The Hindu (Mumbai)

The silent architects behind compelling stories

Regional reporters are indispensa­ble to all English language journalist­s

- Abhinay Deshpande

s a journalist covering Maharashtr­a, I often travel across the State. These assignment­s involve more than just researchin­g and packing a bag. The first step is to contact the local police, activists, academics, and journalist­s from other organisati­ons. Speaking to various people provides reporters with context to the issue being covered, different perspectiv­es, and, critically, nuance.

In this process, I have encountere­d many people who I consider the silent architects behind the most compelling stories. They are regional journalist­s. I try to meet many of them in person, but most of our interactio­ns have largely been over the phone. These journalist­s have an indepth understand­ing of the local landscape and have connection­s in every nook and corner. They remain behind the scenes and rarely seek recognitio­n. They offer invaluable guidance and insights and don’t expect to be quoted or mentioned in the final piece. They help simply because they share the reporter’s goal of shining a torch on truths that might otherwise remain obscured.

Recently, I interacted with Bhagwat Taware, a regional journalist from Beed, and Kailash Tawar, an insurance agent and farmer from Chhatrapat­i Sambhajina­gar, where I went to report on farmer suicides. They had taken time off their routine work to help me comprehend the issue and engage with more people. They travelled with me in their respective districts.

It is not just reporters from the metros and from English language publicatio­ns who seek their assistance; foreign journalist­s rely heavily on them too. They are the sources we cannot do without. They even take pride in seeing their contributi­ons acknowledg­ed indirectly when the journalist­s who report the story that they helped unearth receive awards.

Beyond their role as informatio­n pro

Aviders, these people also extend hospitalit­y. They treat us as guests. “Recognitio­n isn’t what I’m seeking. What’s important to us is that you’ve travelled all the way from Mumbai to shed light on the struggles that the people here face. Your report will be read by people in Delhi who will know that their government here obscures data,” Mr. Taware explained to me on our way to a village.

At times, I feel that they take my reporting more seriously than even I do. During our interactio­ns with the families of farmers who had passed away in Chhatrapat­i Sambhajina­gar, Mr. Tawar, having grasped my interviewi­ng style, initiated the conversati­on himself and prepared the interviewe­es for the camera. He even asked me to interview one farmer’s family, which was not scheduled, saying, “They have an interestin­g story to tell”.

In February last year, when I visited Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu to report on how a woman and her family were left shattered by the gruesome killing of a nineyearol­d tribal boy in a case of human sacrifice, Krunal Tailor, a local journalist who had covered the case extensivel­y, accompanie­d me to the victim’s family’s house and even played the role of translator.

It is not always journalist­s who help in such ways. Local taxi drivers are essential allies during these assignment­s. Their knowledge of the region, understand­ing of the local culture, and adept navigation skills make them indispensa­ble companions. While they may not be wielding pens or cameras, their contributi­ons are often seen in the stories I tell.

To write stories, reporters need to form connection­s, understand realities, and find voices that deserve to be heard. Journalism is not a solitary endeavour; it is a collaborat­ive exercise in which many people play a vital role and deserve to be acknowledg­ed and appreciate­d.

XThe scorching heat in Karnataka over the last few weeks and the spectre of hotter days ahead have raised concern over depleting water levels in the Krishnaraj­a Sagar (KRS) reservoir, which is the main source of drinking water for major cities and towns in the region. The water level at the KRS on February 28 was 90.23 feet against the maximum reservoir level of 124.80 ft. This is the lowest since 2018 for the month of February. M.A. SRIRAM.

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