On Writers And Editors – OpEd


The world of writing is a dual-edged one. While lucrative in certain aspects, there are many other facets which have to be factored into the overall picture. This includes the powerful writer-editor nexus and what a significant role it plays in the world of the published word.That being said, it must be acknowledged that writers fall into various categories – those who are renowned and authentic, those who are relatively unknown while penning gems of thought and also those who remain unsung, despite valiant literary efforts to get noticed.

Sensational media, rather than rational research and academic and diligent discourse seem to be the order of the day, with former bureaucrats who profess to venture an opinion on every topic and a few writers of genuine talent, tend to monopolize attention without letting aspiring young talent find its rightful place on the literary map.

Commenting on these hegemonistic phenomena, a sociologist from CCAS of Kashmir University remarked: I wonder why they (Kashmir Valley’s famous English daily) offer him (a former bureaucrat) the space every day to write stuff. I also wonder how does he manage to write on everything, sometimes on agricultural produce of Kashmir and immediately on American elections and then on Sufism. Is there really no one left to replace him.

Acknowledging that the world is more of orators rather than writers, my teacher at Kashmir University Prof. Rafiabadi believes that we lack writers in Kashmir, but definitely have a plethora of orators today, whereas it is the writers, he believes, who have the power to penetrate into a society and disseminate the message that can change the collective mindset for the common good.

‘Consumer is the king’ is the buzzword in the contemporary era and the principles of such an assumption apply to the Mass Media as well. The mechanics of Media are such that both readers as well as writers end up becoming the consumers in one capacity or the other. Both utilize this service, one for information while the other for satiating the urge for dissemination of information.

We may, however, argue that the buzzword is right, to some extent, in most of the fields of activity around us but it is absolutely untrue when it comes to newspapers and magazines, journals and tabloids etc. Media establishments are, in reality, driven by personal interests, both concealed as well as apparent, while the range of writers and the topics are set by the moguls themselves. They filter out what may be the finest of the writing talent and stick to the good old style of accommodating the viewpoints that fall in line with their set agendas. Young writers brewing with arguments and analysis of issues and situations, therefore, hardly find themselves communicated as ‘Space’ to them is constantly denied on one pretext or another.

Usually all the scholars, enrolled in the universities or otherwise, tend to write about different aspects of life while trying to communicate their point of view. A varied range of issues and topics are dealt with and different perspectives are shared with the readers who, at the end of the process, might be benefited by such coverage. Besides, it is a dream-come-true situation for any writer, especially young ones, to see themselves on the pages of a newspaper, magazine or journal.

A major chunk of writers are fond of exaggerating the happenings around; add what is called Masala (spice) and magnificence to the written stuff. Some write for they are to write out of heritage while there are others who write as others expect of them so, some are prompted by turbulent and dismal context while others write for career. There are writers who write because they claim that they have achieved tranquility and spirituality while there are others who write just because others write. All such and many more reasons for writing only add to the ambit of this particular genre of art and one should, in no way, consider any of the above mentioned motives as not-so-good or so.

Writers are the products of either literary ethos or of different upsurges, turmoil and conflicts. Such a situation results in an alarming increase in the emergence of new writers and that is probably why we have volumes written on conflicts and wars. In such a situation writers see writing as a form of opportunity to come to the forefront, most of them see it as their resilience, resentment and a form of non-violent protest; they see it as their contributing bit for mass awareness and awakening. Some write out of achieved identity (eminent columnists and academics), some out of status, be it social, cultural, capital, etc.

Budding writers, among them the student population as well, find themselves faced with a lot of unnecessary obstructions. Perhaps the ugliest of these include being pitched against the policy of platforms available and being forced to either fix their frequencies to that of the organizations available or rot in the absence of an all inclusive platform, thus unnaturally stemming their natural exuberance and understanding of relevant issues.

Apart from the challenges of platform, the young writers meet with resistance from a plethora of senior writers who have already carved a niche for themselves and have deep roots to feed through. Barely allowing budding writers to systematically resolve their dilemmas of language, grammar, issues of volatility etc and highlighting their lack of expertise instead of constructive correction, they effect a brutal rejection of their creative pieces.

The editing job is also a tricky thing and many a times, editing does actually turn out to be damaging for a script, instead of enhancing it and bringing to the fore, its literary strengths. French literary critic, literary and social theorist, Roland Barthes, in his famous essay, ‘The Death of the Author’ states that “the birth of the reader must come at the cost of the death of the author.” But they (editors) make it different and drastically unique: it is not only both the death of the author and the reader but the eventual rebirth of an ambitious and self-centred editor who applies his own ideas and assumes as if he/she is creating someone’s manuscript in totality.

Recently one of my teachers wrote a column for an esteemed national paper and to his shock found a sensational title rather than the title given by him. The article was reproduced at a prestigious media portal where the author wrote underneath, “The problem is that Editors always think they are smarter than the authors and change the title based on their perception of saleability or suitability. This article actually carried the title – Applying Conflict Management Theory to J&K. The editorial staff changed it to – Resolving the Kashmir Conflict. Actually the article has more to do with management than resolution.”

Aware that an increasing amount of literature on violence in writing may exist in the future, the author urges the imminent need to examine the nature of this violent behavior meted out to small writers, pin point the cause of many of its manifestations between war and the politics of writing where few rule even the minds of others, words written with a high degree of so-called intelligence, pages filled with pomposity and self-opiniated views dominate lucid, sincere and honest literary expression! Thereby allowing hollow intellectualism and pseudo-professionalism to flourish.

Urging that the Media world should not be merely an economic organization but allow fresh talent to express itself honestly and without hierarchical and hegemonistic considerations, the author emphasizes that in-the-not-too-distant-future the youth will effectively overthrow this system of unjust selections and rhetoric mongers.

In the final analysis, the question worth pondering is whether the newspaper and editorial policies are capable of shaping up a significant power relationship between the writer and the newspaper (platform)? Are newspapers abridging the writer (and his literary aspirations and intent of expression) with his/her audience/readers or hegemonizing their editorial power only to the detriment of all else?

Dr. Adfer Shah

Dr. Adfer Shah, (Adfer Rashid Shah, PhD) is a New Delhi-based Sociologist and Social and Political analyst.He writes his columns for various reputed international and national media groups. He has been writing on South Asia's Socio-political realities especially on Kashmir sociology and Conflict Situation at Eurasia Review since 2012, where he is a Special Correspondent for South Asia Affairs and Associate Editor since January 2014. His recent publications include his three books (1)"Kashmir-Yearning for Peace: A Socio-Political history of Uncertainty and Chaos,2016" (ISSN: 978-3-659-55971-6), (2)'Social Science Research in Conflict Zones,2017' (ISBN: 978-620-2-47937- 0) and (3)'Tibetan Refugees in India: Struggle to Survive,2018' ( ISBN 81-8324-919-1)]..

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