Newspaper Myths Deconstructed

Myth 1 – Consumer Pays For News

Like any other business, newspapers are here to make money – loads of it – by delivering advertising on newsprint into peoples’ homes….Subscribers and newsstand buyers don’t pay for news, advertisers do…Surprised? Don’t be…Subscribers and newsstand buyers pay only for the newsprint and printing costs…All the rest is covered by advertising…Newspapers wrap their content around advertising because that’s what advertisers want…That is why we see sections about cooking and home decoration instead of editorial and op-ed pages…What newspaper owners don’t see is that this revenue model may be self-defeating because by weakening the bond with readers, they will eventually lose readership and with it advertising…

Myth 2 – Newspapers provide news

A small percentage of a newspaper’s space is devoted to news but most of the content printed is to attract readers so that the circulation and readership figures can be used to sell advertising space at high rates…Don’t believe me? Then answer this question: Why was Shah Rukh Khan’s detension at Newark Airport front page news?

Myth 3 – Newspapers are ‘watchdogs’

Honestly, most newspapers are not ‘watchdogs’ and more importantly they don’t want to be because they are in the business of making money and not losing money…They are in existence to serve the tender sensibilities of their readers, advertisers and political masters…This is not to say that relevant information, opposing views, negative reviews and embarassing exposes about people in power are never published, but by and large the sensibilities of revenue generators are taken into account…

Sure, newspapers do print some serious journalism but do they stay up days and nights crusading for ordinary citizens or vulnerble people? Does a typical reporter take that extra step to ferret out information that may be crucial to a story? How much of a newspaper’s space is devoted to serious journalism? These are all questions to be asked…If your answer to the last question is less than 20 percent, then you know that the newspaper you are reading is not a watchdog or a crusader or a serious journalistic endeavour…

Myth 4 – Newspapers are free to publish what they want

Ha! Ha! If you think this is true then you live in the garden of Eden…All countries have laws regulating the media, some more than others…For example, in authoritarian countries like Singapore, dissent is not tolerated whatsoever…Restrictions on free speech are not only imposed by the government but also by readers…For example, consider a newspaper article that favours a certain government policy…Now imagine that opponents of this policy demand an article from an opposing view point and the newspaper refuses to do so…What will happen especially in countries like India? The newspaper office will get thrashed and its journalists attacked…To avoid such incidents, newspapers often publish materials which they otherwise would not have…They also don’t publish materials which offend advertisers because advertisers are their bread and butter…So, are newspaper really free to publish what they want to? You tell me…

Myth 5 – Newspapers are objective

Really? I don’t think so…They would like to think they are but they are not because the press especially the mainstream one routinely ignores those principles, which demand that a reporter set aside personal prejudices (as best one can) and approach each story with a common standard of fairness…The truth is that newspapers have their own biases and agendas and print news stories and editorials which reflect them…These biases may not be noticeable because they often reflect the prevailing view of the national Establishment…It works well for them – after all, who would want the government coming after them? Stories are also biased to bring in readers (and therefore advertisiers)- that is why newspapers are full of stories that ‘sell’ (eg. stories of conflict, robberies, rape etc.) rather than feel good ones (stories of harmony etc.) which don’t…

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17 thoughts on “Newspaper Myths Deconstructed

  1. All that has been said above is correct. Par Jaayein toh jaayein kahaan? The net is developing as a serious alternative and I believe that for real news and honest, unsponsored opinions people will gravitate towards the net more and more, Newspapers will become more like gossip and celebrity magazines.

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  2. News papers have lost credibility.They deserve to be closed down but I suppose we are in an environment that encourages these papers to continue as they have their own agenda.Limit was the coverage of SRK.I am really cheesed of with the Indian media.
    I was in Singapore recently,it is a treat to read their papers
    But the papers here are highly regulated…The Ministry of Information, Communications and Arts imposes and enforces regulation over locally produced content and also decides what foreign publications can be sold in Singapore…The local media is controlled by the govt. through shareholdings and so the content has to be pro-govt. …In other words, newspapers and other media in Singapore are organs of the state…But I agree with you when you say they are not as ‘tabloidy’ as Indian newspapers

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    • May be Singapore style is better than ours.If we ask for freedom of press then we must also ask for accountability-which is missing because media is kind of being used by the State.

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  3. I think none of the newspaper in India have that bondage with readers… there was a time when people who buy the news of one, never bought another one.. but now thing is changed… nobody trusts the newspaper… but the readers are quite happy to read about this film personality and all… few days back I have seen a news of the break up of a film celebrity for half a page in TOI… there is a dedicated 4 pages for them… but for ordinary citizen… nothing 😦 investigative journalism is a forgotten word now…
    but we have to think about another fact here… how safe are they if they publish the truth..? if they are attacked or killed are we going to do atleast a protest..? when the nation is ruled by thugs and filthy politicians no profession can be fair and free… government must give protection to them… but government itself supporting the attacks on them means what they can do? it happened in Tamilnadu… just for the karunanidhi family dispute, a newspaper office was torched and ransacked in madurai and 3 employees were died for nothing and the cases filed on the perpetrators are now cleared and they are walking free in this country… what we have done for those 3? What about their family?
    Kanagu, I agree with you…Even if newspapers want to publish the truth, they often can’t because of the fear of intimidation…It’s a very sad state of affairs…
    Out of all the newspapers (English) I’ve read in India, I think The Hindu is the best…TOI has become a tabloid…

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  4. All points very true, Sraboney. Still, I think newspapers are better than television news channels!

    My personal favourite among the English newspapers- The Indian Express.
    No doubt, Manju…Newspapers are still better than TV news channels…

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  5. Very well written Bones…
    Sadly, all the points you mentioned are so true. Newspapers have lost their credibility.

    I agree that editorials and serious columns wouldnt find many readers but they can always present it in an interesting way.. These days newspapers are half full with ads, 20% with politicians, 20% with Film actors/sports personalities. 5%sports news. and the rest 5% is for the rest of the news which in most cases is biased or not completely true.
    They deliver ads not news…They should be called adpapers now instead of newspapers…

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  6. I agree with everything, Bones. As Manju said, the only silver lining is that newspapers are still better than News channels. But then again, won’t take it too long for newspapers to reach there, will it?

    And another thing I heard about was that serious journalists still prefer the written media – in India atleast, because newspapers are still better than tv channels.

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  7. therefore why should you buy newspapers or watch tv news? to buy ‘frights’ and learn ‘made-up stuff’? sraboney. i am a carefree soul today because the only newspaper i read is business news. and i don’t watch tv. i am thus saved the medical expenses. (better be an ignoramus than be a fool)

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  8. Hi, enjoyed my first visit here. i agree with all you say, yet i consider myself lucky to be in a country where free press means something. OK, so everyone has a bias depending on their politics, finances and adverts. But as individuals so do we. We can always read more than one point of view. Take the SRK case (mentioned here) while one leader said we should practise tit-for-tat, another calimed it is just a publicity stunt. It is up to each one to interpret that.

    Information (I think) is almost never pristine and pure. As long as it is not manufactured and garnished beyond recognition, i suppose it is better than nothing. like living in a state where the press is completely gagged and bound.

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  9. Having worked with a leading English newspaper daily for 5 years, I can vouch for all that you’ve said. In fact, the money that a reader pays for a newspaper isn’t even sufficient to take care of the printing cost because of the technologically advanced printing machinery that is being used by newspapers these days. Often, issues are entirely dependent on the revenue generated through advertisements and if the revenue thus generated cannot meet the cost of printing, the issue is dropped.

    Also, if you think about, this myth-busting is not just applicable to newspapers but also to news channels and any other media through which news can be disseminated.
    Yes D, these myths apply to other forms of media as well…

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