For the Hindi press, #NotInMyName was not front-page material
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For the Hindi press, #NotInMyName was not front-page material

The event was tucked in the inside city pages.

By Manisha Pande

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The #NotInMyName hashtag was the top trend on Twitter this week for almost two days straight. The protests against mob lynching that took place on June 28 across major cities in India, was the front-page story in major English dailies, like The Times of India, Hindustan Times and The Indian Express. This, however, could not be said for the Hindi dailies.

Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar and Amar Ujala reported on it, albeit in the inside city pages. Even as HT led with the story, its Hindi counterpart, Hindustan thought it fit for page 7. Navbharat Times and Times of India followed a similar script. Both carried pictures of the event on the front page with reports in the inside pages.

Could this imply that the event was a ‘PLU’ affair with little currency among the masses? Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar and Amar Ujala account for India’s top five most circulated newspapers, with Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar leading the pack and Amar Ujala at number 4. TOI comes at the third position. While there are several reasons why a news story is placed on the front-page, some important factors that dictate this choice are impact and interest. If major Hindi dailies decided to give little prominence to the protest, what does it tell us about the event’s relevance to a chunk of the masses in the Hindi heartland?

In Dainik Jagran, the event was covered on Page 7, with the headline: “Jantar Mantar Main Sampradaik Ghatnaon Ka Virodh” (Protests against communal incidents at Jantar Mantar.) It’s a two-column story that informs the readers that a big crowd had gathered at Jantar Mantar, which included students, social workers and Left-affiliated leaders, among others. It also states that people from Junaid Khan’s village had attended the function and that singer Rabbi Shergill performed at the venue.

Dainik Bhaskar, on the other hand, decided to skip reporting on the protest altogether.

Amar Ujala placed the protest on Page 6 with the headline, “Not In My Name se jude dilliwasi”. (Delhi people lend their support to ‘Not In My Name’). It’s a short report that focuses on the presence of politicians, like Manish Sisodia from the Aam Aadmi Party and notes that people took pictures at the event and later shared them on social media with the hashtag #NotInMyName. NBT used a picture of the protest on its front-page, while the report on page 3 spoke of people from all religions and of all ages protesting at Jantar Mantar. Hindustan’s report informed us that progressive groups, students, intellectuals, poets and artistes gathered at Jantar Mantar. The report highlights the fact that protesters were upset with communalism spread in the name of Hindutva.

Contrast this with reports in English language dailies. HT, apart from a front-page report, dedicated more than half of page 2 to the event. TOI also put the event as the lead city story on page 2. These reports are more detailed and have many more voices from the event. It’s not a snippet but is presented as a major news event. This is perhaps because the English media is increasingly shaped by talking points on social media and the even being organised on social media could have a bearing on its coverage. Indeed its target audience today consumes much of its news from platforms like Twitter and Facebook. But does it also have something to do with the demography of the protesters?

This is something that comes out in conversations we had with editors from these newspapers. An editor at Dainik Jagran’s Delhi bureau told us that while the protest was important for “opinion makers”, Jagran gives more weight to events that directly touch the masses. “Such protests happen all the time and they are organised and attended by the same set of people. But we do cover something like the Mandsaur protest on the front page,” he said on condition of anonymity.

An editor with Amar Ujala echoed a similar sentiment. He said that they are more likely to highlight events that are “zameen se judi hui”. He added that the protests were important and a talking point for intellectuals but a more powerful protest from the point of view of Amar Ujala was Muslims wearing black bands on Eid. This story was placed on page 2 and was covered more prominently than the Jantar Mantar protests with a larger image. Our attempts to get in touch with Dainik Bhaskar’s editors did not yield any response.

Sifting through these Hindi newspapers is a useful reminder of the vast differences in the editorial choices of the English language and the Hindi press. It also tells us a thing or two about the real reach of a news event and clearly Twitter hashtags are far from defining it in real terms. Be that as it may, there’s one person who seems to have taken note. Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a statement yesterday condemning violence in the name of cow protection. Both Jagran and Bhaskar have carried this news on the front-page today.

The author can be contacted at manisha.pande1110@gmail.com and on Twitter @MnshaP.

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