Gandhi became a regular reader of newspapers after reaching England at the age of 19. As a school student in India, he did not read them. He was very shy and could not speak in a gathering. At 21, he first wrote nine articles for The Vegetarian, an English weekly, on vegetarianism, Indian food habits, customs and religious festivals. His earliest writings show his capacity for expressing any idea in simple direct language.
After a gap of two years, Gandhi again took to journalism.
From that time onwards his pen knew no rest till the end of his life. He never
wrote anything only for creating an impression and carefully avoided
exaggeration. His aim was to serve truth, to educate people and to be useful to
On the third day of his arrival in south Africa he was
insulted in a court of law. He published an account of this incident in a local
paper and gained publicity overnight.
At the age of 35, he took charge of Indian Opinion and through
it he guided and unified the Indians in South Africa. A Gujarati edition of this
weekly was simultaneously printed at Phoenix. A series of articles on dietetics
appeared in the Gujarati Indian Opinion, also the life sketches of great men and
women. Every issue of these weeklies contained articles by Gandhi. There was an
editor, but Gandhi bore the whole burden. He wanted to educate the public
opinion, to remove causes of misunderstanding between the whites and the Indians
and to point out the drawbacks of his countrymen. He poured out his soul in the
columns of Indian Opinion and published detailed account of the Satyagraha
struggle carried on in South Africa. Among the distinguished readers were
Gokhale in India, Dadabhai Naoroji in England and Tolstoy in Russia. For ten
years Gandhi worked hard for this weekly. He got two hundred journals per week
in exchange of Indian Opinion, read each one of them carefully and reproduced
such news as might benefit there readers of Indian Opinion.
Gandhi knew newspapers could become powerful medium for
spreading ideas. He was a successful journalist but never intended to make a
living from journalism. In his opinion there aim of journalism was service: "
Journalism should never be prostituted for selfish ends or for the sake of
carrying a livelihood . And whatever happens to the editors or the journal, it
should express views of the country irrespective of consequences. they will have
to strike a different line of policy if they wanted to penetrate into the hearts
of the masses."
When he took charge of Indian Opinion, it was a losing concern
and had a circulation of four hundred. For some months gandhi had to
contribute Rs. 1,200 per month to keep it going. Altogether he incurred a
personal loss of Rs. 26,000. In spite of this heavy loss, he later decided to
leave out all advertisements in order to devote more space for his ideas. He
knew that the would not be able serve truth and remain independent if he
accepted advertisements. he never cared to increase the sale of his journals
through improper means, nor to compete with other newspapers.
In India too, he struck to this tradition and for30 years
published his journals without any advertisement. He suggested that for each
province, there should be only on advertising medium printing decent
descriptions of things useful to the people. After accepting the editorship of
Young India, he was keen on conducting a Gujarati paper because a vernacular
paper was a felt want. Editing a newspaper in English was no joy to him. he
brought out Navajivan, the Hindi and Gujarati version of Young India, and
contributed many articles regularly. He was proud to say that many readers of
Navajivan were the farmers and workers who really made India.
Under heavy pressure of work he had to write a lot and had to
work late at night or in the early hours of the morning. He often wrote on a
running train. Some of his famous statements or editorials bore the mark " on
the train". When his right hand got tired, he wrote with the left. His left-hand
writing was more legible. Even while convalescing he wrote three to four
articles every week.
In India he did not run any paper on loss. Both his English
and Indian language papers reached a circulation of 40,000. When he was jailed,
the circulation dropped down to 3,000. After his release from the first
imprisonment in India, a new feature of the weeklies was the publication of his
autobiography in a serial form. It continued for three years and created
world-wide interest. He allowed almost all the Indian papers to reproduce his
life-story. While in jail , he started another weekly Harijan. Like Young India
this too was priced one anna. It was mainly devoted to serve the untouchables.
For years it did not contain any article on politics. It was first brought out
in Hindi. Gandhi was permitted to write thrice a week from jail. Regarding the
proposal for an English edition, he wrote to a friend: " I would warn you
against issuing the English edition unless it is properly got up, contains
readable material and translations are accurate. It would be much better to be
satisfied with the Hindi edition only than to have an indifferently edited
English weekly. I shall not handle the paper except to make it self-supporting."
He proposed to bring out 10,ooo copies in the beginning and give it a trial of
three months. In two months' time, it became self supporting. Later it became a
very popular views-paper. People read it not for amusement but for instructions.
It was published in English, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, Ooriya, Marathi,
Gujarati, kannada and Bengali. Gandhi wrote articles in Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati
Gandhi journals never had any sensational topics. he
untiringly wrote on constructive work, satyagraha, non-violence, diet,
nature-cure, Hindu Muslim unity, untouchability, spinning, khadi, swadeshi,
village industries and prohibition. He stressed the need of reorientation of
education and food habits and was a severe critic of national defects.
He was a hard task-master. His secretary, Mahadev Desai, had
to seek shelter in the lavatory from the crowded railway compartment and
complete his work in time. Gandhi's assistants had to know all corresponding
railway timings and postal clearance hours for a timely dispatch of written
matter for publication. Once the train carrying Gandhi and his articles written
on it was running late and there was no time for sending them by post. The
English articles were sent by a messenger and were printed in Bombay instead of
his own press at Ahmedabad. The issue was brought out in time.
Gandhi was first jailed in India for his bold articles printed
in Young India. He never submitted to any gagging order issued by the
Government. When he was not allowed to express his deepest thoughts, he stopped
writing. He was confident that he could any day persuade his readers to copy his
editorials for him and circulate the news. he knew his paper could be suppressed
but not its message, so long as he lived . By not caring for the aid of
printing-room and compositor's stick, the hand written paper, he assured, could
be a heroic remedy for heroic times.
Gandhi published an unregistered weekly Satyagraha in 1919,
defying the Government orders. This one-sheet weekly was sold for one pice.
Himself being a journalist of many years standing, he spoke
with authority on the traditions of good journalism; " The newspapers man
has become a walking plague. Newspapers are fast becoming the people's Bible,
Koran and Gita rolled in one. A newspaper predicts that riots are coming and all
the sticks and knives in Delhi have been sold out. A journalist's duty is to
teach people to be brave, not to instil fear into them."