Chennai: When my mentor T R Ramaswami (TRR), the doyen of journalism, started ‘News Today’ on 7 December 1982, his target was clear. “I can’t reach the masses due to the lack of financial muscle. But I want to reach all opinion-makers whose decisions impact the masses,” he used to say. And he made his vision a reality so soon, thanks to his power-packed writings in both News Today and Makkal Kural.
Top people from various domains, from politicians to bureaucrats to film personalities to thought leaders, looked forward for his opinion on wide ranged issues. The then Chief Minister M G Ramachandran (MGR), who launched News Today, used to have a word with TRR before taking important decisions.
Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister then, shared a close rapport with TRR and he was her go-to man whenever she wanted to know something about the south.
But as they say, all good things come to an end and TRR, due to illness, left us one bad day. When we remained inconsolable, both professionally and personally, came a whiff of fresh air in the name of T R Jawahar, the legendary son of the legendary father. A chartered and cost accountant by qualification, Jawahar, instead of taking up the high-paying profession, chose to take over the mantle of his father.
With immense passion, Jawahar came to the helm of NT at a very young age and became its Editor. But he was not that Editor who would sit inside the comfort of an air-conditioned cabin dictating what others would do. He was, and still is, a Reporter, a Sub-Editor, a Photographer and a Page Designer. His marketing and printing knowledge call for a separate story and we will have it some other day.
Just like the proverbial ‘Like father, like son’, Jawahar rubbed shoulders with the powers, or super powers for that matter.
While his interactions and interviews with Prime Ministers were part of history, his rapport with former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was something rare. Both shared a flair for the language, and Jayalalithaa, an ardent reader of News Today since its inception, was an admirer of Jawahar’s sharp and analytical articles.
She made it a habit to read News Today every evening without fail and give her feedback to Jawahar, almost instantly. There would be occasional errors. And Jaya would point them out to him without fail. She had an eye for detail, and also for the details in News Today.
Wherever she was- Poes Garden, Kodanadu or Siruthavur, News Today would reach her. Her love for NT was so much so that she read it even from the hospital bed during her last days.
Coming to the first citizens of the State, whoever be the occupants of the Raj Bhavan, they became readers of News Today. Surjit Singh Barnala, K Rosaiah, Ch Vidyasagar Rao and the preent Governor Banwarilal Purohit to name a few.
Since they hailed from other States and hence, were not comfortable in Tamil, News Today became their source of information during evenings to know developments (in the State) and demands (of the people). Not to forget the bureaucrats. Almost all top IAS and IPS officials were and are readers of NT. The list is long and it includes entrepreneurs, doctors, actors etc.
Like his father, Jawahar too is known for taking bold stands. He never hesitated to criticise the powers that be, and Chief Ministers, including Jayalalithaa, became his targets whenever they did something that was worth a criticism. When almost all media houses took one stand in the Veerappan issue, he exposed the forest brigand and his messengers, in his inimitable and envibale writing style.
A lover of technology, he has ensured News Today, Maalaisudar and Talk Media embrace the latest of the tech to produce high quality media products. It was he who introduced colour frontpage for the first time in Chennai media. And it is he who is still adding colour to NT, its staff and readers in every possible way.
(The writer, M Subramanian, is the Editor of Maalai Sudar, the sister publication of News Today)