The brand managers and consultants in the English media will harangue you that scams and scandals don’t pay. That bad news is, well, bad news. That populating your pages with happy, smiling faces with fell-good stories of success, wealth and achievement is the way to greet readers first thing in the morning.
Maybe, but there’s also another way.
The November 2010 issue of Civil Society, the magazine launched by ex-Times of India man Umesh Anand, reports on an unusual war between Hindi dailies in mineral-rich Jharkhand and an unusual winner—Prabhat Khabar—”proving that content and credibility are good business“:
“The three national Hindi dailies—Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar and Hindustan—are feared because they have giant footprints and are run by aggressive managers and owners. They are networked with governments and politicians and pump vast sums into marketing. No effort is spared to push up numbers and bring in advertising.
“Prabhat Khabar is just the opposite. It has a regional identity and has grown with its own resources: which means that finance has come in a trickle. It owners are the Jhawars of Kolkata, who have till recently treated the newspaper with the same affection bestowed on an attractive bauble stored in the family locker: something nice to own.
“Prabhat Khabar is editorially led with chief editor Harivansh (in picture, left) enjoying more freedom than others in his position do. The paper highlights problems of development and vigorously exposes corruption. It is positioned as a people’s daily and routinely needles governments.
“From Lalu Prasad Yadav‘s fodder scam to Madhu Koda‘s mining scandals, Prabhat Khabar has a long list of bold stories to its name. It has been a thorn in the thick hide of every chief minister.
“In times when the media is expected to provide celebratory editorial environments and keep advertisers happy, Prabhat Khabar has reported on hunger. It has gone in search of stories of poverty and deprivation. It has made it its business to show how governance has collapsed.
“Each year to mark the paper’s anniversary, Prabhat Khabar does a special issue on corruption. It lists projects big and small and says how much has been paid in illegal commissions.
“It is this model which was being put to test when the bigger, more commercially oriented Hindi dailies decided to enter the Jharkhand market. The fact that Prabhat Khabar has come out on top seems like proof that papers like it can succeed and that people want papers that speak for them.”
Image and photograph: courtesy Prabhat Khabar
Read the full story: Ranchi’s media war
View: Prabhat Khabar e-paper