How the TOI Misleads India
Few of us in India would have missed the colossal marketing effort for "Lead India" by the Times of India in print as well as on TV going on now.
I fail to understand what exactly is the purpose of this. It seems that there might be more to it than meets the eye.
Apart from catchy slogans like "Domination starts with DO", the TOI has roped in Shah Rukh Khan as the campaign's "face". He says, "Let's stop basking in our glorious past or day dreaming about our great future". He also goes on to remind us, "Remember, you are not stuck in a traffic jam. You ARE the traffic jam". If you say so, o King of Bollywood.
They also have created a website where you can apply or nominate someone else as a "Times Leader" in your city.
I still have not made sense of this stuff. What exactly is the TOI trying to achieve here? While the underlying rhetoric that ageing Indian politicians are corrupt and petty minded is nothing new, are these people taking it a step beyond by trying to form a parallel government comprising SMSing twenty somethings to bypass the elected one?
While the above may sound silly, I am actually a bit unnerved regarding Lead India's unwarranted activism regarding the Indo-US nuclear deal. While I am for the deal myself (and so are most educated people in this country, including major newspaper editors and columnists), we have to remember that the Left might have some valid objections which we cannot gloss over. Even Kapil Sibal had agreed to engage in a debate in Parliament over this. If the Left decides to pull out of the UPA after the debate, it is a different issue. We are operating according to the norms of parliamentary democracy, in which case we play by the rules of such a system.
But the TOI has jumped the gun and wants strategic deals to be signed based on SMS polls. It has published the results of SMS polls (where 93% are in favour of the deal), besides editorials and readers' letters lambasting the Left. It did not publish even a single counter-argument (perhaps deliberately?).
In today's (26 Aug) newspaper, on the front page there is a Lead India article titled "More than ever, need for leadership". In this article, they state, "In the last few days, we've sought reader feedback through multiple channels - sms, mail, blogs - and commissioned extensive polls in a bid to understand what the people of India feel about the ongoing political farce. The overwhelming response seems to be one of disgust at the myopia and pettiness being exhibited by those who are supposed to lead the country".
Am I the only one here to feel that the TOI is not just reporting opinions, but manufacturing them as well? You could always take any side of any argument, give it a rosy spin, belittle the other side, and then take an opinion poll, and publish it on the main page to gain more converts to your side. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy after that.
As a daily that claims to be India's most read newspaper, the TOI should show some maturity and restraint in dealing with sensitive issues. It cannot appropriate the emotions of an impulsive, dreamy-eyed SMSing youth to push its own agenda (and boost its circulation). It would border on the verge of unethical corporate behaviour to do so. Leave activism to the various groups and NGOs. You either make news, or report it, but not both.
But that's what the TOI seems to be doing. I think the TOI should continue to do what it does best - feature baggy eyed middle aged men and women toasting on its "Page 3", and leave it at that.
But it is true that the TOI has bigger ambitions, and something that goes beyond print. Already, they have entered the online matrimonial and job market, as well as television (the Times Now channel). It seems like the Lead India campaign is really for domination. The question is, by India, or the Times group itself?
How the TOI Misleads India
- » Published on August 26, 2007
- » Type: Opinion
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