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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2735

Hyping success India way

By a Special Correspondent

It is hard to tell if the Times of India is really angry with the New York Times or actually feels flattered after the attention it received recently from that revered paper of the American establishment, which had accused the TOI of ‘hyping success’ and for ‘over-wrought rhetoric about India as an emergent power’. One does not recall any occasion when an Indian newspaper or one of its features was thought worthy of an examination in an important American journal.

The timing of the NYT comment is interesting because it is only in recent years that U.S and other Western papers that command much influence have started looking at India in a more positive manner. The days when ‘all the news that is fit to print’ from India in these journals would be confined to natural disasters, conflicts, disease and hunger are apparently behind us.

These days one could expect to read some flattering references to India now and then. But there is no ‘hype’ as mixing ‘positive’ stories from India with the usual ‘negative’ images remains the standard fare in most Western papers. Thus, stories about India’s IT industry would be followed by stories of fanatic Hindus and Muslims slitting each other’s throat and the dirt and squalor in Delhi, not to mention the roaming cows on busy thoroughfares of the national capital.

This critic has not been able to get hold of the NYT with the impugned article on TOI. It is quite likely that a great majority of the readers of the TOI also did not get to read the NYT gripe against the allegedly excessive projection of India’s ‘success’ in its very precious, rather expensive, columns. (The TOI advertising rates are one of the highest in the country). But the interested readers of the TOI might have read the editorial in the TOI that rebutted the NYT charge against it.

Now, every newspaper has the freedom to decide its editorial policy that includes some important aspects like story selection and display. Though it need not be universally true, many believe that some commercial and financial considerations are also taken into consideration while deciding the editorial policy of a newspaper and the display of stories.

Those in the profession would like to claim that the biggest consideration is the reader’s likes and dislikes. By that bench mark, producers of Indian films will be justified in their claim that they dish out cheap song-and-dance sequences because the audiences here wants only that kind of stuff. Yes, this claim often begs the question: Do the film audience have any other choice so that it can look for something better.

Understandably, the TOI does not entirely agree with the NYT that it hypes ‘successes. In an editorial that seems to take a dig at the old First World mentality of refusing to see India as anything but a representative of the Third World, the TOI tells the mighty American journal that ‘we take issue with nattering nabobs of negativism’ and the paper does not ‘subscribe to a culture of defeat and dependency’. ‘We will take note of poverty but we won’t be overwhelmed by it,’ says the editorial and in the next breath adds: ‘Westerners see Africa as a disaster zone, but China sees in the same continent a land of opportunity. We choose the Chinese over the Westerner approach.’

Did the TOI go over the top in its defence? It may or may not write about India’s ‘success’ in glowing terms but what is important is how it treats important and serious stories of the day? Do they find space in its columns? Are they given the display that they merit? How ‘complete’ is the paper that likes to boast of being one of the best in the world? How much of ‘trivia’ does it carry everyday at the cost of more serious stories? How frequently does the paper carry in-depth analysis of national and international events?

The answer to these questions, in the opinion of many, would be negative. As on any other day previously, on the day it wrote the comment on the NYT, the TOI carried a para each, without a dateline, of some of the important ‘hard stories’ in a single column on page one which was largely devoted to stories that go against ‘the culture of defeat and dependency’.

There was also a story that the NYT would almost certainly dub as hype. It was about Sunita Pandya Williams only the second woman of ‘Indian origin’ to go on NASA space mission. (Kalpana Chawla, a naturalised American, was the first Indian woman to win that credit and her tragic end made her a legend in her native Karnal, Haryana). The bottom spread story about Sunita would qualify as a hype because she is obviously more American than Indian. She was born in the US to a Gujarati father and a white American mother and, as far as one could gather, has always lived like an American.

Indians who rejoice at the achievement of such ‘half Indians’ perhaps forget that since America is a land of migrants nearly every American (save the Red Indians, that is) traces his or her origin to another country, neigh continent. There are half-Americans galore in the US and the people in that country do not see them as foreigners or belonging to another country, as we tend to do. If they receive any ‘hype’ it is by virtue of the fact they are Americans.

So, does that mean that the TOI is after all guilty of ‘hyping the success’ of Indians and India? In accordance with a tradition started by the TOI itself, the two aspects of the case have been presented and the judgement is left to the reader.

- Syndicate Features -

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