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The long and short of it

Hindustan Times’ custom of splitting lengthy front-page reports into two and printing the second half inside as an independent story irritates one reader.

mumbai Updated: Oct 11, 2009 01:48 IST

Sumana Ramanan
Senior Editor

Hindustan Times’ custom of splitting lengthy front-page reports into two and printing the second half inside as an independent story irritates one reader.

Like all newspapers, HT is often unable to accommodate a lengthy story in its entirety on its front page. The editors think the story ought to make it to the front page but allocate it space that is not large enough to accommodate all the details.

What can a newspaper do?

The natural course of action would be for it to continue the story on an inside page. But that is not what happens in HT. The story ends on the front page, and has a pointer to a separate story with the remaining details on one of the inside pages.

For instance, on October 2, the newspaper carried a front-page story headlined ‘Nobel winners lobby for India’s biggest lab.’ That story ran to about 300 words.

On an inside page, along with other national news, the paper carried the remaining details in another story headlined ‘World waits for India’s biggest science facility.’

Although the inside story had many details absent in the front-page story, it also had some overlapping information.

This irritated one reader. “These two stories could have been clubbed together as one comprehensive report to save space,” the reader said.

Why could this story, for instance, not have been continued inside, I asked HT’s resident and deputy resident editors.

In survey after survey, apparently, most readers say they do not bother to turn to the inside page and read the continuation. If that is indeed true, then the continuations on the inside pages would actually wastefully occupy space.

But if they are presented as independent stories, with separate headlines, some people might read them. At the same time, since the stories stand on their own, they cannot take for granted details that have appeared in the corresponding front-page stories. Not all people who read the inside stories, after all, would have read the ones on the front page.

Those who have already encountered the story on the front page and then follow the pointer into the inside page will, of course, have to bear with some repetition.

So it’s not the ideal solution, but what else can be done? Do readers have a solution?

***

Think about it...

The same reader objected to the newspapers’ coverage on October 2 of Shiney Ahuja, the Bollywood actor accused of raping his maid, and his obtaining bail. The coverage included comments from his wife Anupam, who expressed faith in her husband’s innocence.

“This seems to be your way of building up sympathy for Shiney,” the reader wrote. “When he was arrested three months ago, you had also given this lady wide publicity. Such trash has no news value.”

I will evaluate the merits of this reader’s comments next week, but I am reproducing these comments this week to spur other readers to write in telling me what they think of HT’s coverage of Shiney Ahuja’s case. Till next week, then…