Poor copywriting or advertising-news nexus?By Kishore Budha • Dec 18th, 2008 • Category: Commercialisation, Media Industry, Media Practice, Must Read
Hindustan Times carried a front page article headlined “One size fits all teaching harms children, says survey” (Wadhwa Kiran, Del, Dec 16, 2008). The report begins with an illustration of what is wrong with current education and throws some educational research for equal measure and finally nails it :
MANY TEACHERS like using the classic ‘Old MacDonald’ song to teach todd1ers about farm animals. But that may not be the best approach for children who are not particularly musical. A year-long survey carried out across 600 playschools and involving 200 teachers and 2,000 parents shows that nurseries in India are not addressing the highly individualistic learning capacities of each child. The fact is that some children prefer learning through tactile activities, while others may prefer reading or activities that use movement. Since a child’s brain develops extremely rapidly during the first six years of life, not addressing these differences can have serious repercussions.
Journalism reporting of science, which in this instance is the survey and educational research, is premised on objectivity. Both science and journalism are built on the discourse of objectivity. Thus, it serves journalists very well if what they are reporting comes from researchers, technologists as the former can enhance their own objectivity claims. As the next line of the report reveals, the survey has been conducted by Kidzee, a company running a chain of playschools across India. Zee Learn, the education division of entertainment conglomerate Essel Group, runs Kidzee and has announced funding plans of Rs 350 cr (Rs 3.5 bn or $74.3 mn) to set up 300 schools across India (see PTI in references below).
It is worth noting If Hindustan Times wanted to be truly objective, it could have stated the same report thus:
A survey conducted by the Kidzee group of playschools claims nurseries in India are not addressing the “highly individualistic learning capacities of children”.
We see that the Hindustan Times copy had been dramatised and the journalist/newspapers address was indistinguishable from that of the source. The style and structure of the copy is only one of the issues here. The key omissions of the report are:
- views of business interests being represented as scientific and credible
- lack of questioning of the report’s methodology
- lack of counter arguments or non-commercial sources
The second issue is the fact that advertising in the print media is the only category that has not witnessed a decline (see post here). Pick up any newspaper and you will note the scores of adverts for educational institutions. As the illustration from Hindustan Times on the left shows, educational institutions take out large advertisements. I do not claim this report is necessarily the result of influence by advertisers. Here is perhaps an instance of newsreporting, copywriting and editing practices that require discipline and rigour. One can never do away with bias. It is the very basis of journalism. However, journalists, and more importantly newspaper brand managers, should be aware that content/news is their brand and readers are not idiots. Sooner or later they will figure it out, or read this blog post.
PTI (2008) “Zee Learn to invest Rs 350 cr to open schools” Business Standard, Dec 18, online here
Wadhwa, Kiran (2008) “One size fits all teaching harms children, says survey” Hindustan Times Delhi, Dec 16, Page 1 and Page 17
Kishore Budha is one of the co-founders of Subaltern Media and the founder-editor of the peer-reviewed Open Access journal Wide Screen. He holds a PhD in media and communications studies from the University of Leeds, UK and has professional experience in print journalism, internet news, and public relations industries. His interests include Critical Theories of Media and Communication, Semiotics, Transnational Communication, Film industry & production, Film theory, Film and history, Communications Policy, Visual Culture, Communication Technologies, Web media and Communication
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