Friday, December 9, 2005

Reader Response!

VK says:
From what I could collect from your writing is that, you have a poor
opinion about indian newspapers. I understand that TOI and HT are glorified
tabloids. But "The Hindu" and Indian Express?

This is, as they say, a sticky wicket. I guess it merits some explanation.

It is not my intention to denigrate Indian newspapers any more than it is my intention to mock American newspapers. I don't think that American (or English, or South African, or Russian) newspapers are innately of a higher quality than Indian newspapers -- I would mock them with just as much vigor as I do Indian newspapers if the stars aligned.

Reasons I pay so much attention to picking apart Indian papers?

  1. I am living in India, and my physical access to newspapers is generally restricted to HT, TOI, Hindu, and IE (you'll notice that I rarely pick on the Deccan Herald or, for example, Delhi's afternoon newspapers Midday or Today) simply because I don't subscribe to them or read them on a regular basis
  2. I am, primarily, an editor. In the words of an editor I greatly respect, "Editors should assume that all writers are morons." It's become instinctual for me to dissect every paragraph, every sentence, to analyze whether the writer has effectively conveyed her message to the reader. Unfortunately -- and this again holds true whether one is in India or America -- this is not often the case.
  3. Indian newspapers are packed with content, offering a particularly broad range of stories to pick apart.
  4. And, yes, the cultural caveat: I am of a breed of young Americans who live their lives with a great deal of skepticism, encountering the world through fogged lenses -- expecting the worst and willing to acknowledge it, but quite reticent to highlight things that are of excellent quality.

Hope that's sufficient!


nandu said...

I've been working with Hindustan Times as an 'Editor' – that word is much more respectable from outside a newspaper office -- for the past six year.
Though I don't think much about the kind of journalism we dish out everyday, I will certainly think twice before calling the main HT a tabloid, maybe the City Pullout, but by no means the main paper. Not even the TOI for that matter. We for instance are asked to refrain from brining sensationalism even in our headlines. Though we go for populist stories -- like the Big Big B overkill of last week – we seldom believe in the kind of stories you will come across in Daily Sun or New of the World. What we do lack though is the conviction to go into stories and get involved. It’s always a passersby angle to our reports.
I came across a very interesting article recently by a visiting Pakistani journalist that sums up the state of Indian journalism much better than us on ground zero. Maybe the outsider’s view is much better. Torrea, you have a head start in this regard... but how long before you too become one of us?

nandu said...

The article i talked about is posted in my blog

Anonymous said...


Thanks for replying my comment. I did not know the hindustan times editor visits your blog (oops!). I understand you are blogging anonymously, however i am curious to read your writings/analysis. Is there anyway i can do it?


nandu said...

Thanks for calling the Hindustan TImes Editor. I'd rather be called a Copy Editor as the company calls me -- take my word, that makes a world of difference.
You can read some of my mad ramblings at

nandu said...

Thanks for calling the Hindustan TImes Editor. I'd rather be called a Copy Editor as the company calls me -- take my word, that makes a world of difference.
You can read some of my mad ramblings at

Never Just An Ordinary Girl said...

All right! Good to see some comments.

Let's see. I suppose that I don't consider HT or TOI tabloids, either -- in fact, I find the description "tabloid" as a way of covertly saying "yellow journalism" or "sensationalism" a bit misleading, as, in my estimation, tabloid only refers to the physical size of the paper you hold in your hands. That said...

I don't think, necessarily, that anyone at TOI thinks they're being sensationalist either. It's difficult to consciously acknowledge that one is being biased -- even if that bias is merely one to enhance the impact your story might have. I can't judge the intentions of writers or editors at any Indian newspaper anymore really, because I'm not actively involved with any of them.

But I will say that there is a lot of irresponsible journalism happening. For example -- take page 2 of TOI's Delhi edition today (Sunday). There is a huge feature on how easy it is to shoplift at swish stores -- which the reporter highlighted by going into said stores and flicking goods worth thousands of rupees. Now, some journalists here, I feel, would defend this as, though ethically tenuous, a means to an end -- the reporter, after all, got the story. But to me, this is outrageous, a hideous abuse of the journalist's power and an entirely self-serving article. Is it too difficult to interview people? Why does the reporter feel the need to inject herself into the story? Yes, this may be an ingenious angle to take, but it smacks of laziness. The reporter didn't put in the legwork, so instead of citing real figures about the impact of shoplifting, or talking to security guards, or talking to shop owners and taking the time to talk your way around the red tape, she just went and took some jewellery for herself and bragged about it in a public arena. It makes me sick to my stomach.

And, to address you, Nandu: Although I think an "outsider's" (how do we define who is outside and who is inside, anyway?) view is valuable for evaluating Indian journalism, I think it's also important that a sense of ownership is inculcated into Indian journalists. Where is the pride? Why should you leave it to outsider's? Being the owner or progenitor of knowledge, shouldn't those involved in the trade be able to objectively state that something is wrong with the trade in which they are involved? A journalist's first job is to ask questions. There is an obligation to dissent. And yet you would like to leave this essential intervention to someone who parachutes in, without becoming intimately acquainted with the special challenges and circumstances of the Indian media?

Clearly, I have a lot to say about this...sorry the ramble is not more coherent....

nandu said...

I absolutely agree with you views about the TOI story. All it provd for me was that the reporter is really good at shoplifting, if not at reporting.
As far as outsider angle is concerned, i just meant that you have a better perspective since you have seen journalist in the US or the West in general.
I felt this first when I first set foot in North India. Some of the stories that I found myself subbing would certainly have been trashed in a paper like Hindu, or even the Malayala Manorama, on which I was brought up on.
I even started feeling that some of the functions were taking place just becoz we were there to report it.
Well I too will stop before I have another bout of verbal diarrhoea.
We can continue this debate...

Anonymous said...

Hey Guys,

Good debate on this weblog!. My two cents: I live in the U.S now (chicago). I am very very far from writing/media world. SO my take on journalism is pretty much genuine, coming from a reader rather than a writer.

The huge difference I have seen between these two world is that, there is no "bite" in indian journalism compared to american ones.

I cannot imagine an issue like khushboo's remarks on premarital sex would have seen the daylight in the U.S. For me personally it is a huge disservice by the indian media for not attacking the PMK type rowdy politicans on front page. Instead it was left to op-ed writers somewhere deep inside the folds to rant about it.

This issue had huge potential to sensitize the public about free speech. Nandu and "she says" anytake on it?

I apologize to she says if I am an unwanted intrusion in to her private domain. By the way my name is vignesh


nandu said...

I agree with you completely. What I have seen in newspapers is that while everybody wants to improve the circualtion and readership, no one really wants to know what the reader wants to reads. They'd rather like to put their heads into what gifts and freebies will get them more subscribers.
I have more than once frowned at having had to paste stories that would not have interested more than a few senior bureacurats onpage one -- but seems those are the only people who the boses want to read the story.
There is another, more ridiculous, thing that I have come across in big Indian papers -- your fav IE is out of this. Most news bosses will pass only stories about people who read your paper. For instance there is no place for a story about housemaids or rickshaw pullers.
What say you

Attribution said...

Back in the 90's, we used to subscribe to the IE, but with time nothing in IE changed it had nothing New as news in it. It looked all old, jaded and dumb. Back then school authorities used to encourage us to read some sections of the paper aloud during classes.
But then times changed, we too switched to the Hindu after a lot of thinking and discussions, and we still do get them.
What I enjoy in it is that that there are specific pullouts on specific dates.
When I first shifted to Delhi, we used to get the TOI but exactly after a fortnight we switched to HT. This experiment too lasted just 7 days. Then jumped to good old Hindu.

The TOI claims its the leader by so many readers and the next day the HT comes out with the news that they are the market leaders.
All the while the front page is stuffed with Bollywood news (spiced up)& abt rumours of some indian actress bagging or begging for a teeny weeny role in a hollywood flick then there are ads half the page mostly of slimming parlours (oops!) beauty salons and other crap.
Then there are the famous and also not so famous on Pg3 news, with pics of the rich and famous having a drink or a mere cig.
Rest of the news paper is stuffed with write-ups and articles lifted straight out of the Internet.
Anybody can finish reading it in exactly 20 mins.