Vijay Karnataka and Kannada Journalism Part-II

BY B S Chandrasekhar| IN Regional Media | 11/12/2004
Kannada newspapers like Prajavani and Kannada Prabha are seen as left-of- the centre whereas Vijay Karnataka is perceived as a right-of-the centre newspaper.


The Kannada newspaper Vijay Karnataka (VK) is the first successful Kannada newspaper of the post-liberalisation era, which has considerably changed the face of Kannada journalism. In the first part of this article the growth of this newspaper and the strategies adapted by the management to achieve this growth have been examined and in this part the contribution of the editorial team in making this newspaper such a big success are discussed.  

Newspaper Marketing, Promotion, Price, Packaging and Product are described as the four Ps of successful marketing. In the case of a newspaper the first of these two Ps could be considered as the domain of the management and the other two Ps the responsibilities of the editorial section. We have already seen how by efficient distribution and promotion as also a very low price the management of VK has helped in the growth of readership of this newspaper. A large number of Kannada speaking people have accepted VK as a ‘good’ newspaper, which means that the editorial section has equally contributed to the successful marketing of VK. There are many reasons, which have made the newspaper so acceptable and it may not be possible to enumerate all these.  We can look into some areas where VK has tried to be different from other Kannada newspapers.

New Kannada Journalism

English newspapers have always influenced regional language newspapers and for a long time The Times of India (Bombay), the Hindu and the Statesman were the role models for journalists in Kannada. It is natural that for the newspapers born in the post liberalisation era like VK, Times of India (Delhi). The Asian Age and the Hindustan Times have become the new models and the new journalism in the regional languages is to a certain extent a reflection of the changes taking place in English newspapers of India. However in the era of globalisation what is happening in our English newspapers may also be a reflection of the changes taking place in the newspapers of some of the western countries. 

Greater attention to regional and local happenings and consequently less attention to national and international affairs, reduced importance to politics, greater interest in personality-based news, more attention to youth, accent on entertainment, briefness in reporting, more exclusive stories, better packaging of news with attractive headlines and a ‘reader friendly’ language are some of the important features of the new journalism in Kannada started by VK and already adapted by some other newspapers.


The only ideology of a commercial newspaper is to sell more and more copies and get higher and higher profits. When even political parties have no set ideologies and clear-cut policies on any of the vital issues it may be futile to search for ideologies in a newspaper but still the readers develop a perception about their newspapers. Generally the Kannada newspapers like Prajavani and Kannada Prabha are seen as left-of- the centre whereas VK is perceived as a right-of- the centre newspaper. 

To become popular a newspaper has to be (or at least appear to be) anti-establishment and a regional language newspaper has to constantly criticise the administration at the state level. All Kannada newspapers are doing this and VK is no exception. However this newspaper vehemently campaigned against the previous Congress government and particularly against some ministers of the state cabinet.  The then chief minister also was not spared and this campaign might have won many admirers for the newspaper.

As mentioned earlier VK is published from nine centres and this has provided greater opportunities to the newspaper to cover local news. People in general are interested in the news of their neighbourhood and the USP of VK has been its grass-root level reporting.  This has earned a very large number of new readers many of them not exposed to newspapers earlier.


Kannada newspapers used to have only one supplement in a week- the magazine section distributed along with the Sunday edition. Kannada Prabha, to create its own niche, introduced an additional film supplement on Fridays and also started publishing Kannada novels as a daily serial and these attractions did help in increasing its circulation. In the later years Prajavani started supplements on Agriculture and Business to reach niche audiences.

VK has taken this game of supplements further and it has everyday a supplement on a different theme and in addition the readers in Bangalore get a daily city supplement.  These supplements have no doubt, brought in more readers and have helped in increasing the circulation of this newspaper. The Agriculture supplement of this newspaper has a special flavour and the series of articles on ‘Water Harvesting’ reminds of the sort of missionary zeal some of the older generation journalists had towards spreading socially relevant messages.

The spate of supplements in VK has forced the other newspapers to increase the number of their supplements. Increasing the number and also the quality of supplements is one way by which the other dailies have retained their loyal readers.

Regular Columns

Regular columns by eminent personalities or specialists in different fields add to the attraction of a modern newspaper. Kannada newspapers started such columns in the magazine section long back and later introduced similar columns in the supplements.  Some newspapers also carry such columns on one or two days in a week. VK has two or even more such regular columns each day.  In addition it is publishing a large number capsules which are supposed to contain interesting information.

The Kannada newspapers generally carry editorials on two issues (and a third editorial in a lighter vein in some case) each day but VK editorially comments on only one subject. This may be a welcome change for the readers and may also be an acceptance of the reality that there is already editorializing in news reporting. Other newspapers generally reserve a major portion of the editorial page, sometimes more than half the page, to the letters-to-the-editors.  However VK has drastically reduced the space for this expression of public opinion- may be an indication of the priorities of the new journalism.  This to an extent has allowed Prajavani to retain its supremacy as the main forum of public discourse. 

  Kannada Newspapers and Kannada Language

Kannada newspapers of the 19th and the early 20th century played an important role in the renaissance of Kannada language and the later 20th century newspapers have strived to develop Kannada as an effective medium of communication in the modern society. They have done this in various ways. At one level they have enriched the vocabulary of the language by coining new words in fields from law and judiciary to science and technology.  Many of the senior journalists have provided models of elegant prose writing in Kannada. These newspapers have also been providing space for literary expressions and more particularly literary criticism. Finally Kannada newspapers have also been championing the cause of Kannada in all fields.

However there is a perceptible difference between the newspapers of pre-liberalisation and post liberalisation eras in their attitudes towards Kannada.  In the earlier period newspapers coined new words and more importantly popularised these new words by repeated use. The new journalists have no qualms in freely mixing English words in their Kannada writings. It appears that commercial television, big advertising and the new journalism with its accent on a ‘reader-friendly’ style are all simultaneously promoting Kanglish the Kannada counterpart of Hinglish.

Kannada newspapers have been publishing short stories, poems and other literary outputs in their Sunday magazines. Most newspapers devote at least one full page for acknowledgement and review of new books. Prajavani supported some major literary movements in Kannada. (Some are of the opinion the that the paper played Court favouring some and declaiming others.) In the beginning VK also continued this tradition but now it has abandoned Kannada literature including book reviews altogether from its pages particularly from the Sunday magazine section..

However all Kannada newspapers continue to champion the cause of Kannada perhaps more vehemently than earlier.  This was recently demonstrated in their uncritical support to the demand to impose a moratorium on the release of new films in Karnataka in languages other than Kannada.

Packaging of News

An attractive appearance is one of the requirements of a popular newspaper. Good page design, quality photographs, excellent printing and catchy headlines all improve the attraction of a newspaper. Kannada newspapers have not lagged behind in designing and printing. Prajavani has won repeatedly national awards in this field and Udayavani is printed at Manipal Press, which is acknowledged as one of the national centres of excellence in printing.

VK has given great importance to this packaging.  It always carries a high quality and newsworthy photograph on its front page. The paper uses a lot of computer graphics, some thing new in Kannada journalism. The editorial team feels that attractive headlines are its forte. The paper no doubt has provided many examples of attractive headlines, which could profitably be used in textbooks on journalism.

However some of the headlines of the newspaper could also raise the eyebrows of even the liberal readers. On the day-after the catching of the notorious Veerappan, VK carried in 70 mm large types and in blood red colour the headline: "Veerappan Finish" (actual words used). This could be a good example for the type of Kanglish being promoted and this could also be an example of the sensationalism being imported from a different genre. Interestingly another Kannada daily (started only recently) carried exactly the same headline.

Tabloid Journalism in Kannada

Till very recently mainline journalists looked down on tabloids but things have changed and very recently the most respected British newspaper has turned tabloid.  A Kannada tabloid- Kidi was popular in the 1950s and P. Lankesh a brilliant Kannada writer started his own tabloid Lankesh Patrike bringing certain respect to tabloid journalism in Kannada. This tabloid became the voice of the protest movement and influenced the politics of the state in the 1990s. Now there are many tabloids in Kannada banking mostly on sex, crime, violence and character assassination. At the same time some of these tabloids have also built-up an image of pro-activism.

With the commercialisation the mainline journalists have been forced to withdraw away from activism and this has enabled people associated with tabloid journalism to occupy this vacant space. This has created a strange situation; mainline Kannada newspapers detest tabloids but they are forced to report some of the activities of the editors of these tabloids.

VK perhaps understood the convergence of mainline and tabloid journalism earlier than the other newspapers and has invited the editor of the most popular tabloid to write a weekly column. This particular editor has been more famous for glamourising crime in a daily television programme but he has a style, which has no doubt earned him a large following. His wearing the cap of a Sunday preacher on the pages of VK is one of the curious developments in Kannada journalism and may be an indication of the shape of things to come.


Chandrasekhar is based in Bangalore has written a book on the Sociology of Mass Communication, which has been recently published by Kannada University Hampi. Contact:  



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