January 19, 2007

Vox Pops also count

Will our voices be heard if we have something important to say?
Many people will nod their head.
They believe that writing letters of protest, being part of a signature campaign, holding a placard or posting a protest post card is a waste of time.
It isn't.
If we want our voices to be heard, our views to be considered, we have to be at it all the time.
One space, which we can all use effectively, is the Letters column in newspapers.
Very often, at least in the community newspapers, the letters focus on narrow and personal subjects.
In the early days of our newspapers I recall handling a long, painstakingly written letter from a senior citizen of Adyar who complained about his neighbour who chose to lay his hands on the mangoes of his tree whose branches seem to have found their way into the neighbouring compound!
And a letter from another passionate reader of our Mylapore newspaper who wanted the local police to take action against urchins who unleashed a barrage of stones every morning at the bountiful mangoes on his tree and broke many a window pane in the bargain.
And then there are writers who seem to have a view on everything - from Saddam Hussein's trial to the 'racial row' on the UK reality show starring Shilpa Shetty.
Letters in small newspapers like ours, which can have some impact or lead to follow-up action are those which focus on local issues.
Letters which make valid, practical and strong suggestions, those which argue a point dispassionately and those which are constructive do leave an impression on readers, officials, politicians, community leaders and businesses.
We were surprised when a local city councillor who went on to become the chairman of a zone called up our offices and requested that copies of the weeklies be sent to his desk regularly.
Obviously, he seems to have realised that by scanning a local newspaper, he would get a 'feel' of the civic issues we reported on and points raised by local residents in the Letters column.
Senior officials have not paid much attention to local newspapers.
Often, we mail them copies, which report major issues like traffic regulations, water supply trend and the law and order situation, hoping they will have time to scan these reports and respond.
Perhaps, they are yet to realise the importance of local media.
But that does not mean we should not voice local issues strongly.
Do take time off to write a letter or e-mail us. The Vox Pops column is a key feature of any newspaper. We have space for your views/suggestions on local issues.

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