By: Yamini Singh
This write up by Yamini Singh draws on a comparative analysis of the stories related to Commonwealth Games 2010 in two major English language Indian newspapers The Hindu and Hindustan Times, two ideological ends of the spectrum. Singh is an alumnus of Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi between 2009-2011.
This essay is an attempt to showcase the social construction of news. It draws on a study that has mapped the coverage of the Commonwealth Games 2010 (held in New Delhi) in the English language newspapers of India. After 1992 it was the first time when India got an opportunity to host an international event at such a large scale in its national capital New Delhi. Thus it was widely discussed in the Indian as well as international media whether India would be able to host the much talked about event. It was a matter of prestige and privilege to be able to host Commonwealth Games (CWG) but a lot of things went wrong down the timeline. During the early stages the media portrayed a poor but real picture of preparations and development work but off late it changed its tone and tenor and also the angularity of the reports. It helped change the public opinion toward the CWG significantly. A study of the change that the nature of the coverage of the event experienced over a period of time amply demonstrates the ways news are socially constructed and consumed.
THE RESEARCH DESIGN & ITS RATIONALE
This quantitative study is a comparative analysis of the stories related to CWG in two major newspapers The Hindu and Hindustan Times, two ideological ends of the spectrum. Interestingly, the attacks against CWG were more prominent in print media than any other media. The comparison will be done on the basis of the theme of the stories within the parameters of sports and non sports. This comparative analysis will be at two levels: within each of the two newspapers and across them. The former is focused solely on looking at what kind of stories got more coverage during the time of Commonwealth while the latter would be aimed to study the sports section of the two newspapers to compare the reportage of the CWG and non-CWG stories.
The two newspapers have been studied for a period of three months; that is July, August and September. Main reason behind choosing this study period is to analyze the reportage before the scandal, during the scandal and after the scandal. The scandal was broke in first week of August. To keep the study simple and concise, alternate days of three months excluding Saturday and Sunday have been taken, considering the fact that non-news supplements which were given on weekends along with newspapers, might affect the data. The whole study period is been further subdivided into four legs having equal count of days in each leg. This division is done to make the study more clear and comprehensible. Further the study has been divided into two parts. The first part of the study deals with the amount of coverage given to the CWG within each of the two newspapers and across them and thus this category consists of tabulating sports and non-sports stories. The later part of the study deals with the sports page of the newspaper and attempts to find out the space given to the CWG and non-CWG stories. The variables (major parameters of measurement) that were kept in mind while measuring the news stories, are:
- section of the story,
- theme of the story,
- column space given to the story,
- location of the story,
- byline and
- if the story was accompanied by a picture or not.
The quantitative analysis demonstrated that the total number of CWG stories were more in Hindustan Times as compared to The Hindu. Total count of reports in Hindustan Times related to CWG is 487 where as in The Hindu the count is only 214 which is less than half of Hindustan Times. In other words, the coverage of CWG was way more in Hindustan Times rather in The Hindu.
The second major finding which deals with the sports shed light on the fact that that the reportage of the CWG stories with Non Sports theme was more in both the newspapers rather than stories with sports as their theme. Total stories of Non Sports theme given in both the newspapers are 409 whereas count of stories of Sports theme in both the newspapers is 209. This gives the basic idea that reportage of the Non Sports stories was just double than the count of the Sports stories in both the newspapers. The tabulation done above gives a brief idea of the reportage of sports section. There was not much difference in the reportage of CWG in sports section of both newspapers but the reportage of the non-CWG stories was much higher than the reportage of the CWG stories.
Frequency of Reports on the CWG
It is very clear from the analysis that the reportage of CWG increased in both the newspapers as the inauguration of the CWG drew closer. There has been an increase in the reportage towards the beginning of the game in both the newspapers but comparatively less coverage in The Hindu and more in Hindustan Times during that period as well. Moreover, reportage of CWG stories with Non Sports theme was almost equal to the stories with Sports theme. There was a high jump in the count of non-sports stories with 124 stories being reported in sports section though there is increase in the number of sports stories which makes it 54 but still it is not as much of non-sports stories. Further, the reportage of sports stories increased up to79 and non-sports rose to105 in number. What needs to be noted here is the downfall in the reportage of non-sports stories. Thus it clearly states that the reportage of non-sports has been more throughout. The increase of the sports reportage has been constant whereas the reportage of non-sports has fluctuated.
The study further unearths details about the reportage within the newspaper. Within Hindustan Times there has been more reportage of the non-sports stories and less reportage of the sports stories. Whereas in The Hindu, reportage of both types of stories, that is sports and non-sports is almost same in count.
The Column Space Devoted to the CWG Stories
Hindustan Times tops the list in terms of column space given to each CWG story. Throughout the study period, the column space of Non Sports themes, even in The Hindu, was more in comparison to Sports themes. Over all Hindustan Times devoted more column space to the CWG stories. There has been a massive reporting of Non Sports themes in Hindustan Times. The table clearly shows that Hindustan Times has given more space to the CWG coverage but out of it, maximum space to non-sports stories.
Measuring the Importance Given to the CWG Stories
The importance given to each story has been calculated in terms of location of the story and the pictures accompanying the story. It is evident from the analysis that Hindustan Times has given more importance to CWG stories but within Hindustan Times non-sports section has got more importance as far as the location of the story is concerned. The category of non-sports has topped the list in The Hindu as well but during the CWG the sports section got more stories which meant that emphasis was given to Sports theme. While measuring the emphasis in terms of pictures, we saw that the count of pictures in The Hindu is almost equal in both the sections whereas it varies significantly in Hindustan Times. It has given more importance to its non-sports section as compared to sports section.
Source of the Stories
The study further moves on to another interesting variable which is the source of the story. The comparison between sports and non-sports stories in Hindustan Times tells that the number of bylines have increased in non-sports stories whereas there is a downfall in the bylines of sports stories. So, it can be concluded that non-sports stories have more bylines than sports stories. Moving on to the comparison within The Hindu, it can be said that there were more bylines in non-sports stories and less in sports stories.
In the light of data obtained through this quantitative analysis, it can be concluded that there should have been more sports coverage within CWG stories. On the sports page within the span of time, reportage of CWG should have taken a reasonable jump being a dignified level of sports event, which was equally opposite in the study.
Stories accompanied by a picture or not
The study also finds out the number of stories accompanied by pictures. This part of the study measures the investment by a newspaper on a particular story and also tells us how visuals play an important role in narrating a story. The Hindu carried fewer pictures than Hindustan Times in their non-CWG stories. But the overall comparison between the two newspapers tells that Hindustan Times has a larger number of counts of pictures as compared to The Hindu.
On 31 July 2010, the English daily The Hindu reported, the Central Vigilance Commission, released a report showing irregularities in up to 14 CWG projects. There were allegations of widespread corruption in various aspects of organizing the games including procurement and awarding contracts for constructing the game venues. The CWG Organising Committee on 5 August 2010 suspended joint director T S Darbari and M Jayachandran following the report of the three-member panel which was probing the financial irregularities related to the Queen’s Baton Relay. See for details: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article542593.ece ; also see: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-08-13/india/28280894_1_oc-chairman-oc-deputy-m-jeychandren ; and http://ibnlive.in.com/news/senior-cwg-official-darbari-sacked/128262-5-23.html?from=tn