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What a fall, fellow journalists!

The Pioneering men: Vinod Mehta and Winston Churchill

How a respectable newspaper turns into a scandal sheet over long decades of its existence is evident from the sad experiences of the Pioneer. This 150-odd years old newspaper once had Winston Churchill writing in its columns as a war reporter.

Then there was Rudyard Kipling, a mere sub-editor, dutifully dotting the "iís" and crossing the "tís," so to say. Once Kipling got his Nobel, he was kicked upstairs to the more respectable niche of assistant editor, as per the Pioneer apocrypha.

No less illustrious was Desmond Young, a full editor at the time World war II broke out. Young left behind his deputy in the editorís chair and moved on to where the real action was -- Africa -- to send in some of the best war reports ever. A byproduct was the bestseller, The Desert Fox.

At the dawn of freedom came SN Ghosh, the first Indian editor. He was virtually an Englishman in brown skin. A tall, fair, handsome man with British upper class taste in dress, food and other essentials, he was a continuation of the old tradition. He kept his association with the Pioneer for half a century and died in mid-90s of the last century after a very long innings in life and journalism. Many of todayís older journalists were trained under him.

The tradition of good editors was continued when in the early 90s the newspaper launched its Delhi edition under Vinod Mehta, one of the best in the field in contemporary India. The Delhi edition was launched after the Jaipurias sold the publication to the Thapars of Ballarpur Industries.

One thing led to another and Mehta left after a few months. Soon the ownership changed again. This time round Chandan Mitra, another good journalist, took over as editor. He went on to become the CEO of the publishing company as well. His tenure with the Pioneer witnessed an amazing metamorphosis in him -- from a liberal, fair-minded person, he changed into an editor of a newspaper which was barely distinguishable from the Organiser, the rabidly anti-Muslim organ of the RSS.

Those who knew Chandan personally vouchsafe for his gentlemanliness. This is why it is extremely painful to see baseless reports like "Funds and Fundamentalism" being published in a newspaper run by him.

The reasons for the course adopted by Chandanís Pioneer are not difficult to find. Journalists in India are living in an extremely competitive world. Jobs in good positions are difficult to come by. That makes editors toe the line dictated by interests financially controlling the publication. (See, Vinod Mehtaís revealing book, Mr Editor, Do you know the PM? to have an idea of the use editors are being put to.)

The Pioneerís difficult financial straits make it resort to such gimmickeries as publishing "Funds and Fundamentalism." Our fellow journalists at the Pioneer should for once think over the blows delivered to the paperís credibility. It is wrenching to see mainstream publications falling so low in their eagerness to please the hate-driven Sangh dispensation. What a fall, dear fellow journalists! 

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