The print media and the poorest districts of Jharkhand

BY sudhir pal| IN Books | 25/11/2003
The print media and the poorest districts of Jharkhand

Over 10 days of around 4000 news items that were published in the Capital’s newspapers only 3 items were about the poorest districts.

Extracts from a Study by Sudhir Pal

Manthan Yuva Sansthan

 A study conducted from 26 June to 5 July 2003 of three Hindi newspapers (Hindustan, Prabhat Khabar and Ranchi Express) along with one English newspaper (Hindustan Times), publishing from Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi clearly shows that newspapers are not terribly interested in publishing news of social concern.  Issues of poverty, development and empowerment of common people are not a priority. It does not mean that news related to these issues is not published. It is published but it is not given importance.

The edition system in newspapers is directly affecting the poorest districts. Newspapers publishing from the capital do not have space for the news from these  districts. Over 10 days of around 4000 news items that were published in the Capital’s newspapers only 3 items were about the poorest districts. Eventually news is for whom? If it’s for common man, sadly newspaper’s role in empowering people of poorest districts is becoming very limited.

Overview of the media scenario in the state

Jharkhand’s newspapers provided momentum to the struggle for a separate state that continued for more than three decades. People-oriented thinking, participation in people’s struggle with great enthusiasm, unmasking authority’s anti-people face again and again has been a tradition for Jharkhand’s journalism.

Jharkhand state was formed on 15th November 2000. With the formation of state some newspapers namely The Telegraph and The Times of India started publishing their editions. Hindustan and Hindustan Times has started publishing from here a little before the state’s formation. Since the formation of the state for almost two years Dainik Jagran published a special edition for Jharkhand from Patna. At present Dainik Jagran is publishing from Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad. Prabhat Khabar, Hindustan is also publishing from Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad. Along with this Ranchi Express, Uditvani, Aaj, Chamakta Aina, Bihar Observer including a dozen of small - big dailies are publishing from Jharkhand. Because of being a separate state, offices of many multination companies, central and financial institutions and public organizations have opened up in Jharkhand, possibilities for business have increased and revenue sources for the newspapers have also increased. That includes advertising  by the state government.

After the state’s formation newspaper’s circulation has increased. Pages in the newspaper have increased and now daily newspaper editions have no less than 16-18 pages. Except for one or two newspapers all offer 8 pages of colour.  According to one estimate the total circulation of all the newspapers is around 10 lakhs. This includes papers coming from Delhi, Calcutta and other cities.

Colourful newspapers are being published from Jharkhand but because of increased circulation and additional pages in the newspapers, their standard is decreasing.  The  number of factual and investigative reports is continuously decreasing in newspapers. They are less sensitive towards new and burning issues. For instance there is hardly any news on gender justice, women’s empowerment, child trafficking, environment, poverty, development, malnutrition, women’s health, dalits, weaker section etc. and if there is then it will be nothing more than statements by some ministers or leaders. The situation at the grassroots and its effect on public life is not been the subjects for newspapers.

All the newspapers are bringing out DIVision wise and district wise editions. With this newspapers have been successful in reaching remote areas. News from villages and remote areas is getting publishing in these editions. But the disadvantage is that with regard to information every district has been isolated. News from the capital is not reaching the villages or other districts. And neither is important news of the poorest districts reaching to the capital. Many times factual reports on grassroots situation do not reach the policy makers. Problem for the newspapers is that it is necessary to cover geographical distance of 100 kilometers in a fixed time (generally by 4 o’clock in the morning) and for this, editions start printing and dispatching from 9 o’clock in the night. Some pages are almost same in all the editions of the state but mostly on these pages superficial news gets the space. There isn’t much interest seen on the issues related with social concerns on these pages. Political allegation -counter allegations, announcements by chief minister or ministers are on top in the priority list.

Most of the news sources are the department secretaries or ministers. Therefore the government’s public announcements appear prominently on newspaper pages but there are no investigative articles on what is the status of these schemes at the  grassroots level and how much people living in marginalized and poorest districts are benefiting from these development schemes. Newspapers have lot of pages and to fill up these pages journalists are forced to make news out of easily available information. Collecting facts on grassroots level and writing reports is not happening. Most of the developmental and social concern related issues, which are published in the newspapers, are written by the freelancers. Journalists associated with newspapers on regular basis are neither sensitive about social concerns nor the newspaper working system allows them to be so. There are reviews on poorest districts in editorial pages. Editorial also very less reflects on social concerns. Most editorial are limited to the review of political chaos only.

Scope of media coverage

 What was covered (volume of stories), what priority was given to the issues, how much coverage was in-depth, what was the news focus (page-1)

On an averages newspapers published from the capital have 18 pages and page no. 9 is set for the news from capital and other districts of Jharkhand. Along with that more or less every day 4-5 news from capital or other districts comes out on first page. On average more than one hundred news, including capital and other districts of Jharkhand are published in every newspaper. Poorest districts are the most affected by edition systems of the newspapers. In the newspapers published from Ranchi, except Ranchi there is almost negligible news on rest of the 10 poorest districts. If there is news than it will be of crime or merely statements of the minister or MLA of that particular area.   In the 10 days study amongst 113 news of development and poverty only 4 were of poorest districts; 2 from Pakud, 1 of Gaoda and 1 from Hazaribag. News in the Jharkhand page of the newspaper has remained limited to Bokaro, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Hazaribag only. News from poorest districts Dumka, Devghar, Pakud, Gaoda, Sahebganj, Palamu, West Singhbhoom, Lohardaga, Gumla, Girideeh is not there in capital’s newspapers.

In news priorities politics and crime is definitely on the top. The lead news in Hindustan on 26 June was - ‘dozens of Lalchand’s cannot stop me - Rai’ whereas in the same newspaper there was a news on page 10 that ‘drill starts for endorsing traditional administration system in scheduled areas’. Lead stories are nothing more than the tussle between government leaders, whereas news of traditional administration system is sign of important change. This is an exercise to enforce a constitutional provision. This will start process of power transfer into public hands and this system is operational in hundreds of villages. But this is not priority news for the newspapers. Common man is not the base of priority for newspapers. Most of the news is simply tussle between political parties and government leaders. And this kind of news is publishing with eminence whereas common people are no way concerned with this kind of absurd word wars.

 The content

 Over 10 days almost 4000 news (average 100 per newspaper x 4) are published in Ranchi’s newspapers. Amongst 4000 news, only 113 is on issues of poverty and development related news. In this most of the news is related to violence against women, electricity problem, health, basic infrastructure and development schemes information.

ALL 4 NEWSPAPERS (26 June to 5 July 2003)

         Subject                                                                         No. of news

1.    Violence against women                                         10

2.    Electricity problem                                                  8

3.    Health / Nutrition                                                  16

4.    Basic infrastructure / industry                                   9

5.   Information on development schemes                         21

Poverty and development related news is published from Randhi Dateline. And as said before, there is no representation of news from poorest districts in capital’s newspapers.

SOME OF THE NEWS PUBLISHED ON FIRST PAGE

1. Electric stations will be set Jharkhand              Prabhat Khabar          26 June

2. Electric sub stations tenders will be cancelled     Ranchi Express          27 June

3. Maximum facilities for resettlement grant for       Ranchi Express        27 June   big industrial projects upto 15 crores                                                                         

4.  electricwire fall in Ormajhi,6ead            Hindustan, Prabhat Khabar     8 June

5. Head spitted half on giving birth to a girl                Hindustan               1 July

6. Disposablesyringes are being used again and again  Ranchi Express          1 July

7. Four forest employees murdered by slitting necks   Ranchi Express          2 July

8. doctors will be reinstated on contracts for villages   Ranchi Express        3 July

9. Complete cleanliness campaign inaugurated           Ranchi Express          5 July

 (During this period superficial political word wars and political news remained the lead news)

The treatment

Was the treatment of the stories positive or negative, was the focus on stories of conflict, did good practices make front page, did the coverage provide context for the reader/viewer, how much editorial comment was there, were the issues covered through opinion pieces, if so what was the slant and the tone of the articles? 

         If news on poverty and development is analysed, it will be clear that newspapers   give priority to news with negative tone. Front-page news is mostly negative. In some newspapers ‘anchor space’ on the first page is already fixed for the development news.  But in Jharkhand newspapers this anchor space mostly has news from foreign sources.

In ‘Hindustan’ and ‘Hindustan Times’ editorial remarks on poorest district and local issues is almost negligible. Because the editorial pages for these two newspapers come from Delhi edition so editorial page is same as Delhi. Editorial comments on local issues can be seen in ‘Ranchi Express’ and ‘Prabhat Khabar sometimes.  There was an editorial by the title ‘disgusting, inhumane, shameful’ in 5 July’s Ranchi Express. This remark was strong criticism on panchayat’s decision to burn two women alive who were blamed to be witches. There is editorial  ‘Tata Lease chapter’ on a land controversy between the Government and the Tatas in Ranchi Express on 4 July. Ranchi Express’s editorial remark on 3 July is voice of "Local expectation". There is editorial remark on "Extremism in Jharkhand" in Prabhat Khabar on 3 July. 1 July’s Ranchi Express both editorial remarks are related to education and children’s rights respectively. Ranchi Express’s editorial remark on 30 June "this is how government campaign’s run" exposes development work.  

 

The sources

 Where did the stories originate, what was the role of news agencies, in what direction did the news flow, were NGOs interviewed  / subjects of any stories.

 The main sources of news for the newspapers coming out from the capital Ranchi are departmental minister’s statements, their interviews and their speeches during different programmes. Departmental secretaries are also news sources but their share in information is much less. Press releases of the institutions have more than 60 percent shares in local news. Voluntary organizations generally have statistics and status information on many issues but usually voluntary organizations stay away from the newspapers. NGO news gets published only if you have personal relation with them. As news source voluntary organization are almost untouched till now. 

NEWS SOURCES

S.NO.              SOURCE OF NEWS                                                 PERCENTAGE

1.          Minister/Secretary/Department/Government press releases   35 - 36%

2.          Press releases (Political parties/non profit organizations)          60%

3.          Investigative news                                                              3 - 4 %

4.           Others                                                                            0.5 -  1%

 

Recommendations

 Due to editions newspapers have become completely "local". News of one district doesn’t reach to the other. Though all newspapers have kept one page for whole state but in this also some cities like Dhanbad, Bokaro, Jamshedpur, Hazaribagh are getting represented. This representation is also not appropriate because only political, crime and other superficial news get published.

Because of the editions system news’s effectiveness is decreasing and voices of public protests are only getting limited to local level. Its effect is not reaching till the centre of power the capital. A system can be devised that newspapers should make space for poorest districts and try for appropriate representation.

Participation of deprived community like women, dalits and tribal is on a very low level in newspapers. Because of this these communities are not much talked about in newspapers and their issues are also not considered with sensitivity. There should be consideration on increasing the share of news  of deprived communities.

Today there is need for newspapers to take on a strong and active role. Newspapers can also come forward in ensuring society’s extensive participation in development works and providing space to the process of "social audit" on development.  

 Need for investigative journalism has increased. Investigative journalism has a big role in ending challenge of capital, market and power. Effort should be in direction of preparing more and more investigative reports.

There is need to revise and reviews subjects of journalism. There is need to educate and sensitize journalist towards subjects of education, women’s empowerment, gender inequality, dalit, tribals, strengthening of democratic institutions, education/literacy, health, environment etc.

There is also need to review traditional style and form of news. Instead of making "disaster" a new more emphasis should be given on the process and causes, which results in disaster.

There should be collective initiative in a direction so that news has positive impact. Good relationship should be developed between media, civil society and NGO so that all three supplement each other. This requires collective thinking.

                                     (Translated by Sunita Bhadauria)

Sudhir Pal 
Manthan Yuva Sansthan 
Hindpidhi,3rd Street
Ranchi - 834 001 (Jharkhand)
Tel : 0651-220 2202

Email : manthan_ranchi@hotmail.com

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