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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Why Western Media’s reportage on Bharat has quite often been called out

The nature of Western Media’s coverage of socio-political developments in Bharat has been questioned time and again by Indian Intelligentsia, including top journalists, academia and foreign issues experts. Given the topicality of the issue in the present times, Bharat’s top institute for Media and Communication, Indian Institute for Mass Communication, has published a report ‘Analysis of Global Media Coverage of Events in India’ in the latest issue of its quarterly media journal Communicator.

The report, written by Journalist & Media Analyst Amol Parth, endeavors to explain the alleged irrational global media coverage of socio-political developments in Bharat through facts and figures. The report, through in-depth analysis of 3000+ Bharat related Articles by global media, case studies & readership growth pattern, suggests that these questions about the Western Media’s coverage may have some legitimacy to them.

The report quotes scientific papers, communication experts and journalists associated with these concerned Western media houses to explain how there is a natural tendency to prefer click bait journalism in order to garner more eyeballs which in turn helps grow their business. Senior Writer at New York Times David Leonhardt says, “Our healthy skepticism can turn into reflexive cynicism, and we end up telling something less than the complete story because we don’t weigh positive news and negative objectively.” Award winning American Podcaster Jay Acunzo says that it’s all about business, “Our media is addicted to growing ad revenue. The business model is the illness. Everything else is a symptom.”

Declining demand for print compounded with stiff competition and limited space to grow in their own countries, these Western media houses have found Bharat as a lucrative market with third largest English speaking population. Icing on the cake for them is Bharat’s vast and varied demography which makes it a complex society with many potential fault lines which can be exploited.

Exclusively for this report, data of Western media’s readership growth in Bharat was procured from American media measurement agency Comscore. Analysis of the data indicates that the correlation between their digital readership growth in Bharat and their sensational reportage is strong. Their readership in Bharat has grown more rapidly in comparison to their growth globally.

Among key findings of the report what stands out is that the case studies in the report indicate pattern of hit & run stories to catch eyeballs which means that most of their stories have exaggerated headlines with minimal substance in the story to support the doomsday prophecies in their headlines. Case studies in the report also expose the editorial prejudices of these media houses against Bharat. Case in point is the New York Times cartoon which ridiculed Bharat’s budget mission to Mars.

Another New York Times report paints Bharat’s decision to promote its indigenous textile industry as an obstacle in country’s growth.

The report further investigated Western media’s local network in Bharat and found that just one or two correspondents for covering a vast and diverse country like Bharat also contributes to the lack of nuances, poor understanding of complexities and limited fact-checks in their reportage.

The report elaborates upon the inability of foreign correspondents based in Bharat to understand the complexities of Bharatiya society, vibrancy of Bharat’s democracy and nuances of governance structure. Comparative analysis in the report suggests that the values, the global media houses hold dear while reporting in their own countries, is lacking in their reportage on similar events in Bharat.

The report expresses concern that such coverage by Western Media driven more by their business interest and less by the pursuit of journalism hurts Bharat’s image globally, putting Bharat’s bilateral ties, multi-lateral relations and long-term economic interests at risk.

(This article was published on on February 19, 2022 and has been reproduced here with few minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide.)

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