Information dissemination is a vital need for any area of endeavor that mankind pursues and an informed public always is a strength with which new innovations and developments can become people-friendly. As some one said 5000 new words are published every second and keeping in touch with them is next to impossible. But people will be eager to follow developments in their own area of interest and it is here the fourth estate plays a vital role. Media like print, electronic and Internet are the three important conduits for flow of information from sources to the users. In the field of food processing in India news about developments are disseminated through news papers, magazines, television channels and specialized journals. News papers and magazines are mostly dominated by sensational news having country wide relevance with specialized areas like food getting occasional treatment. What is of concern is the veracity of these technical write ups prepared by their dedicated reporters and lack of clarity due to insufficient understanding of the subject. Not being technically sound the reporters suffer from distorted understanding either unknowingly or otherwise to snub or praise certain developments depending on their news sources.
Techno-commercial magazines in food related areas are far and few and those carrying on this line of activity are doing excellent work considering scarcity of reliable statistics on Indian situation. Indian Food Industry, Food and Beverage News, Indian Food Packer, Processed Food Industry, Times Food Processing Journal, Processed Foods and Beverages Journal, Journal of Food Engineering and a few others are some of the leading periodicals doing a marvelous job of wide spread dissemination of developmental news amongst industry, R & D scientists, students, policy makers and the consumers. Salute, we must for their nation building efforts, many of them depending on the support they receive from the Industry. The technical articles appearing in some of the above periodicals are peer reviewed though the yardsticks for assessment may be some what less rigorous because of paucity of willing writers on topics of readers' interest. Those involved in compiling such type of publications know the tough logistics, tight finances and difficulties in bringing out the publications in time. Some falter some time but make up later with increased efforts. What is disappointing is the inability, for whatever reasons, of these publishers to orient their publications to capture the vast number of casual readers who regularly buy periodicals of general interest and topical news value. Financial support from GOI and State agencies could have made their task easier but invariably these sources are tight fisted though flush with tax payers' money for wasting on silly projects of doubtful benefit to common man.
Indian Food Industry (IFI), run by AFST(I), a thoroughbred food scientists organization is a star on its own category with articles of high technical content as all the contributing articles undergo strict peer review, the rejection rate being 15-20% and attracts contributions from scientists, technologists and engineers speialied in food area. But their Achilles heel is lack of commercial orientation. This is compounded by its dependence on voluntary workers having no executive editor to provide continuity and focus. On the other hand other periodicals are commercially well run with lot of advertisement support and larger circulation. Advertisements are not purely a financial function but they provide valuable information to the readers about the avaibility of the products offered by the sponsors and contact information for further inter action as and when necessary. Ideally a publication should be commercially viable, have large circulation amongst general public as well as the professionals with the contents highly informative, must come out in time and properly archived for future cross references. Probably none of the present crop of journals fits into this frame, calling for some efforts to forge strategic alliance amongst the existing publishers to mutually complement their respective strengths.
Some time back IFI did make a propsal to GOI MoFPI to financially support its publication offering in return its pages for promoting the good schemes of the ministry and disseminating useful information about food, nutrition and industry amongst the public. It could have been a forum for providing technicl advice to small and micro enterprises in food processing as AFST(I) is the most concentrated technical bank with 3000 technicaly accomplished members, ever willing to share their knowledge and experience. As is the misfortune in this country, good things take time to take root and one can only hope that such an awakening will hapen sooner that later. As often said, "better late than ever" is the only hope that this will happen one day