D-day is just a day away- the day when months of campaigning will finally bear fruit to the hopefuls who wish to form the new government in this our beautiful and diverse state of Karnataka.
During this once-in-five-years (conditions apply… conditions being the fall of a government) hullabaloo, we have seen the usual road shows, public gatherings, public mudslinging and door-to-door campaigning.
What we are seeing for the first time however, is the visits by national prominent journalists, coming down to tier II cities like Mangaluru, Shivamogga, Hubbali, Mysuru etc., to get a worm’s eye view of these cities and gauge the pulse of the people.
For years we have see small cities like Mangaluru, flash across national news channels only when something like the pub and Church attacks happen. On occasion, we are portrayed in a positive light but those instances are few and far between.
Seeing prominent journalists out here in real life, is a phenomenon that begs the question… Are they here just for the elections or are we seeing a change in the trend?
A few senior journalists to whom NewsKarnataka spoke seem to be of the opinion that this kind of coverage is restricted to the elections. The importance of coverage of the elections has gained more importance this time around as it seems to be what the general public is most interested in watching.
Vincent D’Souza, a journalist and publisher based in Chennai who is currently touring Mangaluru to do a documentary film on Media and Elections, said that the coverage of the elections being so important, the various media houses want their best man/woman on the job… Perhaps, a media house sending a prominent journalist could be likened to a country sending their ambassador to another country. They are, after all, representatives of their respective media houses.
Considering that there is a change in the tone and tenor of the elections, the strategies adopted by the media houses has also changed. Of course, competition also has a role to play in the way the coverage is being done, he added.
He also said that it was good for prominent journalists to cover most of the cities considering that even the party leaders were visiting these places.
Another senior journalist said that the tier II cities being the place where the action actually takes place, gauging the mood of the electorate in these cities would be easier.
He also opined that bigger channels were hard pressed for TRP considering the mounting competitiveness of the field.
Both the journalists were of the opinion that there is a lot of money involved in the elections, and is a good time for companies owning news channels to cash in.
Preethi Nagaraj, a senior journalist and author, said that although there is nothing different about these elections. The situation is highly charged and that could be one of the reasons why prominent journalists are here to cover the developments, she opined.
In order to get both the sides of the story, NewsKarnataka spoke to one of these prominent journalists, Rajdeep Sardesai of India Today. When asked if it was unusual for prominent faces like himself, to cover smaller cities like Mangaluru, Sardesai said that, although he could not speak for the other journalists, he himself has been going to smaller cities across the state.
“This is not something unusual. I like to travel to cities during elections not just to big cities. You get to know a state only by going into the various regions and by going to the interiors. I even went into the deep interiors of southern Karnataka, not just in the cities. The idea is to try and get the flavour of a state,” he said.
Asked if he would continue to cover stories in smaller cities Sardesai said, “Certainly during elections I will cover smaller cities 100%. At other times, it would require some news story to break in these cities (smaller cities) for me to come. That’s the unfortunate bit because during the rest of the time something or the other keeps me occupied. We are a large country, different things happen in different parts of India. My job is to be where the story is. So, I travel as much as possible, but to smaller towns we only end up travelling during election time.”
On the change of strategies employed by media houses when it comes to the coverage of a story, Sardesai said that too many channels spend too much time in the studio. That is not the place where you get stories, he opined. “To get the story, you have to get to the heart of the action. You have to go to ground zero. I at least, try to do that. Other channels are now following this which is good,” he said.
When asked if the commercial aspect of media houses has an impact on their strategies, he opined that that was not true. Instead he offered, “Earlier perhaps, elections were not covered with the same intensity with which they are being covered now. That’s because of the competition. Every channel wants to be where the news is. Competition is driving the strategy adopted by the news channels.”
So for now it looks like we will see the light of day on national news channels only during election season. But, seeing how the competition is forcing media houses to change their news coverage strategies, maybe there is hope for us yet.