Year End Reflections on Editing & Reporting All Things Rural
Far from the swanky corporate offices of ‘mainstream’ media houses, Gaon Connection offers a fertile ground to young journalists to understand and report on issues that affect two-thirds of the population of our country.
Pratyaksh Srivastava 30 Dec 2023 2:22 PM GMT
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
It all started in 2018 when I began to realise that what is published in the mainstream ‘national’ newspapers seldom makes sense to a vast majority of Indians. It dawned upon me that for almost anybody who doesn’t reside in a metropolitan area, it is really difficult to relate to what the newspapers or the news media reports at large.
Living in the national capital, I was drawn towards talking to those who drive e-rickshaws, sell street food or work as construction labourers. Each one of those individuals were migrants in an unfamiliar city with its familiar disparities.
Each one of them had a common longing for their families living thousands of miles away in a small hamlet.
They were here because their rural native lands could no longer provide them with a livelihood. The reasons were plenty — crop failures, landlessness, low price of their hard work, their once fertile lands having turned barren.
It was this feeling of the news media’s collective neglect of rural residents that made me aspire to work for Gaon Connection.
I found it to be a sanctuary for guerrilla journalists who had little awe for what makes news in a typical mainstream newsroom — a passionate calling for those who wanted to write, report and edit things that mattered to an overwhelming majority of Indians living in the rural hinterland.
Finally, it was in the spring of 2021 that I landed in a job that I had always wanted to do. Working under the troika of its experienced leaders like the organisation’s Founder Neelesh Misra, Managing Editor Nidhi Jamwal and Editorial Consultant Pankaja Srinivasan has been an experience that would have taken years, even a decade to attain had I not got the opportunity to work for Gaon Connection.
I joined Gaon Connection at a time when the full blown socio-economic crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic was yet to unfold.
Shortly after I assumed the role of Senior Sub Editor in March 2021, the traumatic second wave of the pandemic consisting of the deadly Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 wreaked unprecedented havoc on the country.
It was a sheer show of grit and resilience of the Indian farmers whose workflow remained unhindered by the lockdowns that were imposed to check the pandemic which spread like wildfire.
Even the leading economists now agree that had it not been for the relentless agriculture sector, the loss to the Indian economy due to the pandemic would have been far worse than what has been registered.
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the rural not only feeds the urban but also rescues the economy when none of the other sectors are in a condition to perform.
These experiences made me realise the importance of reporting and editing stories about the plight, challenges and the successes of the Indian farmers.
No matter how frequent the crop losses were, how frequent the vagaries of the weather were, the adverse impact of climate change on agriculture HAD to be documented.
It would be a travesty to consider Gaon Connection as just another organisation that reports on rural issues. The painstaking efforts that are sustained here to train a cadre of Community Journalists (CJs) should ideally earn the envy of the leading journalism schools in the country.
The selfless devotion to teach and train rural residents to become CJs and not only pursue stories but also pitch ideas is something that cannot be expressed in the datasets that record an organisation’s tangible growth.
But it certainly adds to the quality of the social impact that an organisation brings about in the society.
Happy New Year in advance! May 2024 bring good fortunes to the readers, viewers and listeners of Gaon Connection.