[MJR] Wanted: sponsors to cover the Olympics!

24 May,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji


The biggest sporting event in the world (no, not the FIFA World Cup) is due to begin in a couple of months. So how many Indian newspapers are going to send someone to cover the Olympic Games in London? This is where Indian sportspersons are hoping to make a breakthrough after Abhinav Bindra won the first individual gold medal by an Indian in Beijing. The Indian hockey team did very well in the qualifiers, leading to expectations that they will shine again in a sport which has won us eight gold medals but no one in India really watches.


So what’s the grouse? The reluctance of Indian newspaper managements to spend money on newsgathering. The Olympics are not just any old event. They represent an ideal – of human endeavour, of a global spirit and a desire to push back boundaries of achievements. Editorials will declaim with thundering authority about the significance of “citius, altius, fortius” but when it comes to actually reporting on the efforts to get there, everything depends on a “sponsor”.


That is, a newspaper or journal will often only cover an event like this if the marketing department can get someone to cover its expenses. One can understand the reluctance in the days when foreign travel was prohibitive and foreign currency limited by the government (yes, I know it almost seems like we’re back in those times!) but in today’s world, depending on agency feed is nothing short of laziness and taking your reader for a ride.


Yet strangely, in the olden days (that is, when I was young), the idea of “junkets” was anathema and people I know lost their jobs for accepting favours. Over the years, managements realised, “why pay for something when someone else can be convinced to do it”. This is why so many sports pages – like The Times of India’s for instance – are so full of “sponsored columns” that there is hardly any place left for actual news.

One doesn’t know yet of course how many newspapers are going to go for the easy route to the Olympics, but one hears rumours…


Meanwhile, the entire film journalism community appears to be in Cannes for the film festival, where given the quality of our cinema, almost nothing makes it even within shouting distance of a tin palm, let alone a golden one. But visits to Cannes are now de rigueur on the junket circuit, so no dip in the newspaper’s bank balance there. And credibility? Well, we stopped worrying about that a long time ago.


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