Saturday, August 13, 2022

A journalist I have silently admired

Shekhar’s Sunday Musings

Journalist T.J.S George | Deccan Chronicle
Sudha Murthy presenting her book to TJS George

A journalist and editor I have silently admired has hung up his boots. His column ‘Point of View’ that has been a regular feature in the New Indian Express since 1997 took the final bow on 12 June. I can’t claim to know the veteran, TJS George or TJS, but have met him in his office in Bangalore some years ago.

No stranger to anybody who is a somebody in journalism or outside it in India, he is equally well known overseas, including as an enterprising publisher.

He lives in Coimbatore, a peaceful city with a salubrious climate, comfortably away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Also read: You need to hang in there!

Singlehandedly took on the biggies

I thought of this tribute to him for one good reason. He singlehandedly took on the biggies of the global media publishing world at a time when not many Indians ventured out to such things.

TJS Ammu 60th anniv Aug 2017.jpg
George with wife Ammu

TJS edited his Asiaweek newsmagazine for two decades from Hong Kong before he sold it to Time, for a tidy sum, it is said, but that shouldn’t bother us. The magazine gave the mighty and eminently readable Far Eastern Review a run for its money. I was a regular reader of both. They gave good insights into what was then the Asia-Pacific (now fashionably called Indo-Pacific), the great economic boom of Asia and the rise of the Asian tigers, the Philippines – both during and after Marcos – the Malacca Straits trade, Indonesia, and the hotspot of East Timor. Asiaweek also provided a perspective to me on the then looming Chinese takeover of Hong Kong, and indeed on the ways of the stock market and the movement of the Hang Seng. Now both magazines are defunct.

Stuff legends are made of

You have to give it to TJS. His spirit of enterprise and style of journalism – stuff legends are made of – made his magazine noticed and be counted among the top journals of repute then.

He is without doubt one of the last of the old-guard editors. There are very few like him remaining, which makes me come to the point how journalism and the role of journalists have changed. Who will have ever imagined that journalists one day will have to literally pedal their stories? Publishers these days expect journalists to promote their stories on social media, a need propelled by dwindling circulation and ad revenue. I recall a former senior Fairfax journalist friend’s lament. Journalists everywhere are irked at the way things are going but it’s a take-it-or-leave situation.

I often wondered what if TJS had moved to the heartland of India to edit a newspaper. But then how does it matter.  Hasn’t the internet and the information revolution blurred geographical distinctions and demarcation?

As Bob Dylan said ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’.

Also read: An attitude of gratitude is key to happiness!

Shekhar Nambiar
Shekhar is a communications professional who has spent a good deal of time in international organizations and in the development sector. As he puts it, it's been an "exciting journey" for him, beginning his working life as a journalist, with some of the best editors and professionals, before venturing into public affairs and then forays in the private sector. He believes "every day brings new challenges, achievements and success, and the key is to play a small part in whatever it is that you're doing". He tries to keep pace with new tech, and learn a new word a day, of course, "Gen Z lingo!"

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