Ranjona Banerji: Exclusive, Lesser, Uggh!

20 Mar,2015

By Ranjona Banerji


I’m picking this up straight from an observation on Twitter by a friend and senior journalist. She remarked that people seem to think “the media” is a single organism when it is rather a collection of rivals. Most people who make comments about “the media” are well-read, informed and intelligent. And yet, they cannot seem to comprehend that all outlets of journalism are in competition with each other.


Moreover, newsrooms are full of competing journalists, each trying to give their own story or their choice the best chance. Edit meetings can be contentious at times, with raised voices and intense arguments. If it’s that bad within a newsroom, it should not take much imagination to figure how bad it can be in a rival newsroom.


Those who subscribe to The Times of India in cities which also have a Mirror tabloid might consider how the Mirror often trumps TOI with great local stories. The two newspapers may be distributed together and presented to the reader as a package, but they work as separate entities.


In the days before Bombay Times became a Medianet operation run by the management, it also ran a rival newsroom to the Mumbai edition of the Times of India within the same building.


TV news in India may have made a mockery of the word “exclusive” but in newspaper parlance it is supposed to mean that no other publication has that particular story. You might ask, why do so many newspapers carry the same story as lead then? Surely there is some collaboration. However, it can easily be seen that the same story is the lead because it is the biggest story of the day – and perhaps that journalists think in a similar manner. There will always be differences in the other choices on the front page.


As far as 24-hour TV is concerned, channels pick up from each other because they are involved in a vicious minute-by-minute competition for rating points. They have the viewing percentages of the day worked out to a fine calibration – people under 20 who wear shorts to bed and watch TV only between 3 am and 4 am and 50-year-olds who smoke cigars and watch news from 8 pm to 10 pm and so on. If rival news channels have the same story then it is the nature of the beast.


If there is a secret nightly meeting of all editors across India to decide on the uniformity of the next day’s top stories then I must confess that I have never heard of it. Mea maxima culpa.




I am taking the liberty to rant about my favourite bugbear: the misuse of the word “lesser”. (I have given up on the misuse of apostrophes.) The current ad running on TV for the detergent brand Henko features film star Madhuri Dixit talking about her clothes being ruined in the wash. Henko is good she says because there is “lesser lint”.


Dear copywriters for Henko, “lesser lint” implies that the lint from Madhuri Dixit’s clothes is of an inferior quality not that using Henko means “less” lint. That is an insult to the beautiful and well-dressed Madhuri Dixit.


This addition of “er” is an interesting Indian suffix, like “sponsorer” as even the Union finance minister used in his Budget speech and “neighbourer” which so many of our “neighbourers” refer to themselves as…


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2 responses to “Ranjona Banerji: Exclusive, Lesser, Uggh!”

  1. ashok759 says:

    Children of a lesser God one has heard of …

  2. Faheem Ruhani says:

    I hope publications get the spelling of bull’s-eye correct next time. Everybody comes with their own variation of it.