Indian newspapers love politics and business

New Delhi : Guess what hogs the news? In a country plagued by rural problems and social ills, it’s politics and business that find the maximum coverage in newspapers and not health, education, agriculture or environment.

A comprehensive study of 10 newspapers in five states from mid-September to mid- November 2010 by The Hoot, a media monitor, found that political news constituted the maximum – 15.7 percent of the total news items, followed by business and economy at 13.6 percent.

The hoot.org study took into account the highest circulated English and regional language papers in each state. These were Hindustan Times, Dainik Jagran (Delhi), Telegraph, Ananda Bazar Patrika (West Bengal), Deccan Chronicle, Eenadu (Andhra Pradesh), Dinathanti, The Hindu (Tamil Nadu), Times of India and Gujarat Samachar (Gujarat).

However, English newspapers carried more business than political news. Among the regional language papers, the trend was the reverse barring the exception of Gujarat Samachar – thanks to some entrepreneurial Gujarati genes. The paper devoted 21.1 percent of its total coverage to business and 16.9 percent to politics.

After politics and business and economy, the third most healthy category was crime and violence with 8.7 percent coverage, followed by governance (eight percent).

The cricket-obsessed nation that we are, sports accounted for 4.3 percent of the total news, and that too after excluding the sports pages!

Among other things, the rural-urban divide reflected pretty strongly in the data with only 3.1 percent of news having a rural focus.

Bengali papers had the highest focus on rural news with 11.5 percent of Ananda Bazar Patrika’s news classified as rural and 6.9 percent in the Telegraph.

Over 60 percent of the news was of general nature while around 30 percent was urban or city-oriented.

In terms of origin of news, national news ruled the roost with 27.8 percent, followed by local or city news with 25.2 percent and lastly the state level with 22.3 percent.

Andhra Pradesh’s Eeenadu was in many ways the newspaper with the widest range of coverage. It had more stories than any other paper.

It boasted of the highest political coverage among all papers, and a good amount of agriculture, science and governance-related news. It also had the least coverage on crime and violence.

In the two-month media research carried out by the The Hoot, news sampling was done every alternate day for 30 days. The stories were picked from the main editions of each paper, minus the sports and editorial pages, and minus the supplements.

In the business coverage, 36 percent was related to the private sector, 15.3 percent to the stock market, 10.8 percent to the pubic sector, eight percent to banking, and 7.6 percent to employment and labour.

Another interesting trend was that there was more news relating to employment and labour in the regional language papers than in the English ones. The most news in this category appears in Dinathanti, followed by Eenadu and Ananda Bazar Patrika.

Being an agrarian society and considering that the sector provides sustenance to nearly two-thirds of India’s population, agriculture coverage was rather dismal at 0.9 percent.

In the social sector, despite the hue and cry about climate change, there was only three percent coverage for environment, education accounting for four percent with school education receiving less than one third of the coverage given to higher education.

Health related issues had 2.9 percent of coverage and children and gender 0.6 percent each.

Some of the findings were skewed by the dominant news of the period under study. Religion dominated the category of news classified as society-related, partly because of the Ayodhya verdict, and partly because the study was conducted over two months spanning the festival season.

The major news events during the period of study were turmoil in Kashmir, the judgement on Ayodhya, Commonwealth Games, and the much-celebrated US President Barack Obama’s India visit.

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