April 16, 2011

Hypocritical Indian News Media - A Menace

Today's Times of India (TOI) newspaper's Chennai edition's Page-3 comes across as one of the highly disturbing printed news pages to read anytime. What you see on the right is the page-3 of TOI paper on 16-April 2011. Before you continue to read any further, please take a few seconds to give yourself time for some inferences.

A big bold article title on this page reads "Woman posts porn profile of sis on net". Right below this, in a contoured box titled "Bay Watch", there is a picture of a non-Indian girl (perhaps a tourist?) in a bikini having fun in the Marina beach with her two friends. The picture also shows a man (appears to be a local Chennai-ite) wearing a lungi (a local dress worn in India) lying down and relaxing, appearing to be watching this girl and her friends. Any idea what the caption to this picture reads? Here is what it reads as -
SUMMER DELIGHT: The Marina beach got some added colour on Friday afternoon when a group of young foreigners couldnt resist the temptation of the sun,sand and surf. Little did they know that swimming here is a dangerous pastime, but then there were many on the shore who kept an eye as they took a splash
What kind of news reporting is this? In a country that claims to be democratic and that is friendly to its tourists (remember the Athithi Devo Bhavah campaign?), news media use tourists to gain news readers' attention? I'm extremely saddened by this very fact that such news agencies publish articles in the way TOI has done in today's Chennai edition. The Layout Design Rules that many (or any!) printed and online offline / content publisher follow seems to be well used by this news agency today.
In my opinion, there are two major impacts of this page -
  1. It gives the reader a picture to relate to the big bold article on the top (go with Layout Design Rules)
  2. It unnecessarily calls people's attention to something the non-Indian girl was doing - casually enjoying on the beach side
  3. It instills the hidden message in the readers' mind that people in Chennai will ogle at you if you are dressed in a bikini. Mind you, even foreigners are readers of TOI!
  4. Readers will tend to continue to consider this as reality, while the reality is that people at the beach would've not even bothered to see this girl
The same paper that once fiercely covered the murder of a British girl in Goa, is now picturing a bikini-clad foreigner on Page-3. How does the media agency claim to support the Athithi Devo Bhavah campaign?
Lets first accept the fact that India is undergoing a lot of change, internally and externally. The country is set on an agenda to redefine its image and position in the global landscape - as a tourist friendly and people friendly destination. I agree - the reality is a little different, but I also will want to point out that there is also an effort to change. While there are a few characters in the streets of Chennai who ogle at women, this is not what a national printed news agency should highlight and portray!
Remember, Perception is Reality!
The reality can change if you can continuously drive towards creating a better perception of the city and the country. Please do not mix glamor and news, especially at the cost of innocent citizens of the world.

I really appreciate your thoughts and comments.
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