Saturday 20 July 2019

Requiem for a paper

And for another Saturday of my life, a few stray thoughts and a few general observations and a few points of view (all my own work).

Like it’s sad that The Afternoon Despatch and Courier will bring out its last edition today, 34 years and change since it first hit the stands.

Like so many of us blithely defected from Mid-Day just to follow the writing of Behram Contractor, its founding editor and most popular columnist under the nom de plume Busybee.

Like it was a talisman for people my age, the first paper we bought ourselves, sharing its pages and collaborating over the crossword in the canteen of an evening, later reading it on the train home when we were earning salaries and could afford personal copies and could properly, to steal the verb today’s young people use, ‘adult.’

Like we who lost the afternoon paper habit to getting our news on the Internet even as our parents continued to get printing ink on their hands every morning were complicit on The Afternoon’s demise and so we can hardly complain, but we will, like this writer, nevertheless mourn our victim.

Like the paper hosted a galaxy of reporters and writers over time, many of them role models to your correspondent, some of them now people one has met personally and liked, their bylines remembered long after one first read them.

Like no one wrote about Bombay and its people and their foibles and graces, their mannerisms and addictions, with as much affection and gentle humour as he did, some have come close since, but only that. And yes, not many knew its food, from the humblest snack to the poshest spread, as he did.

Like while one can reproduce Busybee’s signature starting lines for his Saturday column and begin every paragraph with ‘like’ as homage, as many have, and many will do now to mark the passing of his paper, it’s really not possible to write like him without having lived his life; there’s a reason why a word often found before his name is ‘inimitable.’

Like this was supposed to be about the newspaper, but it has turned out being about Mr Contractor.

Like, perhaps this was why the paper was not the same after Mr C passed away.

Like it was somehow inevitable that a picture of an internal notice announcing the paper’s closing has been doing the rounds on social media way before any formal news of it appeared anywhere.

Like it was nevertheless sad that that notice was signed by the publisher’s commercial manager not the editor.

Like one hopes that the staff whose services ‘stands terminated w.e.f. 19th July 2019’ had read the writing on the wall before the notice on the softboard and have found new jobs.

And this final point of view. Today’s young people are not reading print newspapers much; but they are reading, and reading a lot; it’s just that their eyes are rivetted to small screens and we who make a living in text media have not yet learnt out how to get them to pay to read us. And more loved papers will die while we try to figure that out.

1 comment:

How do we know said...

The illustrated weekly of india broke my heart this way. And we are madcaps, who enter a sinking boat nonetheless.