Front page Journalism

What should get front page coverage in a newspaper? Really, what is it that should get written about on the front page of a newspaper? The latest developments in the political circles, the merger or acquisition news of Indian businesses, the state of Indian cricket or what the Supreme Court decided on a high profile case?

When one opens up a newspaper, what is the real intension of doing so? To become aware of what is happening in the world around us; to stay abreast with the developments that affect our lives, impact our lives, mould our thinking etc.

However what is provided to us are trivial things, things that are actually not newsworthy on one side & on another completely incorrect. An apt example of one such case would be the front page picture of actress Deepika Padukone & cricketer Yuvraj Singh in today’s (5/1/08) issue of Times of India.

The purpose of putting up the picture there on the front page is still not very comprehensible. What was so newsworthy about it? The question actually is what was so newsworthy about it that it needed a front page slot?

Doesn’t a respected national level newspaper have any respect for two individual’s need for privacy? Doesn’t a respected national level newspaper have any decency & think twice about publishing a very personal moment in two individual’s lives on the front page of their daily?

Come on Times of India, you could definitely do better than that. How could you fall to such levels?

One realizes that what sells today is soft news, but have a separate section for that. Bringing your Bangalore Times content to the front page of your main paper is taking it a bit too far.

19 Comments so far

  1. Isla (unregistered) on January 5th, 2008 @ 9:00 pm

    Very Valid point Lokesh.

    For any newspaper , it’s front page is a critical resource and what goes in there, should not be trivialised.

    Also Your view of not to project a private moment of two indivuals as news is very justified

  2. Lubna (unregistered) on January 6th, 2008 @ 12:37 am

    I recall Amitabh Bachan once saying on TV: When you are a public person, you do not have a personal life, not when you are in a public place at least. You have to learn to live with it.
    Well I guess tons of Yuvraj and Deepika fans would have be thrilled to see this photograph. Remember a newspaper or any other TV medium delivers what its readers want or think wants. Both are eminent figures and the cricket match in on in Sydney and it is Deepika’s birthday. So well, it was newsworthy for the front page. It could have been in Bangalore Times instead, but these two are national celebrities, hence the huge coverage.
    A news channel also picked it up – saw it while surfing the net, not sure which channel it was.
    Plus Lokesh it is not as if there was no other news on the front page and just this picture.
    Well, these are my views.

  3. preran (unregistered) on January 6th, 2008 @ 1:11 am

    I am not quite sure I agree with this article. What would I rather have? The picture of Laloo Prasad Yadav or some other corrupt politican adorning the front page? Or pictures of death, murder, and the other violent acts that we read about?

    I would rather wake up to some nice pictures rather than what I mentioned above. Like Lubna said, it is not like that it was the only thing on the front page. In any case, I read my newspaper late in the afternoon. I have enough on my mind early mornings than read sad stuff.

  4. Citizen (unregistered) on January 6th, 2008 @ 9:50 am

    Err, from when did TOI become a respectable paper? They thrive on such news and sensational journalism. You hardly get news there. Even their editorials are sold. What else can you expect from slezy journalists?

  5. Deepa Mohan (unregistered) on January 6th, 2008 @ 6:32 pm

    Well, Lokesh, tabloids will always publish the kind of thing that will make for instant “oh!” kind of news….the only solution is to buy another paper instead!

  6. captainjohann (unregistered) on January 6th, 2008 @ 9:18 pm

    As deepa has said our newspapers have become”tabloids”. But they err terribly and that is why we as Nation continue to commit the same mistakes.How many knew that SriLankan Government has cancelled the ceasefire agreement signed by the previous government with LTTE and also kicked out the Norveigns.It has security implications for India in the form of refugess coming in,China/pakistan axis getting foothold in the island. We lost nearly 1200 lives in ceylon and also the life of a former PM to this conflict. 2.
    Mullah Omar has dismissed the souther Taliban commander Mullah dadullah, a significant developement but very few newspapers mentioned it.
    3.Pakistan is facing energy crisis that it has shut its steel plants for a month.
    4.Americans are asking for help of iran/russia for their operations in Afghanistan as they are having rouble in feeding the ISAF due to pakistani trouble.
    tomorrow you will see the papers blaring the bucknor/umpiring and how because of that india lost?!!!!!!!!!

  7. randramble (unregistered) on January 6th, 2008 @ 9:21 pm

    This is hardly anything new for ToI in Bangalore. But since people have made it the No. 1 newspaper, they seem to be giving what the people want. Shouldn’t we blame today’s generation which doesn’t want serious stuff on their newspaper?

  8. Sethuraman (unregistered) on January 7th, 2008 @ 7:58 am

    In today’s Hindu, Chennai edition, Readers’ editor Narayanan has dealt on this subject! is it a coincidence?

  9. Sethuraman (unregistered) on January 7th, 2008 @ 8:00 am

    In today’s Hindu, Chennai edition, Readers’ editor Narayanan has dealt on this subject! is it a coincidence?

  10. Pisipati Sriram (unregistered) on January 7th, 2008 @ 9:03 am

    Readers have no role in deciding news that goes on Front or inside pages in a newspaper, though some among them may be newsmakers by virtue of their achievements. The only choice is to stop subsubscribing to a newspaper or buying it when they don’t like the kind of news coverage or its content.

    Honestly speaking most newspaper editors and their editorial and reporting staff have very little freedom of choice in news selection or reporting, away from the management’s known line of thinking or political philosophy or affiliation these days. Even in edits, the lead writers have no choice than to trumpteer the management’s perceptions.

    With editorial depts and news bureaus increasingly taken over by marketmen, (most newspapers are market-driven) what freedom editors or reporting staff have in reporting news. For example can a newspaper which depends heavily on advertisements from state governments and local bodies dare write one word against these democratic institutions? They can write at the cost of losing ad revenue. Next minute the editor and the correspondent will be on streets searching for jobs.

    What public service journalism they can provide under such conditions? Todays newspapers cannot touch the powers that be because of their own business and other reasons. At best they can only second fiddle. Not that they are not coming out with good investigative stories and reports but their freedom is restricted by commercial objectives.

    After accommodating editor interested news, section editors interested news, news editor interested news, deputy news editor interested news, reporter and bureau chief interested news, and other interested news of prominent people who matter in society, where is the space for common man or reader interested news in a 20-page city-centric and urban-centric newwspapers?

    With newspapers becoming increasingly city-centric and lifestyle focussed in content, vast majority of rural and interior areas and what is happening to the people there is lost sight of.
    The result is one finds newspapers with grotesque coverage of news, lack of focus and to cover-up deficiencies using colourful pictures, often of models, cine celebrities, etc.

    Barring on days of some earth shaking news like assaniation of prominent leaders, calamities, etc, on other days one finds only stale and drab news – page 1 or inside – about politicians and their antics or cinema personalities and their blabbering.

    Maybe it is the sign of the times. Credibility of information in newspapers has become a casuality long time ago for various reasons. Added to it the piecemeal coverage of news with many mistakes and errors have further eroded whatever credibility they have.

    Personal service journalism has taken over public service journalism and hence loss of credibility among the reader public at large.

  11. Y Trip (unregistered) on January 7th, 2008 @ 10:06 am

    TV newschannels are no different. Take for instance the focus the last couple of days on Bhajji’s antics and the race-slur allegations and the subsequent brouhaha with all the ‘experts’ making their commentary on the situation. The only reason they are able to do this is because, people like you and me watch the shows and the advertisers know that we will watch it.

    Its a vicious cycle – Channel shows sensational news, we watch them along with the ads, the advertisers get an orgasm looking at the number of eyeballs on the tv and the channels inturn churn out even more masala to attract us and the ad money.

    in the last couple of days, the major stories in the media has been : Yuvi/Deepika, Sarkozy/model girlfriend, Sonia out of hospital, benazir killing and sensational stuff

    I was hard pressed to find any article/debate on the ramifications for India if either Barak or Huckabees wins the US elections. there was no news on the 100 or so people who died in Indonesia. The glare on the attacks on the CRPF camp is already over. Where is the debate on the I-cards in Delhi?

    We, the people are as much at fault as the media are. We willing watch reality shows and SMS our votes in. We want to read about the hots stuff and Page 1 is the new Page 3.

  12. NotBayArea (unregistered) on January 7th, 2008 @ 9:43 pm

    Oh No! This argument that blogger is smarter than the editor is so lame!

    Guys growup, the TOI is better than this blog any day

  13. Lokesh (unregistered) on January 8th, 2008 @ 10:17 am

    Umm, this thing called opinion is such an awesome thing isn’t it? Varied & full of different influences. Thanks to all of you for stopping by reading this & giving in your views. According to me at a time when the differentiating lines are getting blurred & becoming thinner & thinner & almost non existent, how one ends up thinking is just a matter of one’s perspectives & his influences.

  14. Pradeep (unregistered) on January 8th, 2008 @ 6:53 pm

    The reality is that stories and pictures are weighed on the basis of how many copies they sell. The primary objective of any commercial media channel is NOT to inform the public – it is to generate profits for shareholders. We, the public, do dictate what is published and what is broadcast – simply by buying more of some and less of others. If we today have sensationalist media, that’s what is being demanded and what is selling. It would be nice if James Nachtwey’s words – Not every story has to sell something – were put into practice more often, but the sad reality is that it is unlikely to happen.

  15. xylene (unregistered) on January 10th, 2008 @ 6:51 pm

    I guess the front page should contain news and matters concerning the public. Like for example price hikes, govt changes, new laws, etc etc.
    Give the subsequent pages for gossip (TOI has a dedicated 4 page supplement for it)

    I believe that a newspaper should be balanced it shud contain politics, sports, other news and gossip.
    But then it shud be balanced.
    And its better to avoid all the suicide and killings news to the front page.

  16. Kumar (unregistered) on January 18th, 2008 @ 8:29 am

    The reason why that pic was splashed on the front page of TOI was that Mr.Yuvraj’s “persoanl and private” life was affecting the purpose for which he was sent to Australia. Mr Yuvraj was not there on a private visit. His ticket was booked by the BCCI and his duty was to play cricket for the Indian team. If he had wanted to enjoy his “personal moments of privacy”, he could have made himself not available for the tour and enjoyed life with his girlfriends. People watching cricket could have known that the Indian team was critical of Yuvaj’s attitude.

    Even though I am not a big fan of TOI, certain comments here are downright stupid. Unless you work in a newspaper, you will not understand the efforts made to bring the right news on the front page. It is fact that management interferes with editorial decisions, but to think all journalists are after sleaze is ridiculous. There is a huge demand for celebrity news all over the world. Just check the Internet and point a finger at those sleazy stuff.

    Why do you think that political developments are the only important news on a day? Why are thoe slamming TOI demanding more science news on the front pages?

  17. Kumar (unregistered) on January 18th, 2008 @ 9:23 am

    Those who lambaste newspaper journalism should know the following:

    1. Newspapers are run by business houses and industrial houses and to expect total objectivity is ridiculous.

    2. The history of journalism is always associated with gossip. Study the history and then comment.

    3. Celebrity journalism is a new trend. What will a group of Indians discuss when they get together? The end of post-modernism or Gaia hypothesis and Global Warming? Come on guys!

    4. Newspapers also get feedback from Letters to the Editor, Internet posts and email comments etc. If readers of TOI feel that they need more yuppy kind of news, TOI will provide it. (In the early nineties, a leading TV channel admitted that they were forced to show third-rate adult movies at midnight due to huge demand from its viewers. Where were you guys then?) Please remember we live in a country where a well-known director openly demanded screening of blue films in theatres. He did not demand Bollywood to make more meaningful movies.

    5. “Even in edits, the lead writers have no choice than to trumpteer the management’s perceptions.” Mr. Sriram, the editorial is meant to air the views of the newspaper owner. Lead writers will state the official position of the newspaper owner. It has been like this from the past and it will continue to be like that. Also, there is no word called “trumpteer”. It is trumpet and it means “proclaim.”

    6. There is a “fixed space” for advertisements from state governments and local bodies in all newspapers. There are rules for the amount of ads that can be published in a paper on a day. No paper violates that rule. If you find some, you can complain to the Press Council of India.

    7. Not all newspapers have the habit of supporting or opposing a government. Usually, the government of the day allocates more ads to dailies that support them and less to those who oppose them. Since the revenue from private ads are much better than government ads, no newspaper will die if there are no government ads and no scribe will be out on the streets if he or she writes against the government.

    8. In journalism, the word “proximity” is important. If there is a horrendous crime in the city, newspapers will not ignore that. If you demand that instead a report of violence in Gaza is more important, then sorry friend. Journalism is what like what you think.

    9. The reason why newspapers went colourful with pics of celebrities was mainly to compete with TV journalism. There is something called the “layout” that makes a newspaper more attractive than others. Even the “always right” Hindu changed the layout to garner more attention. Do you think all those who did that were fools?

    10. Globally, vernacular dailies cover local issues in-depth than city dailies.

    11. Those who do not like TOI can stop reading it and buy another newspaper.

    12. Criticism is always welcome, but it should be mature and not just trite. Remember “Comments are free, facts are sacred”.

    I am sorry to say that comments in this post are based on totally false understanding of how the newspaper business is done. I would also like to add that journalists are not spineless people as you think, and nobody will interfere with a report filed by a reporter. WHAT YOU PEOPLE BELIEVE AND TELL IS FICTION. Reality is different.

  18. Lokesh (unregistered) on January 18th, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

    Hi Kumar,

    Thank you for your perspective on this post. I can see you have actually given it a lot of thought & communicated your views.

    I recollect reading in yesterday’s Mint that what is getting top priority in the Hindi TV news segment is celebrity news, gossip & politics has completely taken a back seat.

    I am sure your viewpoint helps us all have our own views.

  19. Kumar (unregistered) on January 19th, 2008 @ 11:48 am

    Hi Lokesh, TV journalism is quite different from print media. Please don’t compare with the same yardstick. Laws framed for the media do not include electronic media. For example, the Working Journlist act.

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