Stories from the hinterland | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Stories from the hinterland

Hindustan times’ pre-election reportage from all over the state has been a hit, at least with one section of readers. Sumana Ramanan reports.

mumbai Updated: Nov 01, 2009 01:52 IST
Sumana Ramanan

Hindustan Times’ ‘The State of the State’ series has elicited many letters of praise from readers. This series, which ran in the Mumbai edition from September 21 to October 9, consisted of reportage from all over Maharashtra just before the state assembly elections.

The series covered almost all regions of the state, from Nandurbar district in the north to Kolhapur in the south, from the Raigad in the west to Gadchiroli in the east.

“‘The State of the State’ series was amongst the best examples of journalism in recent times,” wrote one reader last week. “Why not continue it? You might want to take district by district, not only in Maharashtra but in other states, and highlight the lack of governance and the stories of spirited people trying to do something good.”

On a smaller scale, this series reprised a similar one that the newspaper carried before the parliamentary election earlier in the year. That series, called ‘India Yatra’, included stories filed by dozens of journalists and photographers who took to the road in the run-up to the election.

At that time, the senior editor overseeing the project had explained that ‘India Yatra’ was an attempt to view politics from the bottom up. Too often, the editor Neelesh Misra had explained, political reportage, especially before an election, tended to focus on personalities and caste calculations. That series had also triggered a surge of letters from readers saying how much they appreciated the stories.

If readers, or at least a vocal section of them, appreciate painstaking reportage and well-told stories about the issues that really matter, why not do it all year round, as the reader asks in the letter?

The answer is fairly straightforward — the resources needed for such an endeavour are fairly staggering.

While I believe that newspapers like the Hindustan Times that have the vision and the expertise to pull off a series like this one should invest more in such journalism, I also think that readers need to understand that their support is crucial.
As I’ve said in this column a couple of times before, readers in India pay among the lowest prices in the world for their newspapers.

The cover price does not defray even a fraction of the operating costs. As a result, newspapers depend entirely on advertising for revenue and are therefore to an extent hostage to the ups and downs of the economy.

The quality of journalism can improve significantly if readers not only appreciate and demand it but support it financially.

Let’s say Hindustan Times started a fund that would help cover newsgathering costs of precisely such projects. Would readers liberally donate to it?