Doesn't climate change affect Hindi readers?

A comparative analysis of coverage from and related to the Paris summit shows that Hindi newspapers gave substantially less coverage than the English press.
But will it not affect the poor and the vulnerable the most, asks NIVEDITA KHANDEKAR

Clockwise: Cartoon published in Times of India on  Dec. 2, a climate change related news from Gurgaon during Paris COP in Amar Ujala published on  Dec 3,  half page coverage by Danik Jagran on Dec 14, 2015, and the logo that was carried with all COP related news by Hindustan

 

Erratic precipitation, sometimes leading to flash floods, receding glaciers threatening water security and rising sea levels that may inundate India’s vast coastal areas – everything that can affect food security – are only just some of the prominent dangers posed by climate change. And when it happens, the impact will be felt by all, rich or poor, urban or rural, literate or illiterate, white collar or businessman. So ideally it should not matter if your reader is a SUV-driving investment banker or a class 7th pass migrant rickshaw puller.

But the coverage of the recently concluded Paris Conference of Parties (COP) to the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – generally referred to either as the UN Climate Change summit or simply as Paris COP – did not reflect this sentiment. The English language newspapers covered the COP and related climate change issues far better (strictly in terms of news volume) than their Hindi counterparts.

The Paris COP was held from November 30, 2015 to December 12, 2015. This studylooks at the coverage, from November 30 to December 15, off our major English dailies and four Hindi dailies, all published from the national capital. These are: Times of India, Hindustan Times, Indian Express and The Hindu (all English) and Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagran, Nav Bharat Times and Hindustan (all Hindi).

While all the English dailies sent their correspondents to Paris to cover the COP, it was only the Nav Bharat Times  among the Hindi newspapers that sent its correspondent to Paris. (He was actually the Lucknow resident editor and not the paper’s regular beat reporter). Apart from these, there were journalists from Business Standard, Press Trust of India, ANI, DD, NDTV, two Marathi language journalists, representatives from Down To Earth/Centre from Science and Environment (CSE) and a few independent journalists at Paris to cover the COP.

If, among the Hindi newspapers, it was Nav Bharat Times that had direct access to what was happening at Paris, for other newspapers, there was no dearth of reports filed by the agencies - both PTI and agencies such as Reuters, AP and AFP, not to mention IANS in some measure. PTI news is also sent translated by PTI Bhasha, just in case the Hindi newspapers have lazy subs. Despite this abundant information, the coverage in absolute number terms shows a dismal performance by the Hindi newspapers.

This study has collated data on the coverage of news about COP directly from Paris, news related to COP from New Delhi (for instance about a Gurgaon institute that will play a major role in the newly announced Solar Alliance) or from Washington (for instance what US President Obama has to say about COP result), features, analysis, editorials and opinion pieces.

Hindi newspapers’ coverage (Nov 30, 2015 – Dec 15, 2015):

Name

Front Page

Inside Page

Editorial

Opinion/Op-Ed

Total

Amar Ujala

4

7 (A) 2(R )

2

4

19

Dainik Jagran

2

10 ( O) 17 (A) 6 (R )

3

3

41

Nav Bharat Times

3 (O) 1 (A) 1 (R )

10 (O) 7 (A) 1 (R )

3

3

29

Hindustan

2 (O) 2 (A) 1 (R )

9 (O) 8 (A) 4 (R )

2

4

32

Total

16

81

10

14

121

(O = Own correspondent’s report; A = Agency report and R = Related to climate change)

 

English newspapers’ coverage (Nov 30, 2015 – Dec 15, 2015):

Name

Front Page

Inside Page

Editorial

Opinion/Op-Ed

Total

Times of India

10 (O) 1

(R )

22 (O) 6 (A) 11 (R )

3

8

61

The Hindu

7 (O) 5 (R )

26 ( O) 1 (A) 11 (R )

2

4

56

Hindustan Times

7 (O) 1 (R )

36 (O) 3 (A) 4 (R )

2

6

59

Indian Express

10 (O)

2 (R )

19 (O)

4 (R )

2

9

46

Total

43

143

9

27

222

(O = Own correspondent’s report; A = Agency report and R = Related to climate change)

 

(Disclaimer: Utmost care has been taken to count each and every COP related news/view/analysis. But there can be differences owing to instances of small news or big boxes being counted or not counted as 1 unit of coverage.)

 

Findings/Interpretations:

A quick look at the tables above (refer to the detailed date-wise tables at the end of this write up) shows that overall, the Hindi newspapers carried a little over 50% fewer news stories (all together) from Paris and COP related from other datelines (Hindi 121; English 222). On their front and inside pages, the Hindi papers carried only 16 and 81 stories as compared to 43 and 143 by English language respectively.

Hindi newspapers carried just 14 opinion pieces/Op-Ed write ups during this period as compared to English’s 27. These newspapers, however, carried more editorials – 10- as compared to English’s 9. (Op-eds/analysis have continued to appear in all newspapers, more so in English, even after December 15, 2015 as more and more details about the Paris agreement came out).

(The actual content of the coverage is a separate story which does not form part of this study - what issues were covered and what were not; whether the Indian media restricted itself to covering COP as diary/events/sequence or also wrote about climate politics and generally whether there were any negative voices in the form of stories or opinion pieces against India’s official position).

While it is understandable that, since Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagran and Hindustan did not have their own correspondent in Paris, they carried fewer stories, Nav Bharat Times despite sending a reporter, ranked third (with 29 items all together) after Dainik Jagran (41) and Hindustan (32).

The higher number of editorials in the Hindi newspapers is evidence proof that the senior editorial staff managing the edit pages are sensitive towards the need to highlight relevant issues of the time, but this cannot be said of the commissioning of opinion pieces (27 in English compared to just 14 in Hindi).

But the most worrying aspect was quite simply the comparatively dismal extent of news reports in general. All four Hindi newspapers together carried only about 81 news stories as compared to 143 in the English press.

The prominent coverage on the two initial days – November 30, 2015 and December 1, 2015 – was due to the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to attend the inaugural event where he had a brief talk with Nawaz Sharif, his Pakistani counterpart. It almost overshadowed the main COP event coverage on television but the newspapers gave equal footage to the two events.

The later coverage was almost dull in Hindi newspapers compared to the English papers who had plenty of dispatches from their own correspondents). Only Dainik Jagran carried some news on all days (from November 30, 2015 to December 15, 2015) while Amar Ujala, Hindustan and even Nav Bharat Times  did not carry COP news or related news on a daily basis.

But there were some bright spots. As can be seen from the detailed analysis (tables at the end of this article), Nav Bharat Times carried, apart from other things, a full page on climate change on the inside page on the day the summit was to start (Nov 30, 2015) and half a page and more on the concluding day.

The coverage in the Hindi press ranged from routine to some excellent pieces. While Amar Ujala and Hindustan mostly stuck with routine news (Amar Ujala carried syndicated news from New York Times  twice), Nav Bharat Times  did a much better job even with the routine news. The news reports were liberally sprinkled with boxes, info graphics, images/pointers etc. On the first day of the COP and the last day, all the newspapers covered the main news, reactions from experts and some analysis about what exactly the Paris agreement will mean. But these were very similar in content to that of the English newspapers, probably because these were derived from agency reports.

An example of good coverage was the December 6, 2015 full page in Dainik Jagran (JPEG image attached). It explained in neat biggish pointers what the Paris conference for climate change negotiations all about; gave a full-fledged table on various aspects of climate change and how it will impact us such as drought, erratic temperatures, melting glaciers, displacements due to disasters and rising sea levels; it had an opinion piece; it had a small vox pop; and the high point was a positive case study (about Bhutan). The whole page made for a good read.

The editorials and the opinion pieces were mostly on expected lines, more or less similar to those by English lead writers/op-ed writers with hardly few of them going against the flow.

The Times of India came up with a special issue with a guest editor, who gave a lot of importance to opinion pieces on climate change (4). The Indian Express  made an effort regularly to explain all the technical stuff related to COP negotiations (Explained column) and Times of India  and Hindustan Times often offered analysis in the garb of news stories. The Hindu, true to its style, kept to one large story on almost all days which sought to touch important aspects of the day’s events.

So, what can be done?

Ahead of the Paris COP, a study  by the University of Copenhagen had found a profound imbalance in the way analysis of climate change is conducted around the world. It claimed that most literature related to climate change came from the developed world and hardly had any voices from those directly affected – the least developed countries and even the developing countries – despite the fact that these are the ones that are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. It also talked of how millions in developing countries are not aware of the vast scientific material written about climate change as it mostly remains in the developed world.

Whether or not vulnerable communities in India are aware enough about climate change or how the poor in India are responding to and adapting to climate change, are issues that need to be taken up by the media. The English language media, which has traditionally catered to elite, is covering the subject. However, to really reach out to the most affected, the Hindi and regional language media will play an important role and they will need to do in such a way that complex issues are made easy to understand and are related to readers’ lives.

Detailed date-wise table

 

Nivedita Khandekar is a Delhi-based independent journalist. She writes on environmental, developmental and media issues. She can be reached at nivedita_him@rediffmail.com or follow her on twitter at @nivedita_Him

 

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