Israel fired mortars at a United Nations’ school in Gaza that was sheltering Palestinian refugees. The bombing killed more than 40 Palestinians, almost all civilians, including many children. It was perhaps the bloodiest day since Israel had launched its most recent offensive 12 days earlier on this tiny strip of land to its southwest.

Yet Hindustan Times did not put this news on the front page. One reader was appalled. Another reader pointed out that we had failed to take note on our front page of the 50th anniversary of Cuba’s revolution. Is it because HT believes that today no country except the US matters to Indians any more, she asked.

What can I say? I completely agree with the first reader, whom I know personally and who I think is the kind of sophisticated person any editor ought to be thrilled to have as a reader. Iamalso sympathetic to the second reader.

I feel that both events, namely Israel’s bombing of the UN school in Gaza, as well as the Cuban revolution’s anniversary, ought to have been on our front pages. Not just that. I believe that overall, HT should have more international news on its front pages.

Somepeople withinHTmight be tempted to dismiss these views as representing a minority.

It is true that the demand for world news is less than that for local and national news. Our surveys show that 99 per cent of our readers read news about Mumbai, 95 per cent read national news and only 80 per cent of them read international news.

I don’t dispute this data or the logic of acting on it. I also understand why the demand for local news is so high. People want to know about events and changes that they believe have a direct bearing on their immediate environment and their lives. Fair enough.

Just because I often tend to be interested in goings-on all over the globe out of what ultimately boils down to empty curiosity or for trivial reasons (I follow developments in Turkey intermittently only because one my best friends in the US,where I was a student, was Turkish), I shouldn’t expect readers to emulatemy frivolity.

But I would actually argue that what happens in faraway places like Israel and Cuba might indeed have a bearing on our lives here. It’s just that often the way the news is presented, we don’t know how.

After all,what some broker did onWall Street has probably played a much larger role inmylife (it nowmakesmehappy I have a job at all), than anything else.

There are less spectacular examples.

Over the past fewyears, Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia have leaders at their helm who are trying to spread resources more equitably among their populations. Is there something about the way Evo Morales reversed the privatisation of water in Bolivia that might hold a lesson for us? I think that one reason not enough of international news gets on to our front pages is that we do not have correspondents in many places.

Most of our world news now comes from Western media sources, which I have great respect for with regard to certain things, but most of whose journalists largely present news from distinctly Western perspectives.

I suspect a good Indian journalist would better be able to make the connections between events abroad and in India and would have a better sense of why something happening 10,000 miles away from this country would actually matter to its citizens.

If HThad money to fund two more foreign correspondents, I would vote for sending them to the Middle East and Latin America.

Not that anyone is asking me for my half-baked opinions, of course.