The British polymath Thomas Carlyle’s wrote in his much celebrated work ‘Heroes and Hero Worship, (1841) “[Edmund] Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.” This observation which often gets translated as, “Journalism is the fourth pillar of democracy”, has become something of a common sense when it comes to describing the role of journalism in democratic society. Journalism is generally understood as a noble profession whose objective is to spread facts, question the powerful and the state and spreading awareness among populace, all deemed instrumental for the development and functioning of a vibrant democracy.
Any analysis of present state of Journalism in the light of Carlyle’s wisdom is bound to characterize state of contemporary mainstream journalism marked by fake news, misinformation and toeing the line of Government etc. as pessimistic. In light of such deplorable and pessimistic present, perhaps we can train our telescope to the past and reflect on the life of a person who literally was the embodiment of Carlyle’s wisdom regarding the noble profession of Journalism.
The name of one such person is Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, founder editor of Hindi newspaper Pratap and restarted the monthly political magazine Prabha. A freedom fighter, friends of Indian revolutionaries and a crusading Journalist cum activist, Vidyarthi was born on 26th October 1890 in Allahabad to a middle class family. After completing his initial education in present day Madhya Pradesh, Vidyarthi came to Kanpur in 1913 from where his remarkable career began. In his early career, Vidyarthi took an interest in the French poet and novelist Victor Hugo, and translated two of his novels namely, the Les Miserables and Ninety three.