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EDIT/OP-ED


THE SOUL OF THE BUSINESS

By Tarun J Tejpal


This is the perfect moment to say it.Tehelka is at the end of a long and difficult road, but at the beginning of an even longer and more difficult one. For two years after we broke the big story our resolve was: we will not be killed. For the last one year it has been: we will come back. And now, as we hustle to design and write up the pages of the first issue, it is slowly becoming: we must create enduring success.

Do more of what we first set out to do.

Do it with greater refinement, moral clarity, and responsibility.

By its history, and its declared intent, Tehelka has been yoked to a high mandate. These are the things we said as we went out to harness support to recreate ourselves:

We will not be affiliated to any political party or business house.

We will see things through the prism of public interest.

We will be transparent and ethical in all our processes.

The heart of the paper will consist of crusading and constructive journalism.

We will be unembarrassed to display a moral centre.

At the same time we have no intention to be joyless. Among the endless lessons of the last three years has been a crucial one on the lightness of being. Burdens are light when borne by laughter. The paper must then reflect all aspects of our lives, serious and trivial, high-brow and low-brow: it must attempt to be what each one of us is, all things in ourselves. Of course it must be all ordered, for it is in the ordering of our values that we proclaim our true selves. And it is here we have to prepare to be tested every week.

What we must not lose, as we acquire refinements and flourishes, is our ability to dirty our hands. To do the messy story, the difficult story. We have become a people who sanitise ourselves out of all visceral and gritty engagement. Tehelka must guard against the easy charm of this drift.

We may have our heart in the right place, but there is still the art of the business and the business of the business. The art of the business is to ensure that our stories not only stand for the right things but are also read. Unread stories are dead stories; a failure of the storyteller, the reporter, the editor. In mass media their purity counts for little. So we must be engaging. As for the business of the business: how do you marry a journalism of integrity with commercial well-being, if not success? I believe it can be done. This too will be tested as the months unfurl. The last few years have taught us many things about private beliefs and public cowardice. It is in this chasm of hypocrisy that good societies sink. The hole in the paper that is a hole in the soul. May Tehelka have the chords to speak in a single voice.

And in this overloaded journey what will be our talismanic guide? There is the conscience, always, but Indians are also blessed with another peerless map. The Constitution, a soaring public document, capsuling the finest in the human spirit. Tolerant, liberal, noble, wise. Enough to illuminate the darkest road. Enough to steer a nation, or a man.


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