Perfectly provincial

BY LALRAMLIANA VARTE| IN Regional Media | 26/05/2012
The front-page tapestry of Mizoram dailies is so overwhelmingly regional that national news does not find place in it unless it is remarkably significant.
LALRAMLIANA VARTE finds in a study that news on sports and culture fascinates the Mizos.

Mizoram, which is among the most peaceful States in India, has 102 publications for a population of 10,91,014 of which 95% are tribal people. The State has the third highest literacy rate of 91.58. The capital city, Aizawl, alone has 30 newspapers. Mizos take pride in their dialect, and what seems to be working for the people is the language that is free-flowing. The term “Mizo” is used to refer to the ethnicity or the tribe as well as the language. The great majority of Mizoram's population constitutes several ethnic tribes which are either culturally or linguistically linked. These ethnic groups are collectively known as Mizos (Mi=people, Zo=hill). One should note that “Mizo” is a generic term which denotes a particular group of hill-men who are closely linked culturally and linguistically. Therefore, when one talks of Mizos, it would refer to the ethnic groups living in Mizoram as well as the sub-clans that come under the ethnic umbrella. Mizo also refers to the language spoken by these people.

Mizoram has 89 dailies, 12 magazines, and 13 electronic media. Of the 102 publications, only two are in English and 98 in Mizo language. The State has 102 accredited journalists. Special magazines in sports, fashion, education, and business have been popular among the reading public. With the exception of one or two newspapers and local news-letters, dailies are not published on Sundays in Mizoram. 

Aizawl with 30 publications and Lunglei with 20 are the major publishing centres. However, the area of distribution has extended to remote rural areas.

National newspapers do not have a recognisable presence in Mizoram, one reason being the remote location of the State.  Only the Telegraph has its branch office in Mizoram. Hence, the local dailies play a major role in the lives of Mizos.

Every district in Mizoram has its own newspapers. As the terrain is hilly, it is not possible to send the newspapers out of the district.

The history of print media in Mizoram dates back to British colonial rule. The hand-written Mizo chanchin Laisuih is the oldest-known newspaper in the State. A four-page issue, it was started in 1898 under the guidance of J. Shakespeare who also published another newspaper in November of 1902, called Mizo leh Vai Chanchin. The monthly newspaper was printed in Sylhet Dinna Nath Press. Tun Hapta Chanchinbu (1939), Nitin Chanchinbu (1939), Mizo Chanchinbu (1946), Zoram Thupuan (1947) followed in quick succession.

Mizo Chanchinbu was the first political party newspaper in the State, having its ties with the then Mizo Union.

The church has deep roots in the history of Mizoram’s print media. Kristian Tlangau was the first church media endeavor in Mizoram. It was published by the Presbyterian Church in 1911. At present it is under the PresCom (short for Presbyterian Communications). Sipai Tlangau was a newspaper originating from the Salvation Army; its first editor was Pu Laldela. Tlawmngaihna (1934), Mizo Chanchin (1905) and Kohhran Beng (1946) are published by the Baptist Mission. The Catholic Kantu started in 1960. Prominent daily newspapers in Aizawl include Vanglaini, Aizawl Post, The Zozam Times, Evening Post, Mizo Aw, Romei and Newslink.

Apart from Doordarshan and AIR kendras in Aizawl, 29 cable operators have been functioning in urban and semi-urban areas. The “Sky Link” has been offering Star TV programmes to limited subscribers since 1991. The LPS and ZOZAM started their own production centers in 1992 and 1994 respectively. These local programmes have been instrumental in giving information in Mizo language apart from ready entertainment. The State does not have a Mizo satellite television channel,nor are there theatres or cinemas.

Aims of this study

• To study the front-page coverage of Mizo dailies.
• To understand the nature of readership in Mizoram.
• To identify the correlation between the nature of readership and news selection.

Data collection 

For the first part of the project, the contents of the front pages of three leading Mizo dailies were analysed from October to December 2011. The assumption of the study is whether the ethnicity or regionalism which play a major role in Mizo life find place in the front pages of Mizo dailies.

To understand the nature of readership in Mizoram, a survey was conducted among 100 subscribers in Aizawl, Mizoram. Then, the association between the nature of readership and news selection was identified by interviews with subscribers, journalists, editors and academicians.

Findings of the content analysis

The front pages of the Mizo dailies are where substantial news coverage is found. The front pages are the only source of hard news, with an exception of sports and classified advertisements. Most newspapers are not more than eight pages. Mostly one full page is dedicated to classified advertisements. As for political news, an average of three stories a day has satisfied the readers. These stories carry considerable significance with a close proximity to the targeted readers. In other words, almost all the items relating to news are of local origin, concerning the State government, or sometimes narrowing down to district and local governments. National news that is of prime importance to the whole country gets covered.

Data analysis of the front pages of the Mizo dailies for October 2011
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It is not surprising that a local daily may not have a single story relating to national news, and confines to local news. One can argue that national and international news is accessible through cable but not local news. That is just one theory. It is not that the public and the print media purposefully ignore news of national importance. Rather it can be attributed to the fact that local news is given priority in dissemination of news.

News items relating to regional entertainment and issues of cultural importance sometimes weigh more in terms of numbers on the front page. The general structure of Mizo dailies can be assessed as having the front page fully dedicated to hard news with least number of investigative reports. The back pages of the dailies carry sports news, generally football. 

The overall outlook of the local dailies have changed in recent years from normal black and white print to colour. Pictures are now more attractive, and the headlines and some news boxes are glossed up with different fonts and colors to attract the reader.

 Most news reports are usually on events happening in and around the capital district where most of the political and social activities take place. However, it would be wrong to say that other district do not have space on the front page. The Mara Autonomous District Council has been a regular feature. Also, the Chakma (see footnote 1) have graced front page more than once. However, as Aizawl city is the central hub of notable activities, news from there outweighs reports from other districts. Advertisements are rare on the front pages of the dailies except for the ear panel.

Prominent among the news stories in the dailies are disaster stories, human interest, and development news. Mizoram being a peaceful State, conflict reports are found rarely.

The overall data revealed that cultural news dominated the front pages of both Vanglaini and Aizawl Post. Newslink carries more political news than from other spheres. Here, cultural news represents cinema, music, entertainment, and festivals. Political news comprises the government, political issues, and the political parties. Stories on crime and sports are comparatively fewer in the dailies under study.

Nature of readership

To understand the nature of readership in Mizoram, a survey was conducted among 100 subscribers in Aizawl, Mizoram. The results showed that 53% of the readers go through Vanglaini daily and 73% consider that Vanglaini is more attractive and colorful compared to other dailies. One rarely finds a household without the paper. And needless to say, most people prefer the local language, Mizo, when it came to newspapers. 

Over 50% of the readers go through political news first, followed by sports (26%) These statistics have been arrived at based on the research done solely on the front pages of the dailies. It is to be noted that most if not all the dailies carry a huge Sports section, usually on the back page. Hence, if the research had been done on the entire newspaper, the figures would have varied. This goes to show that sports, whether local, national, or international, is taken seriously in the State.


The Mizo dailies
Although the Mizo dailies are normally not more than eight pages, they are quite comprehensive. The number of pages has remained small owing to lack of investigative journalism and feature writing. However, some progress can be expected in these areas as competition among the various newspapers is set to intensify.

Newspapers read by the Mizos
Zozam Times
Aizawl Post
Combination of two newspapers- Vanglaini and Zozam Times

Mizos take so much pride in their language that they readily become critics of any literature. Asked how the public felt about the use of the language in terms or readability, 52% replied “interesting”, 12% as “a bit of a bore” and 36% as “average”. One may ask the question: “If it is so average or boring, then, why not subscribe to another newspaper?” The answer is: accessibility. Besides, Mizoram does not have news-stands, nor does have copies of newspapers hanging in shops. All dailies are accessible only through subscription and the route taken by the “paper-boys”.

The expression, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is clearly evident considering that 67% of the readers find photographs in the daily very interesting while 26% feel there is room for improvement.

Talking of headlines, more than 50% of the readers said they were quite good, while 44 % found them “average”. Perhaps, this is one aspect where the local dailies need to improve their creative skills.

In recent years, the State has witnessed a tremendous growth in local TV channels whose viewership has grown and quality improved. However, when it comes to news, the public seems to have favoured the newspapers as more reliable sources of news and those that carry more information. A whopping 65% would still prefer to read the news rather than watch or listen to it.

Surprisingly, most newspapers do not publish on Sundays when 80% of the readers are for it. Dailies are replaced by weeklies to fill that gap. However, only a few weeklies are printed on Sundays. Newspapers such as Zalen are in demand on the day, along with newsletters from local churches and from the local YMA.

Regionalism in newspapers
         News preference of readers
News Preference of readers

The above table shows that the readers of Mizoram are much interested in news from their own State. The Mizos also have a strong regional feeling from within the people of the state. The editor of Newslink has summed up this factor: “There is a 'us and them' factor that alienates the Mizos from mainland Indians even before Laldenga took up arms to fight for independence in 1966. Even though majority of Mizos now wholeheartedly accept that they are Indians, the feeling of alienation still exists owing to difference in culture and religion. That I think is one of the main reasons why majority of Mizos do not show interest in national issues.” He continues, “Owing to Christianity and the consequent westernisation, Mizos have more interest in what is going on in UK, United States, or Israel. Again, most  Mizos are not as politically aware as their fellow citizens in other parts of India. National issues, however important they are, hardly make it to the front page in Mizoram dailies. I think that is a reflection of the readers' attitude.”

Cultural news dominates the front page

Mizo dailies give more importance to cultural news. News from Hollywood, Bollywood, and music industry are given more space in them. Mizos are fond of music, song, and dance. It is because of their tribal background. Even when Christianity came to Mizoram, it was opposed by the Pumazai movement, a parallel song and dance movement. When Christianity allowed singing and dancing within the churches, it was adopted by the Mizos. (Sajal Nag, 2010, the Book Pied Pipers - The bamboo Famine in Mizoram.)

Mizoram in mainstream media

Going into “mainland” India, and from personal experiences of students who had their education outside the State, one can say that Mizoram has only begun to be recognised be the general public. It was not long ago that owing to ethnically different facial features of the Mizos and others from north-eastern States they were mistaken for foreigners. 

The point to be made here is that the mainstream media (see footnote 2)  do not pay the required attention to the State, perhaps because there hardly is any news worthy for national debate. The State has been violence-free for more than a decade. Or perhaps the State does not make enough noice to gain attention. It is only through sports and, recently, music that Mizoram is getting noticed.


In all, the Mizo daily newspapers satisfy the demands and interests of the people in terms of news values, accuracy, and speed. However, there is scope for overall qualitative improvement. Even though we conclude by stating that the newspaper does meet the requirements of the public, a question can be asked whether the public make those demands or the dailies make the interest and demands for them.

Cultural news dominates the front pages of Mizo dailies. However, the study indicates that the Mizos first read political news and then stories on sports and culture in that order. Mizos get their news and information essentially from the local dailies and the local cable television. National media rarely give space to Mizoram news. Doordarshan, Aizawl, is permitted to broadcast Mizo/ language news only for 15 minutes. Hence, the Mizos have limited options for getting news and information about their State.

The State’s concern for development is not reflected in the media. Mizoram is the highest consumer of tobacco products in the country. The incidence of cancer and HIV/ AIDS is also high in Mizoram. Drugs abuse is a burning issue in the State. But the Mizo dailies are different from the rest of India’s in terms of crime news coverage. The Mizos are still following the tribal culture, and crimes against women are rare. According to 2008 statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau, there was not even a single case of dowry death and sexual harassment. Riots, rapes, theft, and murder are rare cases in Mizoram.

With very little commercial enterprise in the State, it is difficult to get advertisements. The newspapers are surviving on government advertisements and classified advertisements. Most newspapers dedicate a full page for classified advertisements. 

There is a long way to go for the Mizo dailies in terms of professionalism.

(The writer is a student in the Department of Mass Communication, Mizoram University. Research supervisor: Dr. V. Ratnamala)


1.  The Chakmas, also known as the Changhma, are a community that inhabits the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, north-east India, and Rakhine State of Myanmar. In Mizoram, Chakmas live in the western parts that have their own language, culture, and custom. They follow Buddhism.


2. The Times of India (TOI) has tendered an apology for describing Mizo traditional dress used by one of the flag bearers in the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony as the Naga traditional dress. The apology was made by the reporter of the newspaper, Biju Babu Cyriac, in response to the complaint lodged by the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP). TOI, in its October 4 edition, had published the attire of the female flag bearer as a Naga traditional dress and that prompted the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP), influential Mizo student body, to lodge a complaint against the report. After the report was published, there was an uproar in the media houses of Mizoram besides the common people seeking clarification from The Times of India (The Northeast Today, 2010).

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