At first glance the title would look like a contest, in a sense it is - for readership!!
I have been reading The Hindu for close to six years now ever since I inculcated the habit of reading a newspaper. My relationship with The Times is relatively recent having started after I moved to Bangalore from Chennai.
This post is an attempt at bringing out my own feelings on reading these two dailies by looking at what they offer the public.
Somnath Chatterjee while speaking on the occasion of the National Press day on November 16 said: “Except for some honorable exceptions, today the political leanings and political predilections of newspapers and TV channels are well known, and these obviously affect dispassionate presentation of news and also views”. Precisely this has resulted in the facts getting distorted and ultimately the public is left with confusion as they are at a loss in discerning which TV channel or newspaper is presenting the facts as they are.
This begs the question: Can facts be laid before the public as they are, without distortion?
The Hindu’s editorial to this day is being advocated as an everyday lesson in improving vocabulary and reading comprehension skills by trainers of competitive examinations to the aspiring students. Apart from that, it used to attract my attention first everyday. But of late, there is a palpable lack of objectivity so much so that one can feel the anti-right, and hence left leaning editorial policy. This was evidently pointed out by several readers but expectedly the response of the reader’s editor has been that he has little influence over the editorial policy. I feel sad that this has led to the loss of ‘impartial and objective’ feel of the column.
On the other hand, the op-ed articles have class written all over them and this is because the paper has some of the best writers writing for it. Their columns are a pleasure to read and one can’t help but be marveled by their in-depth knowledge over what they report. Some noteworthy names include Harish Khare, Nirupama Subramanian, Vladimir Radyuhin, Siddharth Varadarajan, Pallavi Aiyar, P S Suryanarayana, Ramesh Thakur, P Sainath and Praveen Swami.
The Times of India on the other hand does not to my knowledge captivate the reader to that extent with its editorial. But my humble perception is that its leanings are a bit difficult to discern just from the editorials alone.
The pieces that stand out and attract good readership are the regular ‘The Speaking tree’ which has discourses by spiritual gurus apart form several motivational writings. The sacred space with some shrewdly drawn choicest inspirational quotes is another of my favorites. The two distinctly different views (Times view and counter view) provide the reader enough room to see issues from opposite perspectives immediately. It would take me some time to appreciate more the regular writers as I feel my experience is a trifle short. But the Sunday columns by Swapan Dasgupta, Shashi Tharoor, Ankleshwar Swaminathan Iyer, Shobha De and Jug Suraiya certainly hold my interest.
Finally sample this to know the starkly different editorial stands…
On Nandigram, the following is how the editorials of the two dailies read:
The Hindu: “The Governor’s public statements on Nandigram both challenged the wisdom of the government’s approach and came down on the side of the critics of its action. Further, Mr. Gandhi laid himself open to the charge of remaining silent when the supporters of the Left Front were at the receiving end. His conduct through this crisis has been constitutionally indefensible. The Central government, which depends on the Left for survival, has eventually responded to the request by the Government of West Bengal by releasing a battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force for deployment in the Nandigram region.”
The Times of India: “There are reports that the state's law enforcement machinery blinked when organised groups took human shields and 'recaptured' land and erstwhile homes of CPM workers who had been driven out of Nandigram by the Save Farmland Committee (SFC) activists. The immediate task before the government is to open a dialogue with all the aggrieved people in Nandigram. CPM leaders can lecture the governor on constitutional propriety after that.”
To conclude this comparison, I cannot but help draw attention to what Sevanti Ninan who regularly writes on ‘Media matters’ for The Hindu magazine had written in his article titled ‘Polarised coverage’ relating to the reportage on Nandigram: “Is the CPM the chief perpetrator of the current violence as The Indian Express, The Times of India and The Telegraph among others have reported? Or is it the Maoists and the Trinamool as The Hindu has reported?”
I consider it beyond my abilities of discernment to take either side.
Bangalore times V Metroplus:
The Hindu’s Metroplus is like a conservative maiden clad in a sari who expects the reader to probe and exact what he wants while BT is like a contemporary lass who draws the reader in…
On a more serious note, the Metroplus team needs to do more if it wants the readership of the Bangalore junta. It doesn’t even have the movie listings in the city which by contrast the Chennai edition provides. I wonder why this difference? BT makes no bones about what its focus is on. Covering the latest rumors mills, scandals and gossips, it is Page 3 happenings all the way…
The Hindu magazine v Times Life:
The Hindu magazine is a joy to read. With articles by Kalpana Sharma (Women’s issues), Sevanti Ninan (Media matters), V Gangadhar (Slice of Life) and many others, it has something for all age groups and classes to look forward to.
By contrast, The Times Life is aimed at the youth and the average upwardly mobile urban middle class Indian.
Another area where The Hindu emerges a clear winner is in the literary review section every month. It has interviews of established novelists and reviews of the latest releases – fiction and non-fiction, English and vernacular.
Prominent difference also lies in the presentation of news. While The Hindu falls under the classical school in this regard, The Times of India is more favoring experimentation with a tad more success. Right from photographs to headlines of news stories, The Hindu feels it is better off being classically stylish. But it has not been without its cost.
The people in Bangalore prefer The Times of India more to The Hindu. The reasons are manifold. They range from the perception of The Hindu by some sections as more of a ‘Chennai based daily also published in Bangalore’ to its old school style of reporting.
The Hindu can do much better in some areas while The Times can also improve in some areas. If they do so, ultimately the common man in the street who awaits his newspaper by his side before his first sip of coffee is the beneficiary.
I conclude this post with the following words of George Orwell that have in them something that our journalists need to bear in mind: “A writer must never be a loyal member of a political party”.
Because if he is, it is objectivity that suffers…