Freaking News: Mamata Banerjee, media’s favourite whipping girl

02 Mar,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


This was an unexpected find: I had assumed (and from past experience) that the Hindustan Times would be strongest in local coverage amongst the national dailies in the national capital, given that New Delhi is (or was) its stronghold. But while HT does score on nitty-gritty local happenings, its biggest rival, The Times of India, is still going strong as far as blanket coverage of all news is concerned.


This should be troubling for Hindustan Times because although it has the advantages of first choice as far as old-timers are concerned and its long history with the capital, its rival appears to be hitting where it hurts the most – with content. TOI and HT have been running neck and neck in Delhi for years, with both claiming ownership of the city at different times but conventional wisdom usually gave HT the edge. Now, I wonder.


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James Murdoch has had to step down from the chairmanship of News International UK and is now being called a “shadow man with no role in the empire” (Sydney Morning Herald). This is of course the outcome of the phone-hacking scandal involving not just the defunct News of the World but other titles in the Murdoch stable of newspapers. Whether Junior’s moving aside is going to change company policy is another matter. Just as paid news and Medianet and its variations remain giant ogres for the Indian media to deal with, the dodgy practices of News Corp’s newspapers and journalists are the core problems. Removing James may not therefore be enough. As we have seen over the past year, the connections between the Murdoch empire and subsequent governments in the UK run deep and the favour system appears to have corrupted everyone, even the once highly-admired Scotland Yard.


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The Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal finds itself under greater media scrutiny with every passing day. The tendency of the chief minister to blame every event on the previous Left government and turn every criticism into a conspiracy theory has only made matters worse. Perhaps she needs some better media advisers and spin doctors? Right now, she’s the media’s favourite whipping boy (girl) and unfortunately for her, she, her ministers and her party only make matters worse every time they open their mouths!


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