Election Coverage In Karnataka: Vernacular Press stealing the march

Updated: Apr 16, 2019

Dr. Sapna M.S.:

The election fever has set in long back in Karnataka. But the press has not been performing satisfactorily as the fourth pillar of democracy in educating the masses about their vote, the importance of elections and its repercussions. The suspicion rather grows that a section of the press is more intent in capitalising on elections to rake in the moolah big time. There are several national English dailies and local language newspapers here vying for the attention of readers, but some of them are slipping up badly in their duty as a responsible press

Content analysis of major English dailies The Hindu and The Times of India and dailies of the vernacular press does not yield a promising picture. The reports are mostly about political families and carry their interviews, marked by biased treatment and serving as vehicles for political mudslinging. It is evident the reports were done keeping in mind the ideology of the political party covered. The other side of the story is completely missing. In-depth reporting and ground reports are minimal while several reports are made on social media usage of the parties, be it their leaders’ Twitter handles, their FBaccounts and troll videos posted by followers. Vox popsconducted by the English press are superficial and predictable.Most of the photographs in these newspapers are of political rallies and felicitations. The best part of the English dailies is a good number of columns by senior journalists and analysts which are unbiased and appear to be realistic assessments.

On the other hand, the vernacular press has kept a step ahead of the English press, sticking to ethics in their reporting, a wide variety of content emerging in their coverage. The numerous editions of the language press could be a reason as they are reporting even from rural parts of the state, sending ground reports and getting things straight from the horse’smouth. Reports on development, comparative studies, info-graphics and other devices are being used in the vernacular press extensively, making their reports interesting and believable. Reporting in the colloquial language has become a trend among them. Advertisements of political parties are also finding more space in vernacular press than the English dailies.

The headings in vernacular newspapers are also catchy e.g. MAHAKADANA, ELECTION EXPRESS and the like, so that readers get a feel of the looming electoral battle. The social responsibility of media in educating people about the importance of voting appears to be discharged more by the vernacular press. ‘Youth Corner’, ‘My First Voting’, ‘Selfiewith Voter Card’, ‘My Leaders’ are some of the regular features in Kannada newspapers aiming to educate youthvoters. Campaign events like cyclethons, marathons and rallies are given wide publicity. Editorials, opinion pieces, features, past events and historical facts related to electionsare well presented in simple language. No wonder the vernacular press in Karnataka is stealing a march vis-a-vis the English dailies as far as election coverage is concerned.

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