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Same incident. Two newspapers. Two sets of headlines. You guess their editorial policy.

ByRajyasree Sen
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Aah, our newspapers. They never disappoint. It’s always nice to slip in editorial leanings as subtly as possible. Of course, sometimes they aren’t that subtle. If you got Delhi editions of The Indian Express and The Times Of India today, and went just by their headlines and front-page images, you’d be a little perplexed about what took place at India Gate on Sunday. Were hooligans at the gate, the literal gate that is? Were the people taking over? Where were the police?

Take The Indian Express. There’s a headline – “Delhi protests take violent turn, 150 injured, policemen critical”. And an image of an over-turned car and a young boy lobbing what looks like a stone. There’s not a cop to be seen in the vicinity. Maybe the mob turned so violent, that the cops fled the spot? And then there’s the sub-head. Which has a charm and innovativeness all its own.

GANGRAPE: Ramdev, VK Singh join protest, police say hooligans in mob

Clever placement of the comma after protest. Ramdev and VK Singh might be a lot of things, but inferring they’re hooligans?

Then there’s the editorially-challenged The Times Of India. Their headline was – “The People Are At The Gate”. Accompanied by an image of the marauding hordes which was made up of three (3) “people” – one old cowering woman, a young girl and a crouching young boy. And there’s a cop just about to strike them with a lathi. And another bunch of cops surrounding them. Let’s not miss the skewed statistics as well. TOI is the only one who said that 65 protesters have been hurt, and 78 cops injured. All other newspapers have the figure of injured protesters at 143, and one cop in the injured lot. But let’s not quibble, what’s a fact here or there?

And if our newspapers aren’t going to play around with headlines and images, who is? Maybe they’ve just learnt from the pioneers in the West.

Remember when TIME magazine wrote about the Soviet Union shooting down a Korean passenger plane. As it very subtly stated on a magazine cover dedicated to the incident “Shooting to Kill – The Soviets Destroy An Airliner”. Not to miss the picture accompanying it. They might as well have thrown in some Korean bodies flying through the air.  http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19830912,00.html

What’s wrong with that you ask? Well, you just have to compare it to the magazine’s coverage when an American naval warship patrolling the Persian Gulf shot down an Iranian passenger jet after supposedly mistaking it for a fighter plane. TIME didn’t think it necessary to carry an issue dedicated to the downing of the passenger plane, then. Or to call out their graphic designer to draw a horrific picture of an Iranian Jet being blown to bits.

Instead, they had a little sub-head on the top-left corner of the cover which stated – “Iran’s Jetliner. A Clash Turns To Tragedy”. If you were slightly near-sighted, you’d have missed it.

Different strokes for different folks? For TIME, it all depended on who was at fault. The US or the Soviet Union. And for our home-grown boys, the headlines depend on whether the UPA is at fault or not. Objective reporting and headlines be damned.

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