NL Interview: P Sainath on layoffs and the vanishing labour beat in the Indian media

‘Those who are dumping the largest number of people are among the most profitable media companies in the world.’

WrittenBy:NL Team
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In this interview, Newslaundry’s Manisha Pande is joined by P Sainath, journalist and author. Sainath is the founder-editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India, or PARI, an online media platform specialising in stories from rural India. He was previously a fellow with the Times of India and was The Hindu’s rural editor. Sainath’s book, Everybody Loves a Good Drought, a collection of his reportage from various parts of rural India, is widely acclaimed, and he was the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay award in 2007.

When asked how the labour beat has changed in mainstream Indian media, Sainath says, “It has simply died.” Newspapers and news agencies have moved from having full-time correspondents for the labour beat to the beat being non-existent today, he adds. “When you do not have a labour correspondent and you do not have a farming correspondent, [you] are making the statement that 75 percent of the population does not matter.”

Manisha and Sainath discuss the corporatisation of the media, media layoffs, and the lack of transparency in the operations of the media industry. Sainath points out that media layoffs have been taking place since before the Covid crisis. “Those who are dumping the largest number of people are among the most profitable media companies in the world,” he says. He believes newspapers should be hiring journalists now, since publications are trying to report on subjects in which they have no expertise.

The conversation also spans the media’s inability to report on the structures and processes behind rural stories, the lack of functioning of the legislature and the Cabinet, how “reform” has become an abusive word in recent decades, changes in labour laws, and lessons from PARI’s coverage of the lockdown.

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