Want news of your village? Turn to vernacular newspapers
October 5, 2017

While big newspapers are flush with pages and supplements, small vernacular papers have a USP of their own – they cover events and developments in rural and semi-urban areas much more effectively, says Bharat Dogra

Have you left the confines of your native village or town and moved to a bustling city? Do you crave for news of ‘home’ and its environs? If you belong to the Hindi belt, then small Hindi newspapers are your best bet. The same goes for other regions of the country too – the smaller vernacular newspapers cover life in the rural and semi-urban areas much more effectively than the big ones. And they cost less too.

The total number of pages in some of the Hindi newspapers may be much lower than in English newspapers, particularly if your count includes the supplements; yet rural and small towns are better represented.

Let us take a single day – May 3 this year – and analyse the spectrum of coverage in a range of Delhi editions of various newspapers. The Rajasthan Patrika carried an important article on the leakage of chlorine from a water purifying plant near Jaipur, raising serious safety concerns about such facilities. The details of the accident and its impact on people were described and its wider implications were mentioned.

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The newspaper also had a story about large-scale bungling in the public distribution system, despite Aadhaar links being provided. Then there was a heartwarming story from Sultanpur, Rajasthan, about a youth coming forward to stop the marriage of his two under-age sisters, notwithstanding stiff opposition from elders in the family.

There was a news item about increasing the power of panchayats in villages located close to cities. There was a report about decay and neglect of water tanks in and near Varanasi, and another on the sanitation campaign in the area. In addition, there were several reports about atrocities against women and girls.

The Bhaskar on the day published two important reports about mining-related accidents. One of these highlighted the concerns of villagers near Dostpur, Rajasthan, that some workers may still be trapped under mounds of rubble. This newspaper also published a detailed report on how the victims of a sinking boat in Gujarat struggled till the very end to save themselves. None of these news items found mention in the big English newspapers.

Various vernacular newspapers have their own strengths. While Delhi’s top dailies like Navbharat Times, Hindustan, Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran are better in terms of the coverage of places close to Delhi and the National Capital Region, Rajasthan Patrika and Bhaskar are placed better in terms of covering a wider part of the Hindi-speaking region. Their coverage of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh is particularly good.

Jansatta and Deshbandhu fulfill another niche requirement as the papers sometime carry news not published elsewhere. In its early years, Jansatta’s theme pages had room for detailed reports from rural areas, but this has in fact reduced now. Deshbandhu still has the space for detailed reports in its theme pages.

At present, Rajasthan Patrika appears to be taking the lead in the coverage of rural and small-town news from the Hindi-speaking region. This is because of better selection of news as well as better presentation. Its headlines are longer than normal, and geared to catch readers’ attention.

Amar Ujala has a good network of reporters and does some very useful reporting from small towns. These assets can be used to publish a Delhi edition which has carefully selected news from its other editions as well. Indeed, both Amar Ujala and Hindustan had used their wide network of reporters to bring out special pages on the impact of demonetisation, particularly in villages and small towns some time ago.

Some Hindi newspapers may not be very visible in Delhi but they are still sought after for their coverage of particular areas. For example, Dainik Tribune is known particularly for its good coverage of Haryana and, to a lesser extent, of Himachal Pradesh.

July – September 2017