Newspapers must make sense of TV news

07 Jun,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji


Something has to be done about newspapers being so serious and stick-in-the-mud. Look at yesterday on television. There was so much excitement over two loos at the Planning Commission’s offices – spending Rs 35 lakh to do potty comfortably while millions of Indians were consigned to surviving happily on Rs 32 a day (am being generous here). To rub salt in the wound, Rs5 lakh was spent on a security system to keep the janata-public out. Everyone was spitting fire, from the opposition to activists to ordinary people. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission also had a wee tantrum – at the media and also RTI, which opened the bathroom doors as it were.


Then Thursday morning comes and you open the newspaper. Hmmm. Does anyone oblige you by putting the story upfront with lots of diagrams and graphic details? Of course not – there’s just news on display like the economy and monsoon and a murder here and there. You have to trawl through the newspaper – page 12 or 15 or something to get a small little story about this toilet transgression. Even that CWG man who said that Indians have different cleanliness standards – anyone remember him – because of dirty bathrooms at CWG homes got more purchase on the press. Of course, I don’t remember his name but that may be because my brain has very strict hygiene protocols.


If this example of newspaper perfidy is not bad enough, how about the other big story of the day? Some folliclely challenged man in Indonesia had something to do with Jharkhand politician and former chief minister Madhu Koda’s ill-gotten crores of rupees. The part of the day that wasn’t about Montek’s potty was about Koda’s friend. Some squeaky tapes played on and on as the anchors’ voices tried to match them for squeakiness and outdid them in decibel levels. Don’t ask me what the whole thing was about because I never figured it out. I must also clarify that I have nothing against men or women who don’t have a lot of hair on their heads but I have no other way of identifying this man who has something to do with Indonesia.


Is one to find a code in the morning’s newspapers? Nyet, nada and all the rest of it. The monsoon and its arrival got more play in the newspapers than Koda’s not too hairy on the head friend and all that money. There will be at least one grateful person.


It’s been said before, but it has to be said again. Newspapers must dedicate at least half a page a day making sense of TV news stories for hapless viewers.


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