Mahatma Gandhi as a Mass Communicator

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1.Introduction

In the contemporary media world, where the 'advertorials' probably bear more importance than the 'editorials', I believe it should be interesting to know how the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, contributed to the fields of journalism and mass communication.

An effective communicator, Gandhi was fearless and eloquent with his words. He reached out to millions of people and convinced them of his cause. According to Chalapathi Raju, an eminent editor, Gandhi was probably the greatest journalist of all time, and the weeklies he ran and edited were probably the greatest weeklies the world has known. He published no advertisement, and at the same time he did not let his newspapers run at a loss. He had gained considerable experience in South Africa, where he had taken over the editorship of the 'Indian Opinion' and published it in English, Tamil and Gujarati, sometimes running the press himself.

Young India and Harijan became powerful vehicles of his views on all subjects. He wrote on all subjects. He wrote simply and clearly but forcefully, with passion and burning indignation. One of the objects of a newspaper, he said, is to understand the popular feeling and give expression to it, another is to arouse among the people certain desirable sentiments, and the third is fearlessly to expose popular defects.

2.Gandhi - The Great Communicator and Journalist

Apart from being a national leader and social reformer, Gandhi was a great communicator. More than any one else, he recognized that communication is the most effective tool to shape opinion and mobilize popular support. He was successful because he had a latent skill in communication that surfaced in South Africa where he had gone initially to set up practice as a lawyer. This gave him the clue to rally millions of his countrymen when he returned to India. Gandhi’s journalism belonged to an era when there was neither radio nor television. Such was the power of his 'soul communication' that whatever he said and wrote reached the farthest corners of this country within days and to the entire world thereon.

Gandhi, in a journalistic career spanning nearly four decades, edited six journals. None, including Harijan and Navjivan, at first, could boast a circulation of more than a few thousand copies. But such was Gandhi's grasp of the basics of mass communication that he ensured that his daily "outpourings of heart and soul" reached all.

If one were to ask the question as to who came first- ‘Gandhi – The Freedom Fighter’ or ‘Gandhi – The Media Crusader’, the truth would be that latter pre-dated the former by at least 20 years. In less than a few months' stay in South Africa, Gandhi realized the need to become a journalist to fight for the rights of the Indian community. And he brought the highest qualities the profession could boast of-courage in the face of adversity, unswerving adherence to truth, pursuit of public causes, and objectivity in presentation.

His first paper, Indian Opinion was started in South Africa. In order to ventilate the grievances of Indians and mobilize public opinion in their favour, Gandhi started writing and giving interviews to newspapers, He focused on open letters and Letters to Editor, but soon realized that occasional writings and the hospitality of newspapers were inadequate for the political campaign he had launched. His letters to the editors of South African dailies are a lesson to all journalists on how to fight injustice in a country where the laws are loaded against one section of the people, without giving offence to the rulers themselves. He needed a mouthpiece to reach out to the people and so he launched Indian Opinion. It served the purpose of a weekly newsletter which disseminated the news of the week among the Indian community. It became an important instrument of education. Through the columns of the newspaper Gandhi tried to educate the readers about sanitation, self-discipline and good...
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