Just the size of the newspaper and the number of news items in it are enough to create confusion in the mind of the students. The students behave with the newspapers just like a hungry person gulps down food, even if he gets a tummy ache later. The students fail to understand that newspaper is a forum that has separate choices for every reader. From a rickshaw puller to an administrator, the newspaper has something for everyone. But every piece of news is not for everyone. Every individual has to choose and read items according to his needs and wants. You too have to choose which news you should be reading.
Now you are not reading the newspaper just to keep abreast of the current affairs or to pass time or for entertainment purposes, so you need to know what you are reading it for. If you are reading it to prepare for IAS then you have to immediately decide on two things.
Decide that all the things in a newspaper cannot be equally important to you. So what is important for you? I will explain this to you but if you are new to this, it will take a while to understand. If you follow my advice you will become an expert within three months. Another step you have to take is to id your mind of the fear - God knows what they will ask! If you are scared you will lose your power to choose the most important news. You will not be focused and this mistake may cost you. Now let me tell you what you should read in the newspaper –
(1) Main page
The main page of every newspaper -regardless of the quality of the newspaper-contains the most important news items. All important events that happened a day ago in any region or any sphere of life are published here - even if they are given less space. Whether you want or not, you cannot skip this page. You have to go through it in detail. A map of the previous day's events should form in your mind after reading this page. You will also get an idea which are the events that will unfold gradually over the next few days and which ones can be written upon.
The last page of the newspaper is also important. If after the main page there are some other important news items left they are usually placed on the last page, although this is not a rule.
(2) Editorial page
This is the most important page of the newspaper, especially for you. Although very few people like to spend time on this page, you cannot take this liberty; you have to read the page. Why is it so? In a way the editorial page is not just a page but the essence of the newspaper. It contains views, not news. And as I have been telling you again and again, for the mains exam you need more views and less news. Your views should not just be informative but also analytical. If you skip this page, it is as if you never read the newspaper. If you skip the main page you can still make up for it by listening to the news on radio or television but nothing can make up for missing out on the editorial page.
Do not be in this illusion that you can make up for the lack of this by reading monthly magazines related to competitive exams. These magazines are useful to you but they are not a replacement for newspapers. Articles in the magazines lack the lucid thoughts found in a newspaper article. This is because newspaper articles are written by specialists keeping a particular angle in mind. This is not the case with magazines. In fact articles in most magazines seem like they are a mix of articles from many newspapers. While such an article gives you good knowledge of facts it loses the critical ability to analyse an issue. This does not mean that you should throwaway the magazines. Just remember they are substitutes. There are two kinds of material in the editorial page –
(1) Editorial articles
(2) Editorial comments
Editorial articles mean one or two long articles on the page that are written by the specialists. The uniqueness of these articles is that they are related in some way to the current events. This is why they become so important for you.
Read these articles carefully. You will find how the writer took one small incident and created a solid structure of thoughts and information around it. The event may have happened a day before or recently, but when you read it you will understand the following things –
- The background of the event
- The history of the event - if any
- The political, social, cultural and economic impact of the event
- The writer's attitude to the event
When you read about an event, on the news pages of the newspaper, you get to know only the facts that this and this has happened at this and this place. It lacks in-depth understanding of the issue. So you simply read it and forget it. But when you read an article (full of insights) on the editorial page of the newspaper it is absorbed by your brain and it gives more space to it. Needless to say, you have a better chance of finding a larger thing in your cupboard than a smaller one.
The other important part of the editorial page is the editorial comment. You will find one or two in every newspaper. It is possible that a day's newspaper has an article on a topic and the editorial comment on the same topic. However, they both are different. While an article reflects the thoughts of a person, editorial comment represents the public view. Another major difference is that an article talks about a topic in detail while an editorial comment is brier When you get time, compare the two. You will find the key to success in IAS exam. You will be amazed to see that where an article takes about 1,000 words to put forth a single point, an editorial comment can convey even multiple points (and even more important ones) in mere 300-350 words. If you want to score well in IAS, you have to be as good as the editorial comments.
Editorial comments not only give you important facts, but also make you think. When I tell my students how to improve upon their analytical skills, I give them the example of editorial comments. An incident occurs and an editorial commentary isprepared after viewing the incident from various angles. The most important thing for analysis is being aware of these 'angles'. We should be aware of all the angles the event could be viewed with. This is the key to critically analyse any topic. My advice is that don't read editorial commentary just to gather facts and thoughts, also read it to understand how a fact can be analysed. You will also develop the habit then.