Tuesday, July 14, 2009

TOI discovers Bharat

For some months now, I have been writing a column on the website The Hoot on media-related issues. Some of the columns pass without a comment, others have generated a heated, and sometimes ill-informed, debate. Here is the latest one.

So what has happened to the Grand Old Lady of Bori Bunder? Why this sudden change of heart, or a “Cinderella moment” as it likes to call it? KALPANA SHARMA is pleasantly surprised at the TOI’s budget coverage. Pix: TOI’s face of the Budget.

Posted Monday, Jul 13 22:55:20, 2009

Kalpana Sharma

The world over, newspapers have struggled to recast themselves in the face of competition from the electronic media and increasingly from the Internet. In the US, for instance, media watchers believe that even the Internet will be out of date as people access news through mobile phones and "tweets". They argue that the new generation has no patience to read more than news nuggets in 140 characters.

India's newspapers, however, can relax. This changing media world has not yet landed in India. If reassurance were needed for this, take a look at the difference between watching Budget-related news bulletins and discussions on the electronic media – particularly the 'general' channels that do not specialise in business – and the coverage of the Budget in the 'general' newspapers the next day.

Every newspaper went out of its way to simplify the Budget, to give as much detail as possible, to explain some complex aspects through graphics, to translate the budget into the way it'll impact the aam admi etc.

In the past, many newspapers would reproduce a major part of the Finance Minister's budget speech. This was useful for those who wanted more specific details and not just the interpretation of the Budget. These days, this is rarely done given the cost of printing and newsprint and the downturn in the economy that has impacted the number of pages in most newspapers.

Some newspapers, like The Hindu, have compensated for this by putting this material on their web editions. In fact, The Hindu does a singular service to readers interested in more detail by uploading many documents on its site including commission reports – the latest being the Shopian rape case investigation.

If a survey was conducted the day after the Budget with lay readers and viewers of TV and they were asked what helped them to understand the Budget better, it is more than likely that the majority would refer to their daily newspaper.

In the face of the non-stop onslaught of electronic media, this is, in fact, the role the print media can play for a long time to come. Rather than competing with television, it can give the value addition that makes newspapers indispensable to the reader. Some newspapers are doing this better than others.

A surprising aspect of the Budget coverage this year was the front-page photograph and comment carried by Times of India. This paper has made no bones about its preoccupation with its upper class readership. The newspaper has been geared to meeting, what it deems to be the interests of this class. Hence, if it ignores or downplays news from other parts of the country, or about poverty and deprivation for instance, it has justified it in the name of this readership. It has argued that this class prefers to read about business, Bollywood, sport and a little bit of politics. The rest can wait.

(To read the rest, click on the link above)

1 comment:

chaat paapdi said...

Encountered your blog through your post on Sarai. Your note on TOI is so on spot. And the Hindu is my favorite too, not just for the quality of journalism but also the quality of the English : ), and Frontline.