What is it about a newspaper that draws most educated people to it like a magnet?
A cultured, intelligent mind is inquisitive by nature, and a good newspaper ably fans and feeds this trait.
Conversely, making a child read appropriate sections of a good newspaper is a nice way of inculcating culture and intelligence in him. Once the habit catches on, it may well turn into an addiction.
A vibrant democracy requires that its citizens are well-informed and aware of the main issues facing the country. Vigilance, as they say, is the price of freedom, and it is not enough for a citizen to simply vote once in five years and consider his duty done (though, truth be told, even that calls for a high level of social and political consciousness—qualities that, oftener than not, a good newspaper imparts).
The growth of a nation, especially one as huge and diverse as India, is too important to be left solely in the hands of its leaders who, even when they are well-intentioned, are hard-pressed for time. Democracy, in its truest sense, must be participatory in nature, and there are many spheres of national activity (literacy, for instance) where civil society can perhaps play a more effective role than the government. Here again, newspapers can contribute significantly by identifying problem areas and suggesting suitable remedies.
Reading a newspaper worthy of its name (not tabloids indulging in yellow journalism) is therefore also intimately connected with the creation of a good citizen. The ‘Letters to the Editor’ column helps us in keeping our fingers on the public pulse.
On the lighter side, features like comic strips, cartoons and crossword puzzles provide us with entertainment when life becomes tiresome.
All said and done, there is also a flip-side to newspaper-reading. Newspapers may take up partisan political positions that destroy their objectivity and turn them into vehicles of propaganda. The reader needs to be ever alert against such inclinations.
Rather than being printed, the newspaper of the future may well turn into an electronic information service. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that it will continue to retain its special hold on the minds of educated people.