Freaking News | When newspapers twisted facts to suit themselves

03 Oct,2011

By Ranjona Banerji

This weekend was dedicated to – surprisingly, not Mahatma Gandhi – but to the poor people of India. Of course this was a matter very close to Gandhi’s heart and perhaps more important to a commemoration of his 142th birth anniversary than cursory lip service paid to his legacy, as has become our wont.

So TV channels and newspapers discussed the Planning Commission and its inexplicably odd expenditure cut-off of Rs 32 a day being above the poverty line in cities and Rs 26 a day in villages. As TV anchors, activists and the general public fretted and fumed, some analysts – in print and on screen — tried to explain it all statistically and economically to us idiots. Little of that was fully comprehensible and regardless of the contempt for a middle class which has only recently woken up to social issues, it goes without saying that the Planning Commission’s figures seem to be absurd.

The imminent fall of the government continued to be a matter of discussion, especially for the BJP as the UPA scrambled to convince everyone that the dissent within them was normal and all was hunky-dory. But the BJP itself appeared to be a house divided with much speculation over Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s perceived snub to both the party headquarters as well as to party stalwart LK Advani.


Weekends on TV are usually news-free as news channels fill their space with car, food and Bollywood shows. We also occasionally get interviews with artists and writers. Presumably, this satisfies our need for culture, both popular and otherwise.

International news channels however manage to slip in a bit of news as well, with the Eurozone crisis, the unrest in Libya, Syria and Yemen, the US economy and the US fight with Pakistan sharing space.


The fun quotient for the end-of-the-week as far as Indian newspapers were concerned was the release of readership figures for the quarter by the Indian Readership Survey. Every newspaper managed to twist the figures to suit themselves and this means that readers of multiple papers would have been in a state of happy confusion. In Mumbai for instance, both Hindustan Times and DNA claimed the number two spot, while the Times of India claimed number 1 for itself and number 2 for its free tabloid Mumbai Mirror. The figures support Mirror as 2 and Hindustan Times as 3, but then given that Mirror comes free with Times of India which has a huge lead over the others, this leads to a few questions. It also effectively puts DNA at either 3 (if you discount Mirror) or a distant 4. Mid-Day also saw a readership increase, bucking its own trend over the last couple of quarters.

In Delhi, both Times and Hindustan Times claimed a rise in readership and the number 1 spot – or so it seemed to me. Across the country, this chest-thumping continued. I’m guessing readers know what they read and that advertisers will be suitably impressed – the whole point of this operation.


Am I the only one tired of every newspaper and news channels calling itself “your paper” and “your channel”? I “own” so many newspapers and channels now that am considering getting an investment consultant to cope!

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