Friday, 15 May 2009

Cross Cultural Journalism Teaching: Case Study of an Indian University

Reproduced here is a paper submitted by Dr Ujjwala Barve,
Reader and Head, Communication and Journalism, Universiy of Pune, Pune.

Mailing address: Department of Communication and Journalism
Ranade Institute Bldg. F.C. Road
Pune 411004 India

Phone and Fax nos.: (0) 91-20-25654069, 25673188, (R) 91-20-25209049
(Cell) 9881464677

E-mail address:


The paper is about cross-cultural difficulties arising in journalism teaching because of vast cultural differences among students of a post-graduate journalism class.

The data is based on experience and observations in Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Pune, India as well as on interviews with colleagues and students.

It explains problems, details measures taken by teachers and suggests ways to tackle with the cross-cultural dilemma.


Cross Cultural Journalism Teaching: Case Study of an Indian University


India is a land of diversities. All types of pluralities- linguistic, religious, caste-based, economic, regional- exist here. These pluralities are clearly visible in any public-funded university in the country. Such universities are expected to impart higher education to all deserving students and that too whenever possible both in English and the language of the respective state/province. That poses several challenges to teachers, especially teachers of journalism courses.

This paper tries to throw light on the challenges and difficulties faced in the cross-cultural ambience in a journalism department in most of the public-funded universities in India. Prof. Sadhu has observed that several problems and challenges are presented to journalism teachers in Universities in the states of Maharahstra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala etc. where journalism training is offered both in English and a regional language. (Sadhu, 2007) This paper discusses these issues in the context of Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Pune, which represents the journalism departments in public-funded universities in the country.

A point to be noted here is that in India each state is as large as a European country and their population is also much more than those countries. Hence the number of speakers of each regional/state language is also very high.

University of Pune, in the western state of Maharashtra (of which Mumbai is the capital) is one of the premier universities in the country. It was established in 1949 to impart quality higher education and that too in the regional language- Marathi. (Marathi is the official language of the state of Maharashtra.) The mission statement of University of Pune states that imparting higher education to all sections of the society in all disciplines in Marathi will be the prime objective of this university. (Dikshit, 1999)

In keeping with the goal and in tune with the predominantly Maharshtrian culture that Pune has until recently represented (unlike Mumbai which has always been cosmopolitan) University of Pune developed various courses. Importance of English was however never undermined in the process. Courses in those subjects that can be better taught and learnt in English (e.g. Physical and life Sciences, mathematics, IT etc.) were always offered in English, but along with that those subjects in which individual experiences and expression is more important (e.g. Social Sciences, Language, Literature) students were encouraged to write assignments and examinations in Marathi. Hence most academic departments under the faculties of Arts (effectively languages, and not to be confused with fine and performing arts); and Mental, Moral and Social Sciences came to function as ‘bi-lingual’ departments (where classroom teaching was conducted in English and students had the option to choose the language of answers from English and Marathi)

Among various Universities in Maharashtra, UoP was and probably is the best model of bi-lingual education in these subjects. In other universities (like Dr. B. A. Marathwada University in Aurangabad, Shivaji University in Kolhapur etc.) Marathi is the primary language of teaching, whereas in Mumbai University English is the primary language of teaching. In UoP however both English and Marathi languages are given equal importance.

It can be claimed that the bi-lingual teaching culture is more evident in Department of Communication and Journalism (DoCJ), University of Pune and that it gives rise to a very peculiar situation because of the nature of the subject matter and also because of the vast cultural differences among the students who enroll for the course. Hence the title of the present paper ‘Cross Cultural Journalism Teaching: A Case Study of an Indian University’.

Brief History of Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Pune

Like in so many other fields, the city of Pune was also on the forefront of journalism during and after the freedom struggle. (India became independent from British rule in 1947). Many of the city’s newspapers are over seventy five years old and the oldest surviving newspaper is 125 years old. The city had a couple of English newspaper also. (Copies of major English newspapers like The Times of India and Indian Express were transported from Mumbai until recently. Now they have Pune editions.).

The prevailing beliefs half a century ago were ‘a journalist has to be born and can not be trained’ and ‘formal classroom training in journalism is of little use, best training is on-job training’. (Barve, 1996, p. 28) Therefore it took almost 25 years from the foundation of UoP to start a journalism department in it.

The seeds of the department were sown with an endowment made to the University for a scholarship in Marathi Journalism. With that endowment Department of Journalism was established in 1964 to start a two year part-time certificate course in Journalism. Those with degrees in languages (English or Marathi as the major subject for Bachelor’s course) generally tended to opt for a course in journalism, because it was believed that a flair for writing was the most essential skill required to be a journalist. Some of those who were already working as journalists in local newspapers and magazines also joined the course to get a deeper insight in the field of journalism.

Gradually the course was upgraded to a full-time post-graduate diploma and then a Bachelor’s course. The Bachelor’s degree course was a post-graduate course, meaning those who already had a degree could seek admission to the course. (Undergraduate degree programme in journalism has not yet been started in UoP.) The Bachelor’s programme (earlier called BJ- Bachelor of Journalism and later renamed BCJ- Bachelor of Communication and Journalism. Name of the department was also changed to the present ‘Department of Communication and Journalism’- DoCJ in 1983) was a one year full-time academic programme. (

A new one year part-time Diploma course was also started in the meantime in collaboration with Pune Union of Working Journalists. The cross-cultural phenomenon mentioned earlier, however, is evident more in the full-time course than in the Diploma course, because the Diploma course is conducted only in one language i.e. Marathi. Moreover being a part-time course it does not attract many out of town/state students. (In 2003 a separate Diploma course with only English as medium of instruction was launched).

The full-time course however, offers more practical experience and hence better job opportunities. After running only the one-year Bachelor’s course for around 20 years DoCJ started a Master’s programme in Communication and Journalism. (Nomenclature of the degree: MCJ- Master of Communication and Journalism.) It was an optional course, i.e. not all students entering the BCJ, went on to complete their MCJ. It was only in year 2001 that the post-graduate programme was made a full-time two-year, four semester programme under credit system. The same time it was also renamed as M.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism.

All the full-time courses, whether BCJ, MCJ or M.A., have attracted students from all over the state and the country. DoCJ, in its prospectus categorically mentions that though the primary medium of academic instruction is English students can exercise the choice to work in Marathi. (As explained earlier, only the option of Marathi, the official state language, is given to students. They do not have the choice to write examination in any other languages; not even Hindi, the national language.)

Composition of the post-graduate class

Around 300 students compete for the 30 seats available in the course. As per government rules 15 of the 30 seats are reserved for various socially disadvantages communities. Candidates are selected on the basis of their performance in the Entrance /Aptitude Test. It is designed to test both written and oral communication skills of the candidates. Candidate’s general awareness; and writing and analytical skills are tested in a written test of 100 marks. Oral communication skills, personality, career goals etc. is judged in the Personal Interview.

As mentioned earlier, the prospectus mentions that students, if they so wish, may write the course examination in Marathi. It also mentions that candidates seeking admission to the course must have working knowledge of English and must be able to understand English very well. Therefore the Question Paper, which is common to all candidates, is in English only. The personal interview however is conducted in a language that the candidate prefers to converse in. It has been observed over the years that around 50% candidates answer the questions, both written and oral in English and 50% answer in Marathi. (Thakur, 2007)

The reasons behind offering the choice of language lies in the nature of the media industry in India. In India the mainstream media function primarily in three languages: Hindi, English and the regional language of the state concerned.

Every state has a very strong regional press in respective regional languages; regional TV channels providing news from the region also function in the same language (as in case of Maharashtra: Marathi). Local commercial radio stations so far running only in Mumbai and Pune use English as the main language. If they start operating from smaller towns, they may use Marathi as the primary language.

Newspapers that have a nationwide presence, like The Times of India, The Hindu etc. are English newspapers. TV channels that have a nationwide viewership are either Hindi or English. All India Radio, the public service broadcaster that still has monopoly over news and current affairs programmes, runs its national bulletins and current affairs programmes in Hindi and English; and regional bulletins and current affairs programmes in Marathi.

The industry expects media training institutes to train students who can function very well in the language that the newspaper/TV channel/radio station works in. It is a well accepted principle that a journalist must have absolute command over and proficiency in the language in which the media product appears. That is where formal journalism training differs from training in other subjects like Sociology, Psychology and Philosophy etc. where a student’s understanding of basic concepts and ideas related to the subject is more important than her linguistic expression. No doubt better expression makes a better impression, but even if a student has a less than satisfactory writing style that is not considered as a reflection on the student’s ability to function as a sociologist/ psychologist/ philosopher.

Whereas in journalism training a student not only has to understand and grasp the basic principles of reporting, editing etc. but she has to be able to express it in the proper journalistic style. A journalism course is expected to and can cultivate the journalistic writing style. But experience has shown that a good journalistic communication (written or oral) style can be inculcated in a student only if she possesses some basic writing skills when she starts the course. It is not possible in the limited time of one/two years to start teaching from the very basic concepts of good writing.

That is why the Entrance Examination tests the candidates’ basic writing skills. Though English is the official language in India not everyone can speak or write it well to become a journalist working in that language. Similarly having Marathi as one’s mother tongue does not guarantee adequate Marathi expression. Very few people in India from non-Hindi speaking areas can claim to be as fluent in Hindi, the national language, as in English or the language of the region to which they belong. Most Hindi language journalists are those who are from one of the Hindi states or whose mother tongue is Hindi.

Another point that needs a mention here is about the school and college education system in India. In India English language has gained supreme importance among the educated class. Therefore in cities and towns, many children from well-to-do families are sent to private schools that impart education only in English right from the Kinder Garten (pre-school) level. Such children (not all but a majority of them) many a times lose contact with their mother tongue apart from day-to-day conversational language. They can neither read nor write higher forms of linguistic expression like newspapers/magazines/literature etc. Candidates from such ‘English medium background’ opting for journalism courses, aspire to become English-language journalists.

Often times, families staying in a state other than their native state (the language of which is their mother tongue) are forced to send their children to an English-medium school, because that’s the only alternative to the schools giving education in the respective state’s language. (In India people would rather have education in English, which is the common national language at functional level than Hindi, the official national language). Such candidates often have a pan-Indian outlook. They find it easier to relate to national and international issues than local or regional.

Those who study in a Marathi medium school, on the other hand, are more confident about their Marathi language expression. Though the present social situation demands that every one seeking higher education must understand simple written and oral English and be able to converse in English, many of them still find English language a major hurdle in their career paths. Such candidates, with limited or marginal knowledge of English however can make very good local/regional level journalists and can not be denied the opportunity to serve the media industry of the local language.

There is not only linguistic divide in the class. There are also vast cultural differences among the various groups. The groups dress differently, they follow different types of music, they watch different types of films, read different types of literature, they eat different type of food. In short they have totally different ways of life. The native or original name of the country is ‘Bharat’ and India is its Anglicized version. Many a times it is said that in one single country India there exist two culturally diverse nations: Bharat and India. Bharat is that part of the nation that is economically backward, deeply rooted in traditional culture and India is the westernized, more progressive segment. In DoCJ also representatives of both Bharat and India exist.

Such is the situation that presents itself at the time of selection of 30 candidates out of the 300 odd applying to the post-graduate course in Mass Communication and Journalism in University of Pune. Therefore the Question Paper for the Written Examination allows candidates to answer questions in Marathi. The section of the Question Paper designed to test the candidates’ language skills however has a separate Marathi version. Because it is considered unfair to ask students, not-so-proficient in English, to complete English proverbs or use idioms or give English synonyms and antonyms. It is strongly believed in the department that the students who are admitted to the course must have a flair for (journalistic) writing and must have an analytical mind.

At the end of the laborious selection procedure the class of 30 that is composed can be called mini-India. Half of them are Maharashtrians and wish to work in Marathi. They are born and brought up in Maharashtra and have a firm footing in Maharashtra’s culture. On the other hand a high percentage of the students are non-Maharashtrians, who want to or have to try working in English. Such non-Maharashtrian students have very little knowledge of the geography, history, politics, culture and literature of Maharashtra. (Though the prospectus indicates that preliminary knowledge of local language and local affairs is considered an added advantage. But it is easier said than done.)

The ‘English’ lot (as it has been referred to traditionally) in DoCJ, is mostly from economically middle and upper class urban, educated families. Some of them have their own laptops with Internet connectivity. The ‘Marathi’ group has mixed financial and educational background. Some of them are from middle class educated families from small towns or cities. These kids have a TV set (sometimes with cable connection) at home, may have access to computer education etc. But a significant number is from economically disadvantaged, semiliterate or illiterate farmer/farm laborer/ worker families living in very small towns or villages. They get to watch TV news at the mercy of the village-head, and have to read a local newspaper or a day or two old state-level newspaper when it reaches their remote village. Some of them are the first ever graduates in their families or village.

There is however no difference in the intelligence or IQs of the students from diverse backgrounds. All those selected for the course are bright and are on the same level intellectually. (It must also be mentioned here, that sometimes, students with much lesser intellectual capacity and journalistic capabilities also become a part of the class for several reasons.) All these students study together in one single class after paying the same fees: Rs. 5000/- per year (USD 100).

Problems in conduct of the course
The department does not divide the class on the basis of languages. There are two reasons behind it: one- financially it is not viable and practical to run two separate classes, two- even those who have made up their minds to work in Marathi, must be able to understand English and develop their language skills.

The class room lectures, conducted primarily in English, help these students to gradually become more comfortable with English, which goes a long way in their careers. However, the teachers, though they fully understand and agree with the motive, find it most challenging to make their classes interesting, engaging and useful for all types of students. If personal bonding and camaraderie develops among students by the end of the first term it helps bridge the gap between the two linguistic groups and teachers can take advantage of it to an extent.

Apart from the 30 Indian students, DoCJ also admits foreign students (mostly Iranian, Thai, Bangla Dehis etc.) and children of Non-Resident-Indians or expatriates. That makes the class even more colorful. (It is true that no class in any subject in any university in any country is completely homogeneous. But somewhere there may exist only economic divide, somewhere there may exist only urban-rural divide or cultural divide. But in the class being discussed in this paper, all types of differences present themselves. Moreover, as explained earlier, effectiveness of training depends on students’ previous experiences, exposure and linguistic expression).

First of all the teachers have to have equal command over both English and Marathi. And only knowledge of Marathi as a language does not suffice. The teachers have to be as well informed about Marathi culture, local events, and Marathi media as about English media, international events and modern Indian/cosmopolitan/western culture. They also have to know Marathi terminology and jargon. In Marathi (and other Indian languages), words were specially coined for various fields in the last 50 years. The Marathi media uses these words. A lay native Marathi speaker often does not know all these words, but a journalist must know it. In the course of classroom discussions, examples have to be cited from both English and Marathi newsapapers, radio programmes and TV channels of all types because Journalism teaching without current real life examples has little meaning.

The first semester of the course proves to be the most crucial for the teachers. As Prof. Kiran Thakur who teaches News Reporting and Writing explains, many background classes have to be conducted before the class comes to more or less the same level. Making those who have never been to a village understand villagers’ problems; and giving an insight to those who have come to a city for the first time into a typically urban phenomena like BPOs or issues related to public transport, sewage system, immigration etc. is, if not daunting, a challenging task. (Thakur, 2007). He says that English is necessary to understand national, international issues, to translate news agency copies and knowledge of Marathi is necessary to understand local history, politics, culture; to cover local events, to interview local people as part of practical training.

In view of the situation, proficiency in both English and Marathi, should be set as a necessary condition while recruiting permanent faculty, but unfortunately that is not the case. DoCJ has had teachers who knew only one of the two languages. That adds to the existing burden. For them classes have to be divided in two separate language groups. These two groups are taught by two different teachers. Where classes are thus divided conducting examinations poses a problem because the two sub-classes may not necessarily be conducted in identical manner.

This division is not appreciated by students also. As a ‘Marathi’ past student, puts it “the separate lectures further widen the gap between the two language groups. In a department like ours all lectures should be common but they must be conducted by bi-lingual teachers, who will primarily speak in English, but can clarify certain aspects in Marathi as well, if need be.” (Gadekar, 2007)

Sometimes a teacher who is bilingual may deliberately divide the class in English and Marathi groups, especially when the topic deals with writing skills. Given the vast difference in the nature of the two languages, different tips have to be given and that too in the respective languages. But in this case classes of the two groups can run parallel to each other and almost identical inputs can be given to the two classes, because the teacher is the same.

Ideally a teacher should be able to read and assess her own students’ work. But a non-Marathi-knowing teacher conducts classroom lectures only in English and she has to outsource those assignments that are written in Marathi. This practice deprives the teacher of the knowledge of her students’ performance and the students are deprived of the teachers’ guidance.

A journalism course also depends a lot on visiting and guest faculty. DoCJ often faces a great dilemma in this regard also. There are some very good English speakers who are not able to speak Marathi and there are some very good Marathi speakers who are not comfortable delivering a lecture in English. It’s only fair to ‘Marathi’ students that such famous Marathi speakers also be invited. In turn such events mean additional burden on teachers. Non-Maharashtrian students are normally not inclined towards attending Marathi lectures because they can not understand Marathi, so the teachers have to translate the gist of the speech so as not to deprive the students of the knowledge imparted by the speaker. When non-Marathi speaking speakers are invited, Marathi students’ extent of interaction with the speaker is minimal because they can not converse freely in English.

As mentioned earlier, in India English has gained such importance that not being able to speak the language, especially when one is a post-graduate journalism student, gives one an extreme inferiority complex. Such students who shy away from speaking in English for the fear of making silly mistakes are more often than not extremely intelligent, but the class is deprived of their comments because of this fear. Therefore it is a huge task before the teachers to encourage them to speak in English or act as interpreters.

One of the biggest problems that teachers in DoCJ and Marathi students face is that quality Marathi books on journalism are not available. Not even 10% books in the library are Marathi books. Those that are available are not of the high standards of English books. The knowledge-gap between English and Marathi students thus further widens. (Marathi students are encouraged to read English books also, but again it is easier said than done. One definitely is inclined to read books in the language that one understands better and wishes to work in).

To overcome the problem of quality text books, especially in subjects like Media Research, Communication Theories, Online Journalism etc. a couple of teachers tried to get translation rights from the publishers of English books, but the publishers declined the request. As Prof. Thakur has experienced, it is not easy to write original quality books or get them written. Given the comparatively small size of Marathi media field, it is difficult to identify and persuade those journalists who can write a good book with an academic orientation. (Thakur, 2007).

Many western books are really good but they naturally deal mostly with western media practices. As it is, they have to be supplemented with Indian examples which the teachers do provide during class room lectures. But while discussing the theoretical principles the teachers have to cite examples both from the English and Marathi media, the nature of which differs significantly.

Production of students’ experimental newspaper proves to be another problem area. Word processing in English is many times easier than in Marathi (and other Indian languages. Indian language software does not have spellchecking or grammar checking facility). Since all computers necessarily have English word processing facility, everyone is more or less familiar with it and those students willing to work in English can right away start typing their own stories and articles on the computer. Marathi students however have to start from scratch, firstly because some of them may not have had an opportunity to use a computer before or those who had an opportunity to use a computer may not have used Marathi software before; secondly because there is no uniformity in Marathi word-processing software, so even those who have learnt it before have to learn the software that DoCJ has.

While Marathi students are still learning the basics of computer usage, English students start producing their newspapers. Thus they gain more practical experience than their Marathi counterparts. Is it then possible to start production of the newspaper only after every student becomes equipped enough to work on the newspaper? The answer is no. The reason is: why make those who are already good at computers lose their precious time?

Is it then possible to admit only those who have enough knowledge of computers including Mararthi word processing? The answer is no again. A public-funded university can not screen students on the basis of skills that can be acquired through opportunities that depend largely on one’s social/financial status and one’s area of residence. As mentioned earlier extremely intelligent students from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds join DoCJ, come across many things (computer, Internet, digital cameras etc.) for the first time in their life. (Many such students take a great advantage of the new experiences and opportunities that they get in DoCJ.)

Is it possible to offer ‘bridge courses’ to such students before the actual teaching starts? So far, that has not been possible. There is a very small interval between selection to the course and its commencement. A public-funded university and its departments always face revenue-crunch. They can neither ask for additional fees for bridge courses nor can they manage to arrange them from their own resources. So ‘playing by the ear’ remains their eternal policy.

Conclusion and suggestions

Journalism departments of public-funded universities in India, like DoCJ, University of Pune; are presented with extremely diverse group of students. The major difference is in the linguistic background of students. Those willing to work in the English media and/or not knowing Marathi have to be trained in English and those who are better in Marathi and would like to work for Marathi media have to be trained in such a way that they have enough skills to enter the Marathi media at the end of the course.

There are also other vast differences in the students’ profile. Urban-rural, financial and social, cultural divides can be seen in the class. They lead to marked differences in students’ confidence and extent of interaction.

These two language groups can not be divided into two separate classes for various reasons. Therefore a teacher has to delicately balance equal valuable inputs to students belonging to different backgrounds.

Teachers however look upon the situation more as a challenge than a hurdle because they feel that the interaction with a diverse group of students keeps them on their toes and gives them an opportunity to see different worlds through the eyes of their students.

If journalism teaching has to become equally meaningful for all types of students, teachers in such journalism departments should be bi-lingual with equal command over both English and the regional language; they should have a very wide exposure to various cultures and moreover must be equally familiar with both English and regional language media.

Paucity of quality text books or academic books in the regional languages is the major problem before the departments. Though the teachers make an effort to overcome the problem it should be supported by book publishing industry.

In India, the education system, both at secondary and higher education levels, does not leave much scope to students for their own learning. The curricula are always very rigid and students are taught to study only through text books. Therefore students who join university find it hard when they are asked to search for material on their own or to present their own views on various issue. Therefore the education system in India also needs to undergo a major change if students have to be trained to gain knowledge supplementary to classroom teaching through their own effort. If that happens, students and teachers can together prepare a large data base of examples that need to be given during the course of discussion.


Personal Interviews:

Gadekar Rahul. (former students and now Teaching associate, DoCJ) Jan. 3, 2007
Thakur, Kiran, (former Head, DoCJ) Jan. 4, 2007.
Sadhu, Arun, (former Head, DoCJ) Jan. 4, 2007

Books etc.

Barve, Ujjwala, 1996. ‘Journalism Courses in Pune: A Comparative Study. Diss. Pune: University of Pune.

Dikshit Raja, 1999. ‘Pune Vidyapeethacha Itihas’ (History of University of Pune). Pune: University of Pune.

Malhan, P. N., 1988. Journalism Training- Gaps and Drawbacks. ‘Vidura’. July-August, 1988. New Delhi: Press Institute of India.

Rao, V. Appa (Ed.), 1981. Report on the Status of Journalism and Communication Education Education in India. New Delhi: University Grants Commission.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

New trends in Indian Newspapers: A case study of Marathi dailies in Maharashtra

Paper presented at 17th AMIC Annual Conference of
Asian Media Information and Communication Centre
From July 14—17, 2008, in Manila, Philippines

Theme of the Conference:
Changing Media, Changing Societies: Media and the Millennium Development Goals

Dr Kiran Thakur

Theme & Topic:
Media Industry Trends and Dynamics

New trends in Indian Newspapers: A case study of Marathi dailies in Maharashtra
Submitted by:
Dr Kiran Thakur
Retired Professor and Head
Department of Communication and Journalism
University of Pune, Pune, Maharashtra, India

03, Indrayani
Pune 411016

Residence: 91 20 25650225
Mobile: 9373331733


New trends in Indian Newspapers
A case study of Marathi dailies in Maharashtra

Circulation of paid newspapers in USA and Europe has been showing a trend of decline for the past two decades. The World Association of Newspapers survey has said the circulation fell 3% in the U.S. and 1.9% in Europe in the year 2007. Asia, which is home to 74 of the world's 100 best-selling dailies, contrasted starkly with declining newspaper readership in the West. China and India are among the countries that have contributed to some degree of optimism in the publishing industry that has shown an increase of 2.6% worldwide last year.
The rising trend of increase in circulation in India is not due mainly to the growth of English newspapers as outsiders to India may think. On the contrary, newspapers in non-English (or vernacular) Indian languages have been showing a trend of increase in circulation and revenue for the several years. It is necessary to document how these newspapers have been able to sustain the growth in spite of the competition from the English press and television news channels. This paper is an attempt to document the status of newspapers in Marathi, one of the 22 official languages of India, as a representative study of the non-English press of India.
Briefly about India
India has a population of over one billion spread over 35 states (provinces) including union territories. each with a principal language spoken and read by its majority population. For example, Gujarati is the main language of the state of Gujarat and Tamil of Tamil Nadu. Hindi is spoken as the principal language in several states in the northern belt of India and also in other places in the country while Marathi is the language of Maharashtra in the western region. The publishers thus cater to the population of different languages bringing out with editions of newspapers in the plethora of languages from different centres.
Overview of Press in India
History of Indian press dates back to 1780 when James Augustus Hickey launched the newspaper Bengal Gazette or Calcutta General Advertiser in Calcutta (now Kolkata). It was a weekly writing about the activities of the British traders and officers of the East India Company. It closed down soon as it incurred the wrath of the British officers. Other newspapers came on the scene during the eighteenth and nineteenth century, some supporting the British colonial rule and others owned by Indians who opposed the rulers. Social Reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy brought out India's first non-English newspaper owned by an Indian, Sambad Kaumudi, from Calcutta in Bengal in 1820. He also published Miratul-ul-Akhbar in Persian language. The Times of India, now the flagship of the leading media group of the country, was launched by British owners in 1838.
Other dailies that appeared on the scene thereafter included The Statesman (also British-owned, Calcutta) established in 1875, The Hindu in Chennai (then Madras in today's Tamil Nadu state) in 1878 (both in English) and Malayala Manorama (Malayala language in Kerala state) in 1888. The Bengal Journal, The Oriental Magazine, The Calcutta Chronicle, The Madras Courier, The Indian Herald, The Bombay Herald and The Bombay Courier, were other publications brought out at other centres during the period.
In subsequent decades, Indian social and political leaders brought out publications from other provinces, notably from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. The publications, in English and the local languages of the respective regions, were generally divided in two broad categories, namely, pro-British and anti-British. The country was then a vast subcontinent that comprised the present India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Publishers brought out a few hundred copies that were sold in the areas close to the places of publication. Anti-British newspapers were subjected to oppressive laws of the rulers. This would lead to the closure of the publications and arrest of the editor publishers. Prominent newspapers of the period that continue to exist now include The Times of India, The Statesman, The Hindu (all English), Bombay Samachar (Gujarat), and Kesari (Marathi).
The period between 1857, when the Queen of England took over the reigns of the country, and 1947 when the British left India, saw birth and closure of a multitude of newspapers. Among the editors were freedom fighters like Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak (Kesari) and Mahatma Gandhi (Young India, Harijan and Navajeevan) who used the publications to spread their message. These papers were never mass-circulated, yet readers in all corners of the country eagerly awaited arrival of their copies.
Post-Independence scene
By 1941, India had about 4,000 newspapers and magazines in 17 languages. The number rose to 51,960 that included dailies and publications of all the periodicities, in 2001.
As on 31st March 2006, there were 62,483 registered newspapers with all periodicities on record of Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI), as against 60,413 at the end of March 2005. The total circulation of newspapers increased from 15,67,19,209 copies in 2004-05 to 18,07,38,611 copies in 2005-06. As per the annual statements received at the RNI office during 2005-06, the number of dailies being published in the country was 2130. Their claimed circulation figure was 8,88,63,048 copies, 12.93% higher than that of the previous year.
After India became Independent in 1947, British owners of the newspapers like The Times of India also left the country, handing over the businesses to Indian companies. Editors of pro-freedom struggle Indian newspapers had anti-British stance till 1947. These newspapers gradually changed their approach; some became pro-establishment and the others adopted aggressive anti-establishment strategies. The publishers during the subsequent decades expanded their groups and chains with additions of new editions at other centres or new publications.
Turbulent 1970's: The decade of 1970s was a turbulent phase for media. The state-owned television channel was launched in 1972 and the press was unsure about the possible impact of the electronic medium on the newspapers. The press was subjected to censorship during the period of Internal Emergency clamped by the Indira Gandhi government in 1975. After the Emergency was revoked 19 months later, the Press appeared to have reborn with vigour.
Competition from TV channels and online news
Indian newspapers faced challenges from electronic media in a big way when colour television was introduced in 1982. The challenges and threats from the electronic media became more serious after the government allowed private channels to operate in the country under the new policy of privatisation and globalisation announced in 1991-92. The country witnessed emergence of channels launched by Indian and multi-national companies that brought in news and entertainment channels in English, Hindi, and other Indian languages. There was a talk of death of print media as the channels were there to provide news coverage in real time. A similar fear was expressed some time after Internet made its appearance in 1995. But these fears were ill founded as the Indian publishers proved in the first decade of the new millennium. The publishers exploited best of the two media and changed their management strategies to survive and make rapid progress in the business.
Briefly About Maharashtra
Maharashtra is among the industrially advanced states and has a population of 96,878,627. The state has a literacy rate of 76.9 per cent against the national average of 65.4 per cent and is next only to the state of Kerala which has the literacy of 90.9 and ranks as second literate state. The literacy rate is one of the major reasons why Maharashtra, as also Kerala, account for rapid growth of press as compared to other states of the country.
Maharashtra's capital is Mumbai and is situated on the coast of Arabian Sea. One of India's four metros, it is also described as country's Financial Capital.
The metropolis has a population of 11,914,000 as the per census of 2001 and has a vast readership for newspapers in English, Marathi, and other languages. The state has administrative divisions broadly known as Konkan, Pune, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Amaravati and Nashik, each of which are further divided into four to six districts. Each district, further decentralised as tehsils, has a sizeable readership for Marathi newspapers. Each of the 353 tehsils has several villages to look after. There are a total of 43711 villages in the state.
Marathi Journalism
The first newspaper in Marathi was Darpan launched in Mumbai on January six 1832 by Balshastri Jambhekar. It was a weekly. The first Marathi daily newspaper Sandesh (now defunct) was started in 1915. Although it was a daily, it was dominated by views, as was the case with weeklies of that period. Other dailies like Dnyanprakash followed but most of them also were viewspapers. Sakaal, launched on January 01, 1932, was the first daily publication focussed to publish a wide range of fresh news on local, regional, national, and international events. Sakaal's founder publisher editor N B Parulekar ran the newspaper on sound management principles without compromising on credibility and objectivity of news. He is described as Pioneer in Modern Journalism not only in Marathi but all other Indian languages. Sakaal survived even after his death in 1973 and grew to a higher stature. This is considered to be creditable to Dr Parulekar because several other daily newspapers and magazines of his time have disappeared from the scene one after another.
Maharashtra state now has 130 Marathi daily newspapers as per the Registrar of Newspapers for India annual report for 2005-06. Marathi holds third position with the 130 dailies, Hindi leading with 942 newspapers followed by 201 in English. In terms of circulation also, Marathi dailies have edge over newspapers published in the rest of 22 official languages of India, besides English. Circulation of Marathi dailies in 2005-06 was recorded at 1,05,37,174, which was next only to dailies in the state of Uttar Pradesh (1,34,92,557 copies) as per the data with the Registrar of Newspapers for India.
Advertisement revenue earned by Marathi press during 2005-06 was Rs. 5160 million, next only to English newspapers (Rs. 41360 million) and Hindi (Rs. 20890 million). The press in other Indian languages was way behind the Marathi print media in this respect also.
Among the top Marathi newspapers in Maharashtra is Maharashtra Times belonging to the multi-product multi-edition multi-centre media house of the Bennette Coleman Ltd with The Times of India as its flagship. It is published from the company's headquarters in Mumbai. Loksatta belongs to a similar media house, The Indian Express Group, and is published at its headquarters in Mumbai besides other centres Pune, Ahmednagar, Nagpur, Aurangabad, and Delhi.
Mumbai as publishing centre: Until a few years ago, Mumbai was Maharashtra's main centre for the Press in English and Marathi. Although Pune, Nagpur and other towns did have dailies, Mumbai's newspapers had a certain aura about them. The Mumbai press and to a lesser extent Pune's dailies enjoyed status among the elite readers, advertisers and newsmakers among politicians and officials in urban and rural Maharashtra. The newspapers outside these two centres were treated by the so-called elite national press, with apparent derision, as 'district' dailies and their staff as 'mofussil' (rural) journalists.
Lokmat's impact: The situation changed when Lokmat was launched by Jawaharlal Darda from Nagpur, located at the other end of the state, away from the capital city of Mumbai and its neighbour Pune. He gradually expanded the daily's base bringing out editions from district towns and his successors have taken it to 13 centres, including Pune and Mumbai. Lokmat is now the highest circulated Marathi newspaper (1,250,000) and has daily publications also in Hindi and English. It has become the first media house that has launched a TV Marathi news channel, as it tied up with CNN-IBN.
Scope and Limitation of this study: This paper is a modest attempt to document the status of Marathi Journalism during the last decade that witnessed introduction of new technologies affecting the print and electronic media all over the world. Media exploited these technologies to attract more audiences and in the process increase their businesses. In India, it appeared initially that media groups only in metros with vast resources embraced the technologies. The media houses like The Times of India group were ahead of publishers in non-metros. Publishers with publications in non-English Indian newspapers, however, soon joined the race to grab their share of audiences and revenue. This trend is not limited to a particular state (province) among the 35 states or a particular language among the 22 official languages spoken in different regions in the country.
This is an attempt to record the new trends in Indian newspapers with a case study of Marathi journalism in Maharashtra. This may be considered as representative of journalism in other Indian languages in other states although documentation of the trends in other regions on the similar lines is necessary.
This paper is not based on an empirical study. The author has been a journalist and media teacher working in Maharashtra and thus, an observer of the developments in Marathi press for over 27 years. He interacted with some leading lights in Marathi journalism to prepare for this essay. They include:
Mr Prakash Pohare (Owner Chief Editor, Deshonnati, Nagpur), Mr Abhay Kulkarni (Corporate Editor, Sakaal group, Pune), Mr Anil Takalkar (Editor, Pudhari's Pune edition), Mr Mukund Sangoram (Loksatta, Pune Edition), Mr Kishor Kulkarni (Editor, Lokmat's online edition) and Mr Dilip Urkude (General Manager, Pudhari group).
Based on the interaction with them, coupled with the author's observations, following points on the Marathi press emerge:
Not poor cousins of the English press
The Marathi newspapers are not any more poor cousins of the English press. The publishers have adopted modern business practices to increase the reach of their publications and their sphere of influence and advertisement revenue.
Lokmat started spreading its network from Nagpur city to other districts of Nagpur and Amaravati divisions, then to districts of Aurgangabad and Pune divisions as it moved to the state's capital, Mumbai. This growth and spread were unprecedented in the history of Marathi press. Sakaal followed up in the same manner, moving from Pune to Nagpur. Pudhari has moved from its headquarters in Kolhapur to Pune and Ahmednagar in central Maharashtra. Deshonnati, which started its editions from Akola has moved to Nagpur and other places in the region.
Each newspaper has its pocket of influence and a niche. Almost every newspaper is growing. Following newspapers are among the leaders of the market: Lokmat (1,300,000 copies per day). Sakaal (978,000), Loksatta (350,000), Maharashtra Times (275,000), Pudhari (550,000), Deshonnati (200,000).
There are other dailies in the state with sizeable circulation in their respective jurisdiction as follows: Mumbai Chaufer (209,000), Navakal (135,000), Punyanagari (500,000), Gavkari (209,000), Ratnagiri Times (99300), Saamana (74,000), Kesari (38,000) and Tarun Bharat (169,000).

The Sakaal story
Sakaal is among the first newspapers not only in Maharashtra but also in India, to have adopted modern management systems and processes. It has deployed the latest technology made available through partners who are world leaders in their areas of specialisation. Some examples:
Smart Flow: It has adopted Smartflow, which is customised online content management system. It simplifies the tasks in the editorial management and makes the relevant processes virtually paperless. The system seamlessly networks the editorial departments of the publications brought out from ten main edition locations in the state. Any member of the staff can have a look at any of the 450-odd pages of 80 sub-editions being made at any point of time during the day. The Smartflow facilitates quick, secure and hassle-free exchange of editorial content with the group network. Connecting to news agencies and translation of English copy into Marathi has become an easy offer.
What Smartflow does for editorial department, SAP does for other domains in the organisation. With this, functions of scheduling, circulation, and production are streamlined. There is a dedicated link between the Editorial and Scheduling departments which ensures faster pagination. Scheduling of advertising has become easy because page status for any date in the future can be viewed. Any centre can accept and schedule advertisements for any edition anywhere.
Six Sigma has been an important part of the system in Sakaal. It is a management philosophy, which focuses on eliminating defects and problems, through practices that emphasize understanding, measuring, and improving processes.
The Sakaal group has joined the select band of world newspapers that make conscious efforts to decide on the contents and page design based on the outcome of readership surveys. Its important decisions include the change in the layout of its flagship daily after a detailed three-year exercise under the leadership of world-renowned design consultant Dr Mario Garcia.
Planning strategies in other dailies
Although all the Marathi newspapers have not yet adopted all the measures taken by Sakaal, those on the growth path acknowledge that increase in their business is due to the decisions taken on the basis of surveys, careful planning and integration of the operations of the editorial, advertising and circulation departments.
The leaders among the Marathi publishers take into consideration the outcome of readership surveys conducted independently across the country for evolving business strategies. Such surveys have offered rich data on demographic and topographic profile, and psychographic segmentation of the regions of the state. The publishers study the findings about consumption of the contents of newspapers vis-à-vis television channels and radio stations, purchasing power of consumers. Based on the findings of these studies, the publishers decide on the centres for their new editions, new publications or new supplements/pullouts/magazines.
New publications: Thus the state has witnessed emergence of pullouts for a city, and even suburbs of the cities. The publishers bring out weekly supplements for children who are potential buyers in the future and middle class/ upper middle class women because a growing number of them are becoming decision makers in the families. On the basis of the findings of the surveys, supplements on education and career guidance, real estate, health, and investment, art, culture, and entertainment are brought out. Special pages devoted to needs of secondary and higher secondary students appear as weekly columns around the year.
Some newspapers have a separate division for Event Management to tap revenue from builders, banks, hospitality industry, producers of consumer goods or life style, health, and hygiene products. Agrowon, claimed to be the first agriculture daily of the world, was launched by Sakaal after a survey established that there was a large number of farmers who would buy such a newspaper.
Newspapers have organised forums for women and competitions for school children. Sakaal has joined the global movement, Newspapers in Education, operational in 30 countries.
Convergence of media: Marathi publishers have joined the bigwigs in the country's newspaper industry to exploit the convergence of media. Lokmat became the first media house in Maharashtra to tie up with IBN-CNN for a TV channel exclusively for Marathi newscasts. Kesari has its own local cable television news channel in Pune. Pudhari now owns a FM radio station in Kolhapur for exclusive Marathi infotainment broadcasts for the city and district. Sakaal's television channel is expected to be launched in the year 2008.
Presence on the Net: On an average about ten per cent newspapers in USA and other countries in the developed world have Internet editions. This average is maintained in case of Marathi journalism also as 13 of the 130 dailies in Maharashtra, have their web editions. They are Dainik Aikya, Deshdoot, Deshonnati, Kesari, Lokmat, Loksatta, Maharashtra Times, Pudhari, Sakaal, Saamana, Belgaun Tarun Bharat, Tarun Bharat of Nagpur and Agrowon.
Tapping rural markets: India, like China, is a fast growing economy that has been attracting investors from abroad. India has a growing middle class population in cities and a huge untapped market potential in villages spread across the country. Producers of consumer durables, and now mobile phones, have begun aggressive marketing in such areas. Newspapers have also reaching these markets to serve the readers and earn ad revenues from these advertisers. Rural Maharashtra, in particular, has a wide base of progressive and rich farmers with purchasing power and willingness to spend. Thomson Reuters service to provide SMS service for agriculture information proved this point when over 10,000 cellphone user farmers subscribed to the Reuters Market Light service within just three months after the launch in October 2007.
Salient features of the current status
· No established Marathi newspaper has been closed down for lack of readers and advertisement revenue during the recent years.
· There have been no job cuts in Marathi media industry, on account of revenue losses, as have been reported in the developed countries from time to time.
· On the contrary, print and electronic media houses have been scouting for trained manpower at junior and senior levels.
· Schools of journalism, public-funded or in the private sector, have been growing in number during the first decade of this century. These schools find it difficult to meet the growing demands of the industry to provide fresh graduates for placements.
· Media houses compete with each other to lure skilled and experienced personnel. Journalists, as also management executives, are being offered higher wages that could not have been imagined some five years ago. Journalists and their organisations do not talk of salaries prescribed by the government-appointed wage boards because they earn more than what these boards had prescribed years ago. The publishers do not appoint journalists as employees any more, but hire them on contract for a specified period.
· Publishers of some English newspapers have for the first time in the history came down to the extent that they are ready to hire Marathi reporters who have had no experience in writing in English. If they are good as reporters, they can write in Marathi and sub-editors will translate the copy in English.
· The media houses have fierce competition among them. Each plans marketing strategies that may include discounts for annual subscription, gifts and lucky draw with prizes ranging from, say a television set to a car. Price war is common at the time of launch of an edition at a new centre or re-launch of the edition with a new look and format.
· There is at least one instance when a publisher countered the price war effectively with aggressive advertising campaign. The publisher, of Deshonnati, in fact doubled its price. His campaign sought to impress the readers that his daily provide better objective news and analysis and that it dealt with the issues dear to them. His paper's circulation increased then, and even when he increased its price further some time later after he introduced more supplements.
Contents and layout
· The newspapers have changed their ways to write verbose news stories and features after surveys reported that readers find long stories boring. Now most news stories are around 300 words each and articles/opinion pieces limited mostly to 600 words, but not, in any case, more than 1000 words as was the case in the past. If news stories are more than 300 words, they are split into two. The secondary among the two is carried on a different page.
· Special attention is paid to page layout. Use of white space is liberal. Photographs are cropped to make the contents appear dynamic and not static.
· Front-page and several other pages of a newspaper are printed in colour as a tool to woo the buyers at the stalls.
· Participation of readers in the contents is increasing thanks to citizen journalism, opinion polls through Internet editions, feedback through e-mail and SMS, chat rooms, blogs and the time-trusted landline telephones. One daily used to invite urban readers to SMS names of their native villages so that reporters would write about the scene there.
· Most newspapers have provided their field staff (reporters and marketing/sales executives) with mobile telephones. Journalists even in the districts are seen using camera-mobile phones to take snaps and mail the photos to editorial desk in the city.
· Journalists in the field and the editorial desk are becoming net savvy as they use Internet for references and background information.
· The publishers have appointed stringers at tehsil places. All the tehsils in Maharashtra now boast of being covered by the stringers. Many of them string for more than one newspapers. It is not uncommon that newspaper's circulation and ad agents work also as stringers at tehsil and district towns.
· Many newspapers used to look like 'fish' markets some two decades ago as reporters would flock only late in the evening to file stories even if the events had taken place early in the day. With the computer-aided systems in place, and better time-management drills, this situation has changed for better.
· The newspapers use PageMaker, QuarkXpress or InDesign to prepare pages if they do not have their own software. In most cases, centres are linked to production headquarters where pages are prepared. The links help reduce loss of time in preparing the final pages. Outstation correspondent or local reporters are trained to prepare the pages and mail them to the HQ. This is intended to reduce workload of the sub-editors.
· Proof-readers are not appointed any more, as the sub-editors are expected to proof-read the text.
· A newspaper in the past used to be known by the name of its editor. The tradition is fast disappearing in English and Marathi newspapers. In most cases, the dailies are known by the name of the owner-editors or by the publishing companies. One important reason for this is that an employee editor has become only one of the several key-executives of the publishing company. Editor's job is more of a coordinator of the activities of the desk and newsroom, and as a link between management, circulation, and advertising departments.
Critics' Views
· Critics argue that all the newspapers look alike because of similar layout, liberal use of photographs and printing on newsprint that also appears to be of similar quality and look.
· The newspapers ape the TV news channels in terms of presentation of news, photographs, and graphics. These channels seem to set the agenda, with their breaking stories and live coverage, for the next day's newspapers.
· The newspapers have followed the TV channels in offering infotainment rather than debates on serious issues facing the region. Development stories, which were rare earlier, are rarer now, as the newspapers appear to give more thrust to soft stories, lifestyle, glamour, and infotainment besides sensational crime stories.
· There are fewer articles discussing serious issues on implication of the contemporary politics. Issues affecting the working class, women, children and tribals are treated very casually.
· A lot of space is utilised for the features and photographs of activities of the event management division.
· Insignificant issues are played up to fill in the space in city/suburban supplements.
· Decentralisation of news into pullouts for the concerned geographic areas has deprived readers elsewhere in the state of even important coverage.
· There is no effective quality control over language used by the reporters particularly because they are expected to prepare the pages as well. Errors of correct usage of grammar and spellings are commonplace as effective software for spellchecker in Marathi language is not yet available. Absence of proof-readers who used to act as the last gatekeeper has added to the problem further.
The case study explains why newspapers in regional languages in India have shown upward trend in circulation and revenue. The publishers have been able to compete with the television news channels and the English newspapers of the metros. Systematic surveys of the markets have helped them take decision about launch of new editions and introduce new publications and supplements to win over different segments of readers such as children, youth, and women. The publishers have embraced new technologies of computers, Internet and have gradually been exploiting the advantage of the convergence of media.
The case study has limitation in that it deals with only Marathi language press. It can be representative of the press in other Indian languages. However, it is recommended that the language press in other states be studied on the basis of qualitative and quantitative research.

About the Author:
Dr Kiran Thakur
Professor and Head (retired)
Department of Communication and Journalism
University of Pune (July 01, 2001 to March 30, 2007)

o Joined Marathi newspaper Sakaal as sub-editor–cum-reporter in 1969 while studying at this department
o Worked with United News of India (1971 to 1987), The Indian Post (1987 to 1990), The Observer of Business and Politics (1990 to 2000)
o Was visiting faculty for over two decades after which joined academics full time in 2001
o Worked as Member of Academic Council and Senate, University of Pune, and Member of Research and Review Committee, Chairman of the University’s Board of Studies, Communication and Journalism
o Member, Research and Review Committee, Communication and Journalism, North Maharashtra University, Jalgaon, Maharashtra
o Member, School Board, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi
o Founding Member, Asia Media Foundation
o Member, Steering Committee of University of Pune FM Radio station, Vidyavani (2004-07)
o Carried out study for PhD on Online Journalism in India in its initial phase: 1995-98
o Carried out a UGC-funded Major Research Project on ‘Profile of Readership of Internet editions of Indian Newspapers’
o Authored biography: Dr N B Parulekar: A Pioneer in Modern Journalism in Indian Languages. Published on March 30, 2007.
o Was Executive Editor of 'Press in India: on the threshold of 21st Century', the volume brought out by Dr Nanasaheb Parulekar Centenary Commemorative Volume, Sakaal Papers Trust
o Edited four English non-fiction books during 2007-08
o Authored book on Online Journalism in India (under print) and Handbook of Press in Pune
o Was Content consultant for a dozen web-sites in English and Marathi
o Was consulting editor of and (2000)
o Was twice President of Pune Union of Working Journalists and founder Trustee Secretary of Pune Patrakar Pratishthan (Pune Journalist Foundation) that constructed a five-storied complex for journalists with an investment of Rs. 90 lakhs in 1998
o Presented papers at conferences in Moscow and Hyderabad on Online Journalism in India

Friday, 1 May 2009

Sakaal Times Editor quits

Mr Dhananjay S Sardeshpande, the Editor of Sakaal Times, has left the Pune daily with immediate effect. He has not given details beyond e-mailing the following message to friends and well-wishers:

Dears all,
This is to inform you that I cease to be employed with Sakaal Times or Maharashtra Herald with effect from 01 May, 2009.
As such, please refrain from sending me any communication relating to the functioning of the two newspapers, especially at
My Gmail account will, however, continue to function.
Best wishes,
Dhananjay S. Sardeshpande,

His gmail, incidentally, is