chapter  1
20 Pages

Changing with The Times of India (Bangalore): remaking a post-political media field

BySahana Udupa, Paula Chakravartty

Not too long in the distant past, in a modest conference room at the Times of India (TOI) office located in the heart of Bangalore’s urban commercial centre, the newspaper’s editor looked unusually restless. He was not impressed when a colleague suggested a story on organic farming for the special news feature on the city page: ‘Packages should be on the city, not organic farming’, he asserted firmly. When another editorial member mentioned a story on the Lokayukta, the public ombudsman set up to investigate charges of corruption among bureaucrats,1 the editor seized the moment to vent his simmering frustration. A rival English newspaper had managed to get a valuable quote from the head of the Lokayukta on a controversial report on illegal mining in the state of Karnataka. The report had identified several leading politicians involved in this breaking scandal. While the first part of the report listed politicians from the Congress I and Janata Dal opposition parties, speculation was rife that the second part of the report contained more names from the ruling party, the BJP (the Hindu Nationalist Bharata Janata Party). The TOI reporter had failed to secure the prized quote from the head public ombudsman as he expressed his disappointment with the ruling party’s decision to release only the part of the report that would embarrass the opposition party leaders. The editor knew that the ruling party was worried about the second part of the report because of possible indictment of its own members. He had instructed his team to pursue the story hard, given all the signs of a growing potential controversy. But the team had failed to get the prized statement. Understandably, the editor was deeply

frustrated. Nobody in the meeting dared to address him, but after a few minutes of awkward silence, one reporter mustered up the courage to tell him that the Congress party had said categorically that it did not want a Joint House Committee probe into illegal mining.2 The editor jumped on the story at once, and exclaimed, ‘Everybody is a chor (thief)! See!’ For a moment, he had forgotten the lapses of his reporting team and felt excited to be vindicated yet again, by the truth of endemic political corruption.