Song of Surrender

Monday, 2 January 2017

Confessions of an editor

By V Ramnarayan

Critics come in all sizes and shapes. In the world of Indian classical music and dance, knowledgeable criticism with no malice towards individual artists has become as rare as quietude and genuine as against manufactured emotional appeal in these arts.

In the English language press there is precious little coverage by way of reviews, with The Hindu an honourable exception. Increasingly, it is the social media platforms that offer reviews and criticism, apart from rave notices. The whole space is also completely democratic.

The result is that anyone with an opinion can air it, which releases criticism from the tyranny of elitism, and allows the unfettered expression of multiple viewpoints. Of course, like all things bright and beautiful, there is also a dark side to it. With no viable option of exercising caution, moderation and fairness available to us, abuse and slander are unavoidable when everyone is empowered by the media to offer criticism to a vast public.

In the Sruti experience, we have sometimes spotted talent amidst bloggers and other writers in social media, and encouraged them to contribute features to Sruti in both our print and online versions. Our guest contributors by and large adhere to our policy norms in terms of objectivity and fair play. We occasionally have to edit the copy whenever it marginally crosses these limits of decency. We tend to tone down praise and criticism alike, and remove all personal attacks.

Thanks to our careful selection of writers and their own awareness of our particular needs and standards, we do not encounter such problems frequently. Trying to edit the language to make it sophisticated and grammatically perfect is quite another matter. We have by and large managed to maintain our readability and reliability while showcasing such new  writing talent.

Unfortunately, we find out every once in a while that some of our contributors do not offer equally respectable content in their writings elsewhere. In some such cases, we have suspended publishing the writings of these correspondents, after explaining our stand to them, but have accepted them back after they have served a suitably long period of  exile when they stay away from abusive writing.

Some of these otherwise knowledgeable contributors with a way with words seem to be addicted to  scurrilous writing and slip time and again, like an alcoholic on the mend. We then have no choice but to enforce a permanent ban on such writers in our pages.

Equally dishonest is the habit of some of these writers of publishing  reviews in their blogs of concerts they have not attended. They praise or damn an artist through such forays into creative writing. The worst feature of such pernicious writing is that there are sometimes cases of artists and others connected to the arts shooting from the shoulders of these absentee ghost writers. Sruti cannot allow such alleged critics to sully its pages.

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