Sunday, November 25, 2007

THE HINDU v THE TIMES OF INDIA: Venue - Bangalore

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?

Edit pages:

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.

Miscellaneous:

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…

14 comments:

magesh said...

good work man..keeep up

Huzefa said...

Interesting analysis.

In my opinion, TOI is definitely more populist which primarily caters to the english-speaking indian middle-class residing in metros. The columns by Swaminathan Aiyar are sometimes too flimsy while those by Tarun Vijay are communal.

agingvictor said...

If this is the situation in Banglore, now TOI is entering the Chennai waters from April first week. so, like to add some points on how TOI will be received in chennai. After so many decades, The Hindu has an equalent competitor. The TOI is the darling of the masses all over India except TN and Kerala. In TN we have the world standard 'The Hindu'(see wikipedia for details) and in Kerala they have their own regional dailies that match world standards. That is the reason why no other paper could match The Hindu and Malayala Manorama in these two states. Now, as TOI enters Chennai, the people living in the city who are from the states other than TN would defenetly try TOI, because they've been used to it as we've been sticked wit Hindu. We know that Chennai is being filled wit more northies... so they'l opt for TOI rather for The Hindu. I've talked to my other state friends..what they feel is that Hindu is left biased... mainly their editorials. But in TOI we get articles from both the right wing & the left, actually TOI don't take any stand on the issues unlike The Hindu which delibrately voices it's views. So people, mostly the young who have read the Hindu only after Mr.Ram took over would defenitely go for TOI.
Then, did any one note the marketing strategy of TOI? They are doing door-to-door campaighs, making t people join as 'founder members' of the chennai editon at subscribtion rates lower than Re.1 (Rs.169 for 6 months & Rs.299 for 1 yr). so their target is the household subscribers who read Hindu. The main reason why DC could not compete with Hindu is that they could not woo the household subscribers. But TOI is doing it. Natuarlly people would compare t rates of The Hindu which is more than Rs.1000 per year wit TOI. So, more chances of people going for TOI. They would atleast try a 6 month package to see the quality though they would also be getting The Hindu.
The Hindu is not going to rewamp it's style, as it had just to a new contemporary look and it's similar to the TOI. If you compare the banglore edition of TOI, they concentrate more on the local issues, more than 6 pages go for the City news, but The Hindu concentrates on the southern states, the other districts of TN and the city news in these 6 pages. TOI adds more glamour (as New Indian Express does)to the paper, mostly the supplement part. So youth would go try the TOI.
Anyway it's a positive competion were the customers get benefitted. Till now we did not have a worthy alternative to the Hindu, we should be glad that we've got one now. Chennai city with most number of english speaking people was way behind in English journalism..but now we are gonna get a variety.
Let's welcome TOI. But i feel The Hindu has provided with the best to chennaites and we hope they stick to the standards even after TOI comes in.

shiva said...

@agingvictor

"actually TOI don't take any stand on the issues unlike The Hindu which delibrately voices it's views."

Yes, I find that too...
thanks for your comment...
It is going to be an event that will be curiously watched. Let us all see what chennaiites do!!

Crazyfoetus said...

I liked your approach in comparing two newspapers. Going through your article took me back to the Hindustan Times days (I was a product manager there last year). Daily editorial meetings revolved around how to write a particular story and which angles are being missed out not always because of the lack of details but sometimes due to language. HT would however like to call itself a neutral paper after being lambasted for Congress leaning for years.

I would agree with Huzefa that TOI is populist. I feel that it pays for a national daily to be on the ends of the spectrum - Hindu & express on one side and TOI on another. Otherwise you go through an identity crisis; except for DNA where they burnt a lot of money on branding activities.

This is an era of packaged goods - be it water or news. They sell coz people like to read attractive headlines and news nuggets. With accessibility and resources newspapers reach every goddam corner of this country to acquire and collect news. However who reports it well and how quickly varies from time to time.

Sad but true!

Nice blog you have got here ...

Jazz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jazz said...

I am resident of Mumbai/Bombay since 1998My story may well state the mind of most Chennaiites.

Initally, I read Times of India, which wielded unchallenged monopoly in Mumbai. In 1999 onwards I look out for change and opted for The Asian Age (published from 1994), that time they sold for meagre Re. 1.00 and it was trendy .From that time no looking back , I adhered to The Age. The salient feature of the paper is more coverage of news especially International( approx. 3 pages) and National, some of the pages there is no advts. The prominent personality contributed to thethe daily, whereas TOI is full of classifieds and advt. It does not give importance to ploitical and other important news while designing front pages. Its fonts are very small, I am sure this shall not attract the traditional 'The Hindu' readers, especially the elder one.

Now, Mumbai people many long-time readers of TOI shifted to DNA (Daily News Analysis) launched in July 2005, and Hindustan Times. Many times I ask in my mind and discuss with newsvendors why can't The Hindu launch in Mumbai.If it did so,it would have given tough competition to TOI.

I am sure The Hindu's loyal readers cannot easily switch over to Times because of its poor coverage of hardcore news,it may happen if New York Times publish in Madras.

We expect other state people especially form Gujarat and North may shift to TOI. In Mumbai TOI is facing some visible competition with DNA and H.T. THe Indian Express and Asian Age has some loyal readers (approx. 75000 +in Mumbai).

Simply say TOI will be considered fourth entrant in Madras media market.

Now I read, The Asian Age , Indian Express regularly and The Hindu 3-4 days in a week (because,The Hindu is available in certain areas in Bombay, I used to go there for just to buy The Hindu, sometime even 20 kms in holidays). I don't know anybody travel in Chennai just to buy TOI prior to April 2008.

See, taste will change person to person e.g. my wife reads Asian Age, Express & The Hindu (some days), because I buy these daily , likewise many people adhere to one paper long, but some people who looks for quality easily change one paper to another.

I expect TOI will not get the welcome Deccan Chronicle got in Chennai.

TOI sometimes appoint guest editor for 1 day , recently on March 8 , woman editors even buried the N.E.election (Manipur, Tripura) to inside pages or I think not at all published. TOI has around 4 foreign corespondents whereas The Hindu has 10 odd foreign correspondent. For sending a reporter to cover Pak election, TOI prominently put a report TIMES in PAKISTAN , where it does not have correspondent. In March 2001, every newspaper covered declaration provisional figures of Census, but TOI covered it a day after and not on next day.This paper news mostly starts with the following date line : Ahmedabad, Pune, Vadodara, New Delhi,Bangalore Kolkata, Chandigarh like that big cities , occassionally and not oftenly Chennai also comes.


TOI can survive only by increasing its quality and covering more national news rather than local news. I know only one correspondent it has in the city i.e. Swati Das.In capital many English papers are published, such as starting from The Asian Age to The Tribune around 9 morning general English daily (not business)like The Pioneer, The Tribune, The National Herald, The Statesman, Asian Age, The Hindu, TOI etc, but Hindustan Times is still undisputed market leader in Delhi. Likewise it takes atleast 50 yrs required to TOI to surpass The Hindu in Chennai( whether the newspapers will survisve for another 50 years is another question, observing /considering the world-wide trend ). Newspaper reading is not increasing comparing to our poulation growth.So, TOI entry in Chennai is too late , it may caters the need of yongsters and people come form Northe and West .


Finally TOI gives importance to local news (Mumbai) which appears oftenly in front page and covers city news exhaustively and not State News .It allocates only 3 paqes to national news with more ads. If you can ask a TOI reader, he cannot tell u name of its editor, but these cases are not with The Hindu. My humble suggestion to the Chennai(H.O) daily that it will allocates one more pages for covering International and national news, earlier it put news National caption in 2 pages apart from News .

Finally TOI is and will not fight the India's New York Times (The Hindu) with quality and standard of reporting.

shiva said...

thank you, Jazz!! that was quite informative!!

Nayna said...

What I think is that both Hindu and Times of India have their own way of building Originality among the Readers. The USP stands different for both the newspaper it's just that the manner in which you take the news and how well it is structured and scripted matters the most. Authenticity, Innovativeness, Experimentation and Exploration is the ultimate deciding factor.

Rupesh said...

Times of India is a heap of crap while The Hindu is for serious reading.

These things one can realize by careful reading. Take TOI you can see a suicide due to stock market crash getting more coverage than some other issue concerning the common public.

I got two old news stories published at the same day. First one is, kerala CM's protest against, centres attitude towards kerala. The second one is about a husband seeking divorce from his wife (who lost 30 lakhs in stock market).

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Kerala_CM_protests_govts_attitude/articleshow/3610524.cms

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Husband_seeks_divorce_as_wife_loses_Rs_30L_in_market/articleshow/3610567.cms

One thing to be noticed it the way TOI has covered the two items. Ofcource the divorce story requires more coverage, as it is a national issue, TOI has done its job effectively. Second one, kerala issue, a silly regional issue, TOI doesn't even care to tell the points raised by the Kerala CM. (The reader comes to a conclusion that all that Kerala CM is demanding is an increase of rice quota.)

Rupesh said...

You pointed out The Hindu is left leaning and anti-right. Same way TOI is very visibly anti-left and a soft anti-right.

A newspaper is supposed to be objective in presenting a news article. i.e., a reporter is not supposed to present his views while presenting a news. The editorial page and the articles written by eminent personalities in the editorial page is where the opinion of the newspaper comes. (Editorial, and the articles in the editorial page gives the personal or subjective opinion of the publishing house.)

While presenting news, TOI very often blatantly violates the first rule. Very many times, the opinion of the reporter comes into a news item, where by the reporter tries to implant his opinion to the reader. (This should never happen, a reporters, or editors opinion should come only in the editorial page.) TOI takes care of ignoring almost all news related to the left. For example, I am a regular reader of TOI when I was in Mumbai. It was the time of nuclear deal issue. One thing I realised after a while is that the fact that I am being kept in the darkness of the stand taken by those who oppose the deal. Which is nothing but the fact that, TOI refuses to air their point of view.

An analysis of a news article in TOI, can be seen in the following page:
http://users.livejournal.com/_dodo_/201840.html

shiva said...

Thanks Rupesh. I agree that TOI violates the "a reporter is not supposed to present his views while presenting a news."

The HINDU is no better. The recent CEC coverage in HINDU was bad if not worse as the special Sunday editorial "shocking constitutional overreach" was completely unnecessary. When legal and constitutional experts are divided, to say that it is a overreach based on a earlier judgment and criticizing the timing was too much.

What do you have to say about the Tibetan protests that rarely found mention and the reader's editor was flooded with so many mails that he was forced to write a piece on it.

These things don't endear any reader one bit. While HINDU's readership in its traditional bastion of Chennai has seen serious erosion, it is because of this and not because TOI is better.

As I said, both dailies can improve a lot for the reader to benefit.

The literary review is the only area, if any where HINDU is right at the top unarguably. Otherwise, Sunday TOI wins hands down with columnists such as MJ Akbar, Shashi Tharoor, Gurcharan Das, Shobha De, Swami Iyer, MJ Akbar and Swapan Dasgupta to boast.

Read this too, ofcourse, not everything is acceptable :) http://cbcnn.blogspot.com/

reshma M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
aradhana nigam said...

Great Work Man!
Carry on it.

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