Why is there so much discrimination in the media on the coverage of Narendra Modi’s public speeches? He has been addressing huge meetings so far – in Tamil Nadu, in Jaipur and in Delhi to start with – and the Delhi gathering was perhaps the largest ever.
How did the Press Trust of India describe it? It said: Modi addressed a ‘rally’. What is a ‘rally’? According to the Compact Oxford Dictionary Thesaurus, a ‘rally’ is a “mass meeting held as a protest or in supportive of a cause”. No figures are mentioned. But what is a ‘mass meeting’? It is, according to the dictionary, “a large number of people”. A large number? How large is ‘large’? One thousand? Ten? A lakh? No idea.
The Hindu (September 30) incidentally reported the Modi speech on page 10 in its Mangalore edition. Didn’t the story deserve front page coverage? The paper, incidentally, quoted Gujarat’s Deputy Director of Information, Nelesh Shukla as saying modestly that the Delhi audience turn-over was “just over a lakh”. Many think it could have been between 2 to 3 lakh, if not more.
The times of India ( September 30) said in its report that Modi’s speech was attended to by “a huge turn-out, estimated at between 2 and 5 lakh”. Those who watched the show on TV would be the best judges. But what prevented our papers from publishing photographs of the audience? There is such a thing as ‘paid news’. Can one get paid for not publishing pictures? But when Sonia Gandhi addressed a meeting in Mandya, it was described as “a massive show of strength”; there was a “sea of supporters”. The Congress apparently had hired 2,000 buses to bring ‘supporters’ to the public meeting. The Deccan Herald called the meeting ‘a fervent throng’, numbering some 75,000 people. Hiring 2,000 buses is no small matter. But the media did not find out how much it cost. But for Modi’s Delhi address a controversy was raised by the Congress that the BJP had purchased 10,000 burquas and “thousands of skull caps to show that it has support of Muslims”.
According to Hindustan Times (September 25), the charge was made by Digvijay Singh, but it has been denied and Digvijay could not be contacted. According to AS Panneerselvam the Reader’s Editor of The Hindu, “These adjectives in the news report have virtually made the editorial look tame” and “if a reporter is overwhelmed by what she is covering, it becomes the duty of the desk to subject the copy to the adjective filter in order to restore the dividing line between news and views.”
The question then arises: Are adjectives to be used only by editorial writers and not be reporters? What is the extent to which reporters can use adjectives specially during a spectacular development? Should reportage be strictly colourless and restricted to facts?