Ranjona Banerji: Of degrowth, ungrowth & regrowth

03 Oct,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Newspapers and magazines have started using a wonderful word to describe their condition as far as readership and circulation are concerned: “degrowth”. And for once, journalists are not responsible for this travesty of logic, comprehension and grammar.

 

Degrowth does not mean that the periodicals have slowed down. Nor does it mean that they are at status quo. It means that they have shrunk in numbers. They have “un-grown” in fact. The latest quarterly figures of the Indian Readership Survey have been released. Ungrowth and degrowth are everywhere to be seen. Seven of the 10 top mainline dailies have seen a decline in their readership. Only DNA, Mumbai Mirror and Tribune have grown.

 

Already The Times of India’s Mumbai edition is selling degrowth as a virtue: or at least ignoring the degrowth and concentrating on the fact that it’s ahead of its competition virtually everywhere. Undoubtedly others will follow as their marketing departments try to put their own spin on degrowth.

 

Incidentally, I first came across this word when I worked at DNA and at least it’s good to see that the newspaper is now regrowthing – it was once the second largest read newspaper in Mumbai but has in the past couple of years slipped to a dismal number 3 behind Hindustan Times.

 

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The fight between the BJP and Congress over Narendra Modi’s allegations that Rs 1880 crore was spent on Sonia Gandhi’s treatment has become very high decibel on television but completely lacking in clarity. Rajeev Shukla of the Congress and Meenakshi Lekhi of the BJP yelled over each other almost throughout their interaction with Arnab Goswami on Times Now and Lekhi shrieked alone. This constant stream of allegations and counter-allegations cannot instil much confidence in the sanity of the members of the two parties and I am not even sure it makes for good television any more.

 

It took The Indian Express to shed a little light on where the figure came from. The Gujarati daily Jaihind published it on July 12: “The editor Yashwant Shah told The Indian Express that the item had been sourced from a local agency, “Hindustan Samachar’. Hindustan Samachar bureau chief Bhupat Parikh, however, said the item “was not my story at all”, and pointed out that it was not credited to the agency.

 

Make of that what you will. But there is an old adage which every journalism is told at birth: Never believe everything you read in the newspapers.

 

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Arvind Kejriwal launched his new nameless party and spoke “exclusively” to every news channel in India. One day, hopefully, they will realise that the viewing public is on to this “exclusive” gag. However, while Kejriwal’s entire speech promising the moon on a platter was most assiduously covered by every channel, none of them told us how many people he was talking to.

 

This morning we discover that it was 1,000. Best of luck, is all one can say.

 

**

 

The big story of the day is of course the expected. The poor Indian cricket team has been knocked out of the T20 World Cup. ‘How India lost the plot’ said The Times of India; ‘India disgraced’ said Hindustan Times and ‘Run-rate mars India’s fate’ said Mid-Day. The post-mortems and gratuitous are not going to be kind, one prophesies.

 

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