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Reporter’s Diary: When Rajiv Gandhi realised the value of regional Press

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Reporter’s Diary: When Rajiv Gandhi realised the value of regional Press

Critics say that the ‘Anna Hazare’ revolution was nothing but a media hoopla created by national TV channels and newspapers. But let me add here, regional media, especially newspapers, had reported at length on this issue. And, in a way, apart from inflation, it has given one more reason to small town aam aadmi (which is the core vote bank of any national party) to hate the Congress-led UPA Government.

Regional Press, perhaps, could not make them (small town voters or citizens) understand the technicalities of the Lokpal Bill, but it did create an impression on them that the Government is not in favour of eradication of corruption. And this impression, created by the regional media in small towns, can certainly impact the Congress in the next Lok Sabha Elections.

During the 90s, Indian Press was going through a transition period post the censorship during the 1975-77 Emergency setback. The myth of national newspaper was diluting as newspapers started widening their scope covering new territories. Regional newspapers were mushrooming in small towns and being taken seriously by the readers.

As the Congress Government had seen the power of the Press during the Emergency period, Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, realised the power of the regional press. Most of us know that whenever any Prime Minister goes for a trip abroad, he takes a delegation of journalists with him. During the 90s the PM’s trip was not as frequent as they are today. Still, Gandhi thought of engaging a set of regional press journalists in this practice to get more familiar with regional media.

Gandhi decided to take a few editors of regional press as well whenever he went for trips abroad. He used to interact with them and get photographs clicked too. His trick worked well. And, the impact was that whenever editors used to come back from the trip, they used to write glowing reports about the trip and the Government as well, dedicating entire pages of their respective newspapers. This practice not only filled the vacuum between the regional press and the Government, but also indicated towards the power of regionalism.

Today, every government knows well the value and the might of regional media. With the State Assembly elections currently underway in five states, we can even witness it in the poll campaigns in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry. However, it will be interesting to know that how much importance Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gives to regional press journalists in his delegation when he goes for international trips. Does anybody know?

(Facts and details are based on the conversation this reporter had with an Editor of a prominent Hindi newspaper.)

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