Ranjona Banerji: Time for mainstream press to comment on media

02 Jul,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

There are a few things we need to learn from the British media and one of them is for our newspapers to start clearly identifying their political leanings. This seems more and more necessary in the politically aware and digitally alert India, with the middle classes taking a tiny bit more interest in proceedings than before. As India develops further, it will follow a more or less established pattern of development and surely it cannot hurt the media to think ahead of the curve. I suppose one should include television news in this as well, seeing how influential television has become. There is plenty of confusion as to which side of the political spectrum various news channels and newspapers fall with ample accusations flying around.

 

The current brouhaha in the Times of India stable over the article about Narendra  Modi’s daring rescue of Gujaratis from Uttarakhand, followed by a demolition of the article in an opinion piece followed by a half-baked explanation and digs at desk-bound columnists in a blog by the original writer… In any other world, the newspaper would (and should?) have offered some explanation to its readers about what was going on. In this instance, a “we cover everything” excuse sounds more like a cover up!

 

For instance, the Times has every right to be pro-BJP if it wants but if its reporters are going to act like publicity agents for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, then someone should please inform its senior editors and opinion writers. This will help to not confuse the reader, if nothing else. It’s bad enough that she or he has to negotiate between which bit of printed glamour gossip is PR masquerading as news without adding this political confusion to the equation. I suppose the fact that Chetan Bhagat is a best-selling writer justifies his getting edit page space in TOI, but why not stick his columns in some children’s section given the depth of his thoughts?

 

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More Indian newspapers might also pick up on The Guardian’s idea of having a media page. Yes, Mint does it and The Hindu covers the media closely. Websites like The Hoot, Newslaundry.com and this one also track media happenings. But we need more mainstream newspapers to keep an eye and comment on media as well.

 

Monday’s Guardian has a critique of the re-launch of Rupert Murdoch’s News International as News UK. It also has a very funny account of how scriptwriters are treated by the BBC as well as a feature on an internet TV service. The Reader’s Editor talked about the newspaper’s run-in with a government department. This provides a fair overall coverage to the reader about media events – all of which affect the reader, lest we forget.

 

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I will not bother to mention that art, the performing arts and literature get space and prominence in British newspapers. Having heard variously insulting and demeaning descriptions of the average Indian for years from marketing departments in several news organisations I now accept that Indians cannot think beyond Bollywood and the rubbish it churns out week after week!

 

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I take back my complaints about the Indian media being obsessed with pictures of children with chocolate and ice-cream inelegantly smeared all over their faces mistakenly thinking that this is cute. Must know acknowledge that this misconception is global as this picture on the front page of The Times, London demonstrates.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator based in Mumbai. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. She can be reached via Twitter at @ranjona. The views here are her own

 

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