Thursday, April 27, 2006


I finally bid adieu to the Indian Express.

No, not that I was working there. But I've been a regular reader of this honest daily, for more than a year. And now, I've cancelled its subscription. Thank a host of other options that are keeping me much better informed and updated.

The print media in Mumbai got a shot in the arm last year, with the launch of new dailies in the form of Mumbai Mirror, Daily News & Analysis (DNA) and the Mumbai edition of Hindustan Times (HT). The existing stalwarts then were majorly Mid-Day, The Times of India and The Indian Express.

With the ushering in of these new newspapers, there's always break-neck competition amongst all of them to gain maximum readership, often at the cost of journalistic ethics just to grab a piece of your wallet. In the end, you have two of the most promising publications DNA and HT, handing out subscriptions at throw-away prices like 40 paise per copy and 96 paise per copy, respectively. That's not all - Mumbai Mirror, a Times Group Publication is also being given out free with TOI. Some marketing strategy this!

So then where did The Indian Express go wrong to see a day like this? Why is it struggling to find base with readers, as always? I happened to have an interesting discussion last weekend with a few of my colleagues in college. Incidentally, both of them worked at Mumbai Newsline last summer as interns and were it's sworn loyalists, until some time back.

"It's not attractive as the other newspapers. Take DNA - more pages, all in colour, with better print quality and extensive coverage. Why would I stick to Express?" asked one. Another opined, "Its dull and its got lesser news items too. Add to that, useless tenders and classifieds, everyday. Features and entertainment news is minimal."
I couldn't take this slaughter. "But hey, it's an honest paper isn't it? They've not succumbed to commercialisation. Now, that in today's era indeed is journalism of courage," I reacted.
"Maybe you'r right, but if the coverage is so limited, why would I stick to it? I want to be myself to be kept best informed." added another, who had also quit her subscription.

I had sympathy for the Express. This is the very newspaper that has shaped my ideals towards what is right and what is wrong. My language, my writing skills, my vocabulary and most importantly, my news-sense has been defined by this paper.

Shekhar Gupta, the Indian Express editor-in-chief, is a man, not many can equal and his baby is perhaps the only newspaper today, that honours journalism to the best of its ability. I've seen it in Express reporters. There's something different about them which makes them a class apart. The recently concluded Ramnath Goenka Awards witnessd quite a number of awards given away to Express journalists. DNA, TOI, HT, Mid-Day were nowhere in the picture.

I wondered.

It's true, no doubt, that DNA and TOI are doing wonders in news-reportage by keeping us abreast of maximum areas and arenas possible. More editorials, more supplements and more beats coming in. And they're fucking cheap too. At least DNA and HT are. Express still remains unmoved at Rs.3 per copy.

I sighed.

My dad meanwhile didn't like the idea of cancelling the subscription. He'd rather buy the Express just for the Editorial pages, which he reads with great interest.

A friend of mine recently joined the Express as an intern. It pinched somehow to see her working at Express alongwith several familar names. Lucky her, I thought. Here, I am, at a civic weekend publication with the Times, translating stories for fellow reporters and doing stories like a bull - stories which are read by masses who're seriously not bothered (Mine is a distant suburb from Mumbai - the media hub). And there she is, dishing out delectable written pieces that can have so much impact with its loyal and much wider readership. Mind you, there are few dailies in India which have registered as much impact on administration and issues as much as the Express.

I sighed yet again. I envied her. Perhaps I was plain jealous. I don't know. She was too, initially, when I'd joined the Times and she was still not into the field.

But then, was I right in giving up on the Express? I don't know yet. Only time will tell, I guess.


I shall miss you, Shekhar. I shall miss you, Shantanu. I already do. And yes, I miss you Dheera. God bless you buddy.

- Arcopol