Cold Shoulder to Hashtags
Updated: Apr 6, 2019
At a time when hashtags supposedly represent digital revolutions (even if short lived), when the face of journalism is changing under the onslaught of convergent technologies and political leaders are using social media to engage the people, it is instructive to observe how a section of traditional media is resolutely keeping out hashtag journalism.
The #MeinBhiChowkidar movement was kick-started by Narendra Modi on March 16 as a counter to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s #ChowkidarChorHain. But even Modi may never have thought his drive would catch on with a sizeable number of tweeple adding ‘Chowkidar’ to their names. The hashtag by then had taken their place in most newspapers, TV channels, online news portals and social media. However, in the IMPECT Study (#IMPECTStudy #WeAreWatchingYou) during March 10 to 20, it was observed that the Chennai edition of The Hindu carried only three stories related to #MeinBhiChowkidar. The first story was carried in a section called ‘Poll Pourri’ published on March 17 with the headline ‘PM’s Chowkidar pledge’ comprising of around 80 words. On March 18, another short report was published on the reactions of opposition politicians as well as their ruling party counterparts who have added the prefix to their names. The third story dealt with Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s jibe that the PM is a ‘watchman’ for big business and that he orchestrated the chowkidar campaign ‘to cover up his theft’. Given the popularity of this movement in social media and the hype surrounding it in offline media, it is noteworthy that in The Hindu, the ‘chowkidar’ story was downplayed in terms of page positioning, length or even tone of reporting. The first two stories only provided the background information of Modi’s ‘chowkidar’ campaign and the third story carried a quote from an opposition leader in one of his campaign speeches. The Hindu’s reporting raises an important question — should hashtags be allowed to dominate media discourse and semantics?