Anil Thakraney: Is the urban bias finally disappearing?

24 Jul,2013

By Anil Thakraney


Nitish Kumar must have been quite shocked. Not just because of the death of many children, whose only fault was to consume a free meal, but because of the kickass reaction from the media. Must say even I am pleasantly surprised. The story was covered extensively, and some channels/newspapers are still at it. That the tragedy happened in a rural area of Bihar, to rural kids, did not dampen the enthusiasm. It’s great to see this, because the desi media is usually obsessed with stuff that happens to the middle class Indians living in urban areas.


Imagine if a similar incident had happened at SoBo’s Campion School or at Dehradun’s Doon School. What if twenty three kids had died after eating crap from the cafeteria? Yessir, shit would have hit the ceiling mighty hard. The media’s affinity for the urban areas is understandable to an extent. For one, journalists feel a sense of identification with the middle class, because these are ‘people like us’. Additionally, editors are often compelled to think urban, because that’s what interests the advertisers. A Pepsi or a Coke will quite obviously want coverage of Mumbai and Delhi rather than Chhapra and Vellore.


As a result, stories of ‘unwashed’ rural Indians often get ignored. We have to ask ourselves this question: The sensational Delhi gangrape and murder on a moving bus… what if it had happened in Harihar or Gorakhpur? Would the media backlash have been equally strong? I suspect not. Clearly, this bias is not good for the nation’s future, folks living in low profile towns and villages are Indians too, their lives are just as important and precious.


But the Bihar tragedy tells me things could be changing, and if so, it’s high time. Am glad with the nonstop coverage, the pressure must go on till we see real change, not just when it comes to the food-safety of kids in Chhapra, but all over India. I usually find fault with the Indian media but this time I would like to congratulate all the journalists. Nitish Kumar has been put on the mat, and that’s the way it should be.


PS: Haha. Aussie Air Force decided to get cute in this recruitment ad for engineers, they put out a complicated puzzle. Only after solving the puzzle, applicants would find the number they needed to call in order to apply for the job. But a typo in the ad brought the advertiser a great deal of embarrassment. Moral of the story: It’s okay to do a smartie ad. But make sure it’s created by smart people.




Anil Thakraney is a senior journalist and commentator. He is also Editor-at-Large, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached via Twitter at @anilthakraney


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