Yoga day was a big success. It inspired witty Whatsapp jokes, “Irish yoga” jokes, memes of cats doing yoga and India even set two world records that day. Sure enough, it gave the mainstream media more than enough material to stretch for weeks. Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu falling asleep during shavasan made “snoozasan” a trend.
The build-up to the big day wasn’t less than “incredible”. Bus stops, bill boards and newspapers were plastered with good looking men and women sitting in padmasan promoting June 21 as International Yoga Day.
Couldn’t see anything else.
We, at Newslaundry, love looking at newspapers. The words are very pretty. And, sometimes, if we strain a little, the letters begin to mean things.
We looked at the Delhi editions of four major English dailies — The Times Of India (TOI), The Indian Express (IE), Hindustan Times (HT) and The Hindu for June 20, 21 and 22 to look at just how crazy the Yoga Day coverage was and whether it eclipsed the death of over 100 people in Mumbai owing to consuming illicitly brewed liquor.
What do you think we found? The Malwani tragedy found space deep inside the newspapers, while Yoga occupied prime space.
The Malwani tragedy was a small report on the top-left corner of page 15.
The Hindu, too, focused more on yoga than the hooch tragedy. Page 5 of the paper had a story on the top-left corner about Yoga Day. More than half of page 7 carried an advertorial on yoga. The hooch tragedy was reduced to a middle section story on page 12.
While the major English dailies of Delhi pushed the hooch story deep inside the papers, Mumbai dailies, namely, DNA, Mumbai Mirror and Mid-Day, gave a little more importance to the story.
Mid-Day had a total of only two stories on the illegal liquor tragedy and none on Yoga day.
The Hindu carried two front-page stories on Yoga Day while it pushed the hooch story to page 11. The paper also carried an advertorial on yoga on page 20.
Mumbai dailies gave a little more importance to the deaths.
The Sunday Times had a front page story and three other full pages on Yoga Day and its success as an international event. It overlooked the hooch incident.
The illicit liquor tragedy was covered only on page 8.
The Hindu gave three columns worth of space on page 10 to the Malwani tragedy, while it covered Yoga Day on the front page, the second page, the third page, fourth page and page 11.
Mid-Day had a balance between the numbers of stories reported on both the issues, hooch tragedy, with a total of eight stories, maintained importance over Yoga Day that was covered in one four-column story on page 6.
It’s worth questioning why an incident that lead to more than 100 deaths was relegated to the back pages, even as International Yoga Day was covered on the front pages for almost three days straight. It’s apparent that the hooch story wasn’t really over-looked in Delhi editions, but severely over-shadowed. Contrast this to the “Maggi controversy” and reports of adulteration in packaged food that dominated headlines only two weeks ago.
Sure, Yoga Day celebrations brought up questions of nationalism, religion and minority sentiments – stuff that eye-grabbing headlines are made of compared to, say, poor people losing their lives after consuming toxic moonshine. But could we have hoped for a balance in reporting on the two stories, like the Mumbai papers achieved?
Research by Priyanka Mathur