Ranjona Banerji: Modi mania in media

20 May,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


Yesterday’s news is tomorrow’s sev puri wrapping is an old newspaper adage in India. But one supposes it’s in the rightness of things to go back to the newspapers on May 17, the day after the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi created a “historical moment in history” to quote India’s greatest TV news anchor Arnab Goswami.


The Times of India’s Mumbai edition had a Samsung 5 ad on its front page, which is also in the rightness of things. Never let a “historical moment in history” overtake a “who’s going to pay the bills” consideration. Inside, the paper was sober with “India places its faith in Moditva”, with no dramatic font changes except to run the headline across the page which is only natural.


The Hindustan Times went a little over the top with its “Hunkar Tally” headline and the orange glow on a gigantic face of Narendra Modi. Also a bit tabloidish with no stories, only blurbs.


Mid-Day had a cartoon of Modi in a Mr Universe pose exaggerating his 56-inch chest and the headline: “India MODIfied.”


Mumbai Mirror went the graphic-cartoon route with Modi perched on a lotus, in a splendid reference to a kitsch calendar with the headline, “God of all he surveys”.


The Telegraph ran the letters M-O-D-I down the left of the page with each letter telling readers a little story about elections results.


The Indian Express had a stern lecture to Modi with a front page edit.


DNA went with “Lotus Position”.


The Economic Times revisited DK Barooah’s quote about Indira Gandhi, with “India is Modi. Modi is India”.


I did not manage to catch The Hindu and the process to sign in to their e-paper is too tedious.


Interestingly, of these papers, only Mumbai Mirror, Indian Express and Economic Times carried front page ads.




After a massive media event like the announcing of election results, newspapers get a bit lost. There is little chance that those who were interested in the results read the papers at all on May 16, since TV anchors were blaring away from 7 am. It is intriguing that a best-selling author like Chetan Bhagat agreed to write an edit page piece for TOI that day or indeed that TOI asked him to.


The next day, there is likely to be massive news fatigue, especially with such a dramatic result. Hindustan Times obviously tried to surf along the day’s hysteria with its front page. Most other newspapers used the “people come to us to interpret the news” formula.




The big test for the media of course comes now. Many journalists and media groups turned themselves into cheerleaders for Narendra Modi during the campaign – even though there are enough accusations that the “media” is all paid for by the Congress. From what these elections have shown, the Congress is in no position to pay anybody. And from all accounts, the party could not even pick the right advertising agency (Dentsu) to present its case to the voters of India, no matter how much money it has.


Journalist, poet, filmmaker, Pritish Nandy had said on Twitter on May 16, “At some stage, the media will climb off the bandwagon to amplify the voice of a reasonable Opposition.” On May 17 he tweeted, “Right now there is not much difference between NaMo supporters and a supplicant media celebrating his victory”. On May 19, he said, “Some unsolicited advice: Media needn’t go overboard celebrating the Modi victory. Its job is still that of a watchdog. Go do it.”


Nandy’s observations are spot on. The media has to get down to work. In fact, the new government practically has no political opposition. Only the fourth estate remains…


This is from the Hindu’s Reader’s Editor, AS Paneerselvan on the road ahead for the media. Unmissable: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/Readers-Editor/a-challenge-to-media/article6022916.ece




This is the apparently “open letter” season in the media. Everyone is writing open letters to politicians, telling them what they should or should not do. Of the lot, Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s letter to Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister to be, is the most moving: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/an-open-letter-to-narendra-modi/article6022900.ece



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