Wednesday, 13 June, 2007

Page 3

Tuesday,May 22, 2007

The teachers are taking revenge for the 20 day holiday that they threw at us! there is too much vague stuff to accomplish. First I have to figure out what the assignments are!!! Plus im gonna have to get used to doing this in broad daylight with annoying people hanging around my comp screen, rather than in the dead of the night. so i shall just leave you with an assignment of mine. Page 3: Then, Now and Next.......

PAGE 3 is more than just a newspaper sheet. It has become a cult of sorts, defining everything that is rich, cool and urbane. A mania, which virtually leapt out of the printed word, to form a fan following across nations. It has had its share and more, of controversy, criticism and credit, but to understand the influence and importance it has in the lives of the present day generation and the impact it has on the future of journalism we must begin at the beginning.

A hint of what was first to be PAGE 3 news, came in the early 19th century. It was delightfully summarized in the words of the editor of the Two penny Dispatcher, Henry Hetherington: "a repository of all the gems and treasures, fun and frolic and "news and occurrences of the week. It shall abound in Police Intelligence, in Murders, Rapes , Suicides , Burnings , Maiming , Theatricals , Races , Pugilism and all manner of moving 'accidents, floods and field.' In short, it will be stuffed with every sort of devilment that will make it sell!” (Source: cited in Stephan's 1988:204) Although some of the items of news listed may not figure in today's PAGE 3, the essence remains the same. Sensational, attention grabbing gossip.

The term PAGE 3 though first became a catchphrase in 1969, when Rupert Murdoch re-launched a British tabloid, The Sun. In a bid to increase circulation, The Sun began featuring topless models on PAGE 3, with a cheeky headline," NEWS IN BRIEFS" Pictures of semi nude models (in briefs of course) were displayed along with tongue in cheek captions, airing the models views on any issue, current news and politics, to everyday happenings. At the end of it all, the page had you in splits. The ploy worked, the sales of The Sun increased by a dramatic 40%, netting a circulation of 2.1 million in a year! The trend has continued ever since, creating the Tabloid Press in U.K and U.S.A., newspapers that print saucy, scandalous gossip and titillating pictures of the rich, famous and infamous. What's more is that these tabloids comfortably outsell the ‘respectable’ newspapers which focus on news.

This trend oozed out of foreign lands and into India once the Indian government lifted the half - century ban on foreign investments in India's print media to allow foreigners to take up 26% stake in news and current affair publications. Soon the Indian readers craved less of Man Mohan and more of Madonna! Unlike the U.S and U.K tabloids, PAGE 3 in India is a little more conservative, so far! It is a spread of the doings of businessmen, politicians, social workers, cops, publishing moguls, models, fashion designers and actors. The paparazzi cover the perfect hosts and their glamorous guests doing what they do best at lavish, exciting and wild events- partying.

PAGE 3 hit India when our very own, 'Old Lady of Boribunder' the Times Of India, (universally known as the TOI) decided to revamp its entire sedate, old fashioned, respectable image. Along with the Times main paper, came cheesy insertions in nine city editions, named Bombay Times, Pune Times, Delhi Times and so on. These are grab bags of gossip and fashion, vivid colourful shots of cleavage and bikinis, of celebrities and celebrity cross dressers, of wannabes and starlets jostling for a shadow in the spotlight, and of cocaine and ecstasy raves. This supplement is unsurpassed, which is good, because even thinking of what might surpass it, is a disconcerting thought to say the very least!

All this has shaken the very foundation of journalism ethics, by throwing up questions like "Is a newspaper obliged to give you news? Like any other product does not a newspaper also exist to make money?" Seen from this point of view, my litany sounds bitter and cynical. After all the newspapers are just giving what the readers seem to want, as confirmed by a Delhi housewife, Sonam Seghal who says," I don't care for boring old politicians. I'd rather read Shobha De," referring to one of India's most popular and glamorous columnist. And Shobha De herself seems to approve of the new trend in journalism. When Mid Day on 11th May 2004, printed what amounted to a rate card for the Bombay times, Ms De said that charging for news space like this, is a "courageous and path breaking decision……legitimate and transparent" Also adding that "this is the trend of journalism for the coming years" It all goes to show that people now have started looking at newspapers and journalism differently. When a person like Ms De thinks that charging for news space is a fine, courageous and path breaking, is it we who should reconsider our ideas about the press? After all we anyway get our real news from the T.V news channels, which thankfully are doing a much better job than the newspapers at reporting news, barring the occasional headaches like the Abhi-Ash wedding! And if Bennett, Coleman and Co, the Ramnath Goenka Group and various other publishing houses want to make their profits like any other business houses do, then all this is fair enough right?

Except, the press is not like a business house, in a free and democratic society the press works to inform and protect us , to bring to light those who subvert democracy, and ask the questions it has been given the right to ask to keep a society thriving. When you look around and see the pending court cases, the corrupt politicians in power, criminals on the loose, emblazoning of government relief funds for natural disasters and the very occurrence of famines and natural disasters like the tsunamis in South India and the cyclones in Orissa, you cannot help but think of something that Amartya Sen has repeatedly said, famines do not happen in democracies. That is because a vigilant and free press keeps government machinery working to head of or mitigate disaster. Which is why our constitution like constitutions all over the world guarantees the press their freedom, you will mark, that they do not guarantee a business house their profits.

How do you think that before PAGE 3 the newspapers kept their readership and circulation alive? By hardcore investigative journalism, and I mean investigative journalism, not sleazy sting operations! U.S.A had the famous Watergate, the fall of the most powerful government in the world by just two journalists! India had the blank sheets of the Indian Express during the Emergency, a spectacular display of journalistic integrity that the nation applauded. Now it seems that the newspapers have taken an easier, sleazier way out to raise circulation! TOI after all is the largest selling broadsheet in the world with a circulation of 8.1million (source: ABCJJ04, JD04) and is clearly a market driving force rather than a market driven one, thereby forcing the rest of the nation’s newspapers to follow the trend they set. Coming to the question, which is, what is the future trend that they are trying to set? After all if it were sensational PAGE 3 news, I think it would be a lot more sensational portrayal of Sanjeev Nanda, the Delhi business tycoon at glamorous events with captions of his killing 7 innocent people with his drunk driving, rather than describing his costly suit! But the principles and ethics of PAGE 3 journalism remain elusive, what is it?

A culture of trivial pastimes and idle gossip, which is a temporary stimulant for the stagnant brain? A human zoo where all kinds of wild things hang out in high spirits, under the scrutiny of a flashbulb? Or just a social phenomenon that elevates or condemns the PAGE 3 people, depending on their morality levels? Whatever it is, it is a trend that is hugely evolving, with its successor, reality television.

A world of glitz and glamour

Urban folklore

Of Colgate smiles and Botox galore!

Funerals that turn into fashion hotspots

Everyone trying to prove how much they cost

For us readers it’s a thrill

A glimpse into the fast life

Don’t be fooled it’s a pretty box with nothing inside

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