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No place for children's woes
Student research on the Hoot: With their dismal coverage of child development issues, Odisha editions of major English newspapers fail to sensitise in the state with the highest infant mortality rate. NEHA BHANDARKAR says children constitute 12% of Odisha’s population; and their exclusion from the print media is a matter of concern. Pix: child labour in Orissa from orissadiary.com
Posted/Updated Saturday, Jan 28 22:55:11, 2012
42 % Indian kids malnourished---the headline that was printed across the major newspapers in the country, does account for the pathetic condition in which India’s children are living. This shows that over 61 million children in the country are malnourished and have stunted growth (front page report in THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS and THE TIMES OF INDIA, January 11, 2012, based onthe Hunger and Malnutrition _HUNGaMA_ Report released by the Prime Minister).
 
The report shows that every third malnourished child in the world is an Indian. It reveals that malnutrition is extremely severe in 73,000 households in 112 districts in seven of the poorest States.
 
In Odisha, the condition of children is worse in comparison with those in other States. With 83 for 1,000 live births, the State has the highest percentage of infant mortality rate (IMR) in the country. 54.4% children born in Odisha are underweight. 20.7% of children below three years of age are severely underweight and another 54.4% are moderately underweight. The child sex ratio has fallen by 19 points from 953 girls for 1,000 boys in 2001 to 934 for 1,000 in 2011.Children, who constitute 12% of the State’s population, have been deprived of basic standard of living.
 
Such a situation calls for a concerted media attention on the all-round development of children. However, the newspapers, especially the mainstream newspapers, which should provide adequate space for children's development issues, have been lukewarm.
 
 
Findings:
The findings of a content analysis show that less than 1% of space is devoted to anything that is related to children in two mainstream English dailies published from Odisha – The Times of India and New Indian Express.
 
On an average, the Times of Indiahas given just 0.47% of its news space for child development stories and New Indian Express a mere 0.67%. For the child development stories, The Times of India editorial page has spared 6.50% of space besides 2.74% on the front page. New Indian Express has given 3.34% of its edit page space and 3.12% of its space on its front page for child development issues.
 
Nearly 88.4 cm square and 262.95 cm square of child development stories have been published on the front Page of The Times of India in October and November last. And in these two months, 421.2 and 410.7 cm square of child development stories have appeared on the edit page. During the same period, 291.99 cm square and 483.24 cm square of child development stories have been published on the front Page of New Indian Express. And in these two months, 214.35 and 613.82 cm square child development stories have appeared on its edit page.
 

Summary of Findings
  • The Times of India gives 0.47% of news space for child development stories and New Indian Express 0.67% for the same.
  • The Times of India editorial page provides 6.50% of space for child development issues, while New Indian Express provides 3.34% for the same.
  • The Times of India provides 2.74% of space on its front page for child development stories, whereas New Indian Express gives 3.12% of news space on its front page for similar stories.

 
 













 

 

 



 Individual newspaper review

Number of child-related stories published in New Indian Express

(October 2011)

FRONT: 2

 

INSIDE:19

 

EDITORIAL:2

 

SUPPLEMENT: 1

 

Total:24

(November 2011)

FRONT: 2

 

INSIDE:18

 

EDITORIAL: 3

 

SUPPLEMENT: 4

 

Total: 27

 

 









Table 2

Number of child-related stories published in The Times of India

(October 2011)

FRONT: 1

 

INSIDE:13

 

EDITORIAL: 1

 

SUPPLEMENT: 0

 

Total: 15

 

(November 2011)

FRONT: 2

 

INSIDE:18

 

EDITORIAL: 1

 

SUPPLEMENT: 0

 

Total: 21

 

 Table 3

Month

October 2011

News Content
in Percent

Advertisement
in Percent

Month

November 2011

News Content
in Percent

Advertisement
in Percent

Times of India

58.86%

40.24%

Times of India

66.31%

33.64%

New Indian Express

81.57%

18.49%

New Indian Express

80.93%

19.01%

 
 
 
 
 
 
Table 4

Month

October 2011

News Content
in Percent

Advertisement
in Percent

Space devoted to Child Development (CD) in percent

Times of India

58.86%

40.24%

0.38%

New Indian Express

81.57%

18.49%

0.64%

 











                         
                               Table 5

 

Month

November’2011

News Content
in Percent

Advertisement
in Percent

Space devoted to Child Development (CD) in percent

Times of India

66.31%

33.64%

 

0.57%

New Indian Express

80.93%

19.01%

 

0.71%

 
 
 
 















Least emphasis on “Prominence factor”:
One of the ways to find out whether or not a subject is being provided priority in a newspaper is to look at its front page. For instance, the front page story, ‘2-yr-old 'sacrificed', tantrik detained’ in New Indian Express of October 31, 2011 shows how the children in Odisha are vulnerable to superstition. Similarly, a lead article on the editorial page of The Times of India, ‘The Child Malnutrition Myth’ provides an analysis on the malnutrition problems in different States. However, when it comes to child development stories, the newspapers seem to have ignored the prominence factor. As the above tables show, the fact that only seven stories have been published in two newspapers in two months is an indication of how child development issues are sidelined in the media.
 
Lack of seriousness: Editorial page holds the newspaper’s views. It is on this page where a newspaper can extensively criticise, suggest, and recommend to the government on policy matters concerning child development. The coverage of child development stories on the editorial page shows seriousness of a newspaper on the issue. The data shows that over a period of two months, the two newspapers have carried just seven editorials. For Odisha, there is just one editorial that appeared in New Indian Express of November 24 (Malnutrition Rates Expose Odisha Odyssey Myth) where the newspapers has highlighted how the mid-day meal scheme has failed to serve its purpose in tackling malnutrition among children.
 
 
Invisible coverage: Most articles have appeared on the inside pages as snippets and also without pictures. However a few exceptions have been found where the articles were accompanied by illustrations.
 
An example: “Poverty forces mother to sell girl child”, published on October 29, 2011, in New Indian Express. This report tells us about a 36-year-old woman from Champakhunta village, who was forced to sell her 5-year-old daughter to a childless couple when she was unable to raise her. The report also says how she was kept away from most of the government social security measures.For instance, she was excluded from the BPL list though she did not own landand was deprived of benefits such as widow pension, subsidised rice, and IAY house.
 
Lack of sustained coverage: Absence of sustained coverage to child development stories in English newspapers published in Odisha is another important factor.Although, New Indian Express had more development stories compared with the Times of India during the period under study, both papers have showed lack of sustained coverage. However, in some urgent cases that invite public involvement and outrage, the coverage was quite stable. October 22 to 26 saw a continued reporting on a teenage gang-rape case from Bhubaneswar in both newspapers.
 
Issues that got maximum coverage: The prominence factor cannot be considered for a particular child development issue. The study also took into consideration infant/child abandonment, tribal children development and child trafficking. A consistent reportage of child abandonment was also observed. On November 14, a shocking incident was reported from Baripada (Baby girl found abandoned) where a newborn girl was found buried in the bund of a pond in Mayurbhanj. The report recalls earlier incidents of similar nature where two newborn girls were found packed in a carton in a railway station. On November 5, a few days-old girl was found near a garbage bin. In an earlier incident, the people had found a man attempting to throw his baby daughter into a drain at Jharpada in the State capital.
 
This situation demands both action and visibility. Media, especially news media, cannot remain a mute spectator to this situation.As the guardian of society, it should do its bit to improve the condition.
 
 
Conclusion:
 
In a democracy, the role of the press assumes greater significance in forming public agenda on several issues. It can also be an effective tool to improve the socio-economic conditions of the people.
 
The mainstream media are fast becoming commercial enterprises. Some of them have become the mouthpieces of select political parties or fundamentalist groups. Given the state of child development in Odisha, the newspapers aren’t giving sufficient and expected coverage to the issue.
 
The newspapers must be able to look out for these issues in order to maintain a sustained coverage, but in reality, very little has been done to create an impact either on the masses or on the policy-makers.
 
Children constitute 12% of Odisha’s population; their exclusion from the print media is a matter of concern. Lack of respect and recognition for children’s rights is a reflection of how the newspapers are insensitive to children’s issues. Odisha has enough issues that need urgent reporting in the mainstream newspapers. The inadequacy of reportage on child development is not justified and must be scrutinised and worked upon with immediate action.
 
News media must contribute in the cognitive, emotional, and social development of children.
 
Neha Bhandarkar is a student at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal, Odisha. This study has been supervised by Sucharita Sahoo.
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