B P Sanjay
The Hindu, inspired by the Guardian model, has appointed a Reader's Editor (RE). He is functioning since March 2006. The appointment of the RE, apart from the source of its inspiration, had attracted initial response by a few readers that the person should have been an outsider. The terms of reference of RE constantly pops up on the home page of the Hindu including the January 2006 lecture by Ian Mayes, Reader's editor of the Guardian. This lecture is useful particularly for students of Journalism & Mass Communications. In this lecture Mayes describes the role of the news ombudsman. He stated that the survey of Guardian readers revealed that they believed that the existence of an ombudsman made the paper more responsive to their complaints.
Regular readers of the Hindu do not miss the prominent corrections and clarifications section anchored at op Ed page including the Monday column of the RE. Although, some of the corrections and clarifications reveal the fussy and fastidious nature of the readers they also reflect the seriousness with which readers both in metros and particularly smaller towns desire to communicate with the newspaper.
Recently, the newspaper made available to the Hoot some figures about the functioning of the RE from March-September 2006. While these figures are useful they may require further analysis by researchers depending upon the questions they have in mind.
In the first two months, i.e. March and April the number of responses exceeded one thousand per month. On an average for the seven-month period for which the figures are available, the RE received 960 responses per month. E-mails formed the main channel of communication. The chart below indicates the cumulative figures in percent about the type of communication used by the readers.
The response by the RE has been 100 % in the sense that some form of action has been taken including direct response by way of replies and corrections and clarifications. Internally, the response has been to forward the readers' observations to the concerned section and their responses have also been indicated. The chart below provides an indication of the response by the RE.
Although the figures merely quantify the nature of communication and the RE's response it indicates that the newspaper has institutionalized the role of the Ombudsman.