September 17, 2013

Editorial specials on the city's civic issues by newspapers

Can newspapers solve your civic problems and mine?
Surely not.
Many people assume that the media can create some magic for them, be it at addressing their civic issues, putting the lights on their bright sparks or carrying out local campaigns.
In recent times, two leading newspapers of our city have been featuring a series on local issues.

The Hindu has chosen to focus its ‘ My City My Right’ series on ‘Right to Walk’, spreading this coverage across print, online and social media.
The campaign has also had its marketing plug with ad boards on city buses highlighting the project and in-house adverts being placed prominently in its pages.
The newspaper has taken a close look at different aspects of our pavement spaces, got people to share pictures and their experiences, quizzed the officers of the civic body and had special columns by its senior editors and specialists.
Evidently, many readers and community activists have made good use of this series. They have shared pictures of the nasty state of footpaths and spoken to the daily’s reporters on the pressures that seniors living in T. Nagar’s Motilal Street are enduring and of the pavements on TTK Road in Alwarpet being reduced to just 4 inches!

The Times of India has chosen a bigger spread. It has looked at all kinds of civic issues and projects across the city, put out the results of surveys from all the city wards and zones and told readers if life is better in Velachery and why pollution is more in Washermanpet.
Again features, pictures, graphics and short takes have increased the focus on this series by ToI.
By now, the coverage in both these dailies of our neighbourhoods must be having some effect - on readers, communities, elected reps and officers of the state.

The short - term gains seem to be on record. Promises though will take time to be realized.
Against this, it will be good for citizens to look inwards to examine the role they have and can play in civic life.
In my experience as a journalist and editor, the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of our neighbourhoods and of our city and its politics is rather poor or just average among most people.

How many of us possess info on the civic zone and ward where we reside?
How many are aware of the different departments that manage our civic affairs and of the jobs they undertake?
How many of us engage with local officials, engineers and elected reps?
How many of us have made an effort to go beyond dashing off snappy e-mails and complaining over the phone and tried to set off a local campaign on issues that affect us all?

Publishing the picture of a garbage-laden street corner, or a letter on an illegal meat stall and making a few phone calls to the local officers cannot end in a magical act.
Local issues take time to be addressed. And they may show some positive results if we sustain campaigns on them. Newspapers can at best lend us a hand.

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