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The silent architects behind compelling stories

Laxmibai Damu Nawale, who is holding the photo, talks about the pain of losing a son a decade ago, followed by a grandson in 2023, in Pali village, Beed district, Maharashtra. File
| Photo Credit: The Hindu

As 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 in-depth 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 providers, 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 nine-year-old 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.


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