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Critical analysis by ThePrint readers always welcome, but we won’t send a spy to Pakistan

Scold us to your heart’s content, berate us, eat us for breakfast — but do stay in touch.

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April is the cruellest month, or so wrote the poet T S Eliot, therefore prepare yourselves, dear readers, for the heat and dust that lies ahead — literal and metaphorical. With political temperatures soaring each day, we’re in for a scorching summer.

But before April steals a march on this month, let us rejoice in the unexpectedly pleasant weather of the last two weeks – at least in parts of north India.

Here’s some ‘cool’ news from ThePrint: it’s won another award.

Last week, two of our reporters, Jyoti Yadav and Bismee Taskin, were among the winners of the prestigious Ramnath Goenka (RNG) Excellence in Journalism Awards for 2020. They won for Hindi journalism under the ‘print’ category. This comes soon after seven ThePrint journalists won the International Press Institute (IPI) India Award for Excellence in Journalism 2022. Now, that’s pretty impressive because in both cases, ThePrint competed with the best and the brightest in Indian journalism, across print and online media.

Also, remember, these awards are for stories and photo stories done in 2020-21 – at the time, ThePrint was just over three years old. Not bad for a toddler, right?

The work that has been recognised by these awards, was part of ThePrint’s coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic. I believe they acknowledge our greatest strength: field reporting. And although Covid has since abated, ThePrint’s ground reporting continues apace. On 25 March, I counted 11 original reports/stories on the website from outside Delhi – that means reporters are travelling to bring you stories.

Way to go.

In the last month, ThePrint has become newsier, quicker with breaking stories and offers greater variety in analysis and features. Please read and tell me if you agree/disagree.

Also read: How ThePrint courageously covered the Covid battleground and won the IPI award

Disapproving opinions

That leads me to the central focus of this piece. Now that we have patted ourselves on the back, let’s see what readers had to say about ThePrint in their emails to the Readers’ Editor.

Well, it’s a mixed bag, where, oddly enough, requests for posts or suggestions outweigh critical comments. There are also many, almost daily, requests to publish articles by readers: when they are incisive, I pass them onto the Opinion section. Otherwise, I remind readers that ThePrint does not accept unsolicited pieces.

If there’s one thing our readers detest it’s ‘paid news’ — they frequently believe articles in ThePrint have been ‘paid’ for. In fact, when readers have objected to articles—most often to the views expressed in the Opinion section—they often level this charge against the author and the website.

They get angry and upset and don’t mind letting me know they’re angry and upset —none more so than a frequent writer to the Readers’ Editor, who on one occasion, disapproved of articles on the magical prowess of a recent media darling, Dhirendra Shastri, popularly known as Bageshwar Baba. Why did ThePrint waste time on him, why didn’t it, likewise, write about similar Christian gatherings…(Will reporters) lose pay packets if they are honest, he asked. Ouch, that hurt.

Since I was one of the columnists who had written about Shastri, I defended the coverage: Shastri was in the news and viral on social media. That annoyed the reader even more. “Let us stop this… I have conveyed my concerns,’’ was the sharp rebuke.

Also Read: Lights, camera, storytelling—how ThePrint photojournalists tell news and win awards

Cutting the clutter

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ThePrint, Shekhar Gupta is still everyone’s favourite journalist to love or hate. Complaints about his ‘Cut the Clutter’ videos or his weekly ‘National Interest’ column please and displease.

“(Gupta’s) imagination runs riot in finding commonalities and relatables between Bharat Jodo Yatra and …. a Hindi film,’’ wrote a faithful reader.

Then there’s this about last Sunday’s ‘National Interest’ on Punjab — “Please tell Shekar ji that I havent (sic) seen or heard a better story in my life. Brilliant job,’’ wrote a reader, one who, by the way, is frequently critical of Gupta. Goes to show, readers are fair-minded.

Another reader was offended by Gupta’s use of the word ‘sexy’ in another `National Interest’ on BJP. We profusely apologised to him and explained there was no disrespect intended.

Readers have also caught us napping. Just recently, a reader pointed out Shekhar Gupta had mistakenly claimed that there was only one bridge, rather than three, across the Brahmaputra before 2014, in his 4 March ‘National Interest’. Right on.

Another careful reader noticed that a headline mentioned ‘TN’, Tamil Nadu, instead of ‘TL’, Telangana — he was absolutely correct.

Opinion pieces frequently provoke criticism. I am thinking of emails I have received about articles by Vir Sanghvi, Seshadri Chari and Yogendra Yadav. While I respect the readers’ right to their comments, I ask them to extend the same courtesy to the writers; most readers are satisfied with that. They just need to clear their throats.

These watchful readers are invaluable—they keep ThePrint honest. So please, do point out errors when you notice them and complain away.

Also Read: Podcasts, video analysis, on-ground clips—ThePrint is ready for the age of ‘viewer-reader’

Stray dogs in Noida to spies in Pakistan

Then, there are several regular readers who simply send me their thoughts of the day, sometimes twice a day. These could relate to the state of India, voting in India which is “laughable’’ or questions like “Is Narendra Modi real?’’. Shall we refer that question to the Congress?

I get suggestions too—please conduct debates, write about Khalistani attacks on temples in Canada, analyse Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar’s behaviour, explore ‘failed prohibition’ in Gujarat, write more on science and the environment. Actually, regarding the last suggestion, between Sandhya Ramesh, Mohana Basu of the science bureau, and environment and climate change reporter Simrin Sirur, ThePrint covers these subjects extensively.

One “senior citizen’’ wrote in offering to assist us to understand the presence of stray dogs in Noida housing societies, while another told us that to understand Pakistan, we need a “spy’’ or an “Indian journalist’’ on the ground. Gosh, a journalist as a spy would make an exciting South Asian espionage film/series. Any takers?

We also receive mail from readers who are disappointed enough by ThePrint to cancel their subscriptions. I recall one reader who disapproved, strongly, of a review of the film Pathaan and wanted the article taken down. When I explained to her that ThePrint could not remove an article simply on the basis of unsubstantiated claims, she ended her subscription.

Do stay in touch

Another reason for cancelling subscriptions has been the pop-up advertisements. These continue to irritate readers, but honestly while I sympathise and get equally irritated, I just grin and bear it.

I also agree with the reader who pointed out that articles in the ‘In Depth’ section tend to remain on the Home page for far too long. For example, pieces dated mid-February are still there.

If I have a grouse, it’s that readers aren’t critical enough. Don’t get me wrong — I’m looking for more critical analysis of editorial content, not simply “this is paid news’’ or “I don’t take journalists like you, seriously’’.

You may think we are happy with less criticism, but that’s not the case, at all: we welcome criticism and comments as much as we do compliments. We want readers to seriously engage with ThePrint so we can improve its content. There’s a great deal to be said for listening to readers’ feedback. And we do listen: in an earlier Readers’ Editor piece, I had written about how ThePrint does implement readers’ ideas, although not always.

So please, do write in. Scold us to your heart’s content, berate us, eat us for breakfast — but do stay in touch.

Shailaja Bajpai is ThePrint’s Readers’ Editor. Please write in with your views, complaints to

(Edited by Theres Sudeep)

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