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A consummate Economic Journalist

I first met S Sethuraman (SS) at the Economic Editors Conference 1973. It has blossomed into an invaluable friendship of a lifetime.

The senior economic journalist commanded the respect of the policymakers and fellow journalists for his erudition and deep understanding of economic issues. His pleasant disposition and ever-helpful nature instantly attached me to him.
Sethuraman introduced me to Delhi’s economic scribe community. Later, as the President of the Forum of Financial Writers, he inducted me as a member. I attended the national and international conferences organized by FFW participated by senior ministers. After his retirement from his long service with PTI, Sethu has been a prized writer for IE on economic issues.
So his Memoir, A life-long pursuit of journalism, is of particular value. His motto of enjoying the bliss to “remain dedicated to ethical pursuits with an abiding thirst for knowledge and wisdom,” is fully reflected in the Memoir.
The narration in simple; the lucid prose covers three-quarters of the twentieth century. What a rare experience to observe so closely the transformation of India from a British colony into an independent nation, now evolving as a global power!
Sethu appeared to be cut for journalism. At the age of 17, he began this long career with Hitavada in Nagpur as secretary to the renowned editor A D Mani. After a stint in the Railways on what may be termed an attractive salary, Sethu switched back to journalism, joining API of Reuters that later became the PTI. His covering Gandhi’s Sevagram, Wardha and the legislature of Central Provinces and Berar at Nagpur helped nourish the patriotic fervour in him.
Sethu shifted to PTI, Mumbai. As desk editor, he refers to the invaluable experience gained in handling the unending stream of news flowing from across the globe quickly cooked to feed hundreds of newspapers. Shifting to Delhi in 1957, he reported on significant developments as senior political and economic correspondent covering parliament as also major political party conferences.

Pioneered high-speed reporting of the Budget

His forte is economic journalism. He specialized in the coverage of financial news. He has the distinction for covering every Union Budget for 30 years from 1957. In those days in lack of telecommunication facilities, Sethu pioneered high-speed reporting of the Budget providing ‘snaps’ of highlights fed right through the budget speech. These were of immense value to catch the morning editions of newspapers. Remember, unlike today, the budgets had tax proposals of great impact on the economy, industry and the consumer. So, the PTI ‘flashes’ had an instant market and political reactions.

Focus on economic news…

As a Chief Editor – PTI, Sethu promoted diversified and insightful news coverage of economic and social happenings. These “included enlarging PTI’s international reach with correspondents reporting from over 35 countries. “I was also involved in overseeing the intake of as many as 120 journalists, including women for the first time,” he recalls.
Another significant contribution was his launching the fortnightly, the PTI Economic Service, with overviews of financial and other data, sector-wise reviews, commodity reports, country profiles…
The Memoir describes the Nehru-Indira Gandhi eras in detail. Sethu is among the most widely traveled Indian news correspondents. In the chapter of External Relations, he describes the course of Asian and mainly Indian context in detail. Several visits he had made across the globe vastly expanded his grasp of global economic, political and social issues and honed his writings.
The Memoir rightly devotes considerable space for his family right from his childhood. Particularly the description of his wife Akila’s mission of love and labour spread nearly over seven decades of married life he is evocative.
Apart from journalism, Sethu has an abiding passion for Carnatic music. He describes it as a sustaining force all through his life. With a flair for singing, he evolved as a vocalist. I used to wonder at his vast repertoire of compositions. Along with other musicologists like T S Parthasarathy, he has researched and refined his own style of music. Both at Nagpur and in Delhi Sethu was intimately involved with music and cultural activities.
The Memoir is genuinely a precious account of over 77 years of the experiences of this consummate economic journalist. – SV

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