One would have imagined that despite the rash, and at times loud, reporting by the print and television media, they had done a great job in their exposes. They have flushed out a lot of muck and have put the government under pressure. The stuff that made headlines included the Radia tapes, the 2G scam, the Commonwealth Games rackets and the Adarsh Apartments scam. The entire tribe of politicians and bureaucrats emerged stinking from the debris.
However, the Daily News & Analysis has a different take on the issue when it reports that “news networks cried themselves hoarse” about the scandals, “relentlessly” reminding the readers and viewers of “our inadequacies, our weaknesses, our utter inability to organise an internationals sports fest”. As far as I am concerned, if they did that, the media were doing their job. But the DNA says, “In the name of investigative journalism, they tried to shake the collective confidence the nation had in itself.’’
Into its sixth year of publication, the newspaper saw “national humiliation” for at the end of it all, when the CWG events were held, “there wasn’t one Indian eye that didn’t turn moist, or one Indian chest that didn’t puff in pride.” The CWG “was a staggering success. India had arrived on the world stage.” The point to note is, “The flames of cynicism that were being fastidiously fanned by self-styled guardians of propriety were swept away by the tidal wave of positive patriotic energy”.
There has been hardly any dispute about the event itself. Had it not been for the media, one could have well imagined the quality of the games. Worse humiliation would have followed. But the DNA has chosen to use this line of thought as its approach to news reporting by repeatedly publishing, since the Republic Day, full page advertisements. (See page 7 of the epaper at this link.)
The advertisement concludes: “We are a nation of achievers, and make no mistake, we are people destined for greatness. And therefore, let there be no more negativity when we talk about our beloved country. Let us spread the positive spirit. Let’s turn India Positive.” No one complains about such a surge of a positive feeling in any newspaper in a country increasingly weighed down by negative sentiment and cynicism. But to dismiss the media exposures as being negative is hard to digest.
DNA’s new passion to be different can be understood in the light of its attempt to standout in a market that has many rivals. The newspaper, launched in Mumbai, has spread to Jaipur, Bangalore, Pune and Ahmedabad. When launched, it had set itself to fight the dominance of the country’s richest publication, The Times of India. Using low price and the claim that it was designed by the readers, it achieved some success in its ambition but the task has not been easy. The India Positive campaign can be seen in this light.
While positive stories have not been coming in at the expected pace, the newspaper has found takers (including advertisers) by trying to find the right pitch with its readers. It has been trying to be the guardian of citizens’ interests by focusing on issues that hurt them.
The rivalry with the Times has not been easy to sustain and the newspaper’s publishers - the Daink Bhaskar group and Zee TV’s owners - appear to have been left bleeding. DNA was launched with good pay packets for the journalists it hired but into its fourth year it realised that it was hard to match the Times which kept poaching on its staff and pushed the pay packets higher. New by-lines appear because old ones have migrated. The newspaper was re-designed, the typefaces and the layouts changed and now into its sixth year, has a new editor, Aditya Sinha. The first editor was Gautam Adhikari followed by R Jagannathan. A new editor brings in fresh ideas and Sinha is orchestrating India Positive.
A newspaper can be different without constantly reminding the readers that it is trying to do so. The difference should be in terms of what it offers rather than what it has to say for itself. Trying to spread the “positive spirit” is going to call for a lot of hard work including a change in the mindset of the present breed of journalists fed on corruption scandals that keep emerging from the woodwork. A newspaper cannot overnight turn into a daily version of Readers’ Digest. Since the DNA has said it is on a new course one wishes it well and waits to see how the future pans out, however, its rant against peers is hardly reflective of the positive spirit it is touting.