Kids Corner


Best Foot Forward:
Analyzing the Quality of India's Journalism Today









I fear we in India rarely, if ever, step back to look at ourselves … as we really are.

Deafened by our incessant jingoism, blinded by corruption, we shrug off the images the outside world mirrors back to us, and carry on with our collective sillinesses.

It pays to stop at times to listen to others and figure out how we project ourselves to the rest of the world, just in case there is more truth in those images than we are afraid of.

I came across this interesting exercise recently done by a renowned and respected intellectual.

Tyler Cowen is “an American economist, academic, and writer. He occupies the Holbert C. Harris Chair of Economics as a Professor at George Mason University and is co-author … of the popular economics blog, Marginal Revolution. He has also ventured into online education by helping start Marginal Revolution University. He currently writes the "Economic Scene" column for the New York Times, and he also writes for such publications as The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Newsweek, and the Wilson Quarterly.”

A few weeks ago, he picked up a copy of “India Today”, an issue from December 2012.

India Today”, as many of you may know, is an Indian weekly news magazine which many tout as our equivalent of the TIME Magazine. It is widely claimed by Indians as our best foot forward, especially in the context of journalism and the representation of all things Indian to both ourselves and the world. 

Well, Cowen sat down and read his copy of “India Today” cover to cover. He then wrote his impressions from the experience in the form of an essay titled: “What I Learned From Reading Every Last Word of India Today.”

He lists 16 things he gleaned from India’s esteemed journal, as follows (and I reproduce them her verbatim):

1. One writer of a letter to the editor suggests that viewing pornography is in fact an acceptable way for people to learn how to please their partners and that it should not be viewed as shameful.

2. The Hindi film actor Paresh Rawal offered the following capstone political advice, inscrutable to me even after rereading the entire article: “It is the cubs of a lioness who are fit to rule and not the kids of a goat. You know who the lion is. Vote for the lion and live your life with pride.”

3. India was derecognized by the International Olympic Committee in December because its government has interfered regularly in the election processes of national sports bodies. This means India cannot compete in the Olympics, and there is no obvious solution immediately at hand.

4. The gap between the age of the average Indian and the age of the average Indian political leader is one of the largest in the world. No prime minister of the country has been born after 1947.

5. There is much more talk about the relations across the generations than you would find in a comparable Western magazine.

6. Published mortgage rates are running at around 10 percent.

7. The Good Shepherd Finishing School, in its ad, defines “Woman” as “A being far blessed than MAN and no less than GOD himself, owing to her significant and selfless contribution to the divine process of CREATION.”

8. Bharath University, in its ad, brags of its 29-year legacy in India.

9. The All India Council for Technical Education has the following ambitions: “Entropy in the Universe should rise indicating that the well-being of the Universe is improving. If I can contribute to the well-being of our society and make an addition to the entropy, I am happy. On a different note, we have now developed the National Vocational Education qualification framework ...”

10. Lieut. Gen. JFR Jacob suggests that the Indian Army is still a World War II army, with no reorganization, little mobility and a defense-oriented outlook.

11. There are ads for Guatemalan coffee, and later, in a short feature, John McAfee is quoted praising the quality of coffee in Guatemalan prison.

12. Ashok Mitra opines that “The Left is the only hope for the country, the rest are all scum.” This quote is pulled out for display, which struck me as odd for such a culturally conservative magazine.

13. Life has become tougher for Indian cricketers, as they formerly played 5 to 6 months a year and now play as many as 10 months a year.

14. In the middle of the periodical, there is a long feature article about Ravi Shankar (and his daughter Anoushka), as if he were still alive. Toward the back of the periodical, there is a long feature article about Ravi Shankar, honoring him upon his death. He is compared to Beethoven and Tansen, a 16th-century Mughal musician.

15. Nirvikalpa Natarajan, a 30-year-old female doctor, is a surgeon for diseases and deformities of the mouth, jaw and face. As an “Indian of Tomorrow,” she is described as a member of Mensa since age 10 and as having a “Monalisa” smile.

16. Pandit Prasanna Gudi, a Bangalore musician, entered the Guinness Book of World Records by singing nonstop for 26 hours 12 minutes in 2009. He hopes to top this record by singing for 30 hours.

*   *   *   *   *

Cowen damns our “best foot forward” with a term he uses in no way as a compliment: he calls it “interesting”.

Here’s the coup de grace?
I fear that a more consistently mainstream editor eventually will make this periodical much less interesting, so in the meantime I am glad that the editor is the daughter of the owner.”

No wonder the people of my country are never taken seriously once we leave our borders.

Whose fault is it?


[Extracts from Cowen's essay - courtesy: The New York Times.]

February 5, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: H. Kaur (Canada), February 05, 2013, 10:36 AM.

I guess he doesn't realize it might well be someone else related to the owner who will be the editor after his daughter. Maybe another daughter, a son, a grandchild. I've never read this magazine. I can't imagine it being anything other than a boastful rag about a nation that has nothing to brag about.

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Analyzing the Quality of India's Journalism Today"

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