In a bleak advertising scenario, Indian magazines have been pushed into running cheap and ugly advertisements, advertorials, and other intrusions dressed up as thinly disguised “innovations”, like a bit of editorial here for an ad elsewhere, to keep the ship afloat.
But The Economist, too?
The latest issue of the “newspaper” (as the magazine calls itself) has eight pages of a Tamil Nadu government ad heralding the achievements of two years of chief minister Jayalalitha‘s rule.
And, presto, there is a one-and-a-half page story on Tamil Nadu preceding it.
Headlined “A successful show begins to pall“, the Economist calls the state “one of India’s great success stories”, a “consistent economic performer” and “one of India’s most prosperous states”. An accompanying box titled “Lights, camera, election” dwells on why so many Tamil politicians are former film stars.
All very valid observations, no doubt, but all very old hat (the Economist was first published in September 1843).
Thankfully, the piece has enough caveats to blunt any accusations of doing what the adperson ordered.
It calls Jayalalitha a “Brahmin starlet turned autocrat” who has faced several corruption charges; it labels her co-star Cho Ramaswamy as one who “both seduced and murdered her on stage”; it talks of the endemic graft and Jayalalitha’s penchant for filing defamation cases against her critics.
Still, you are left wondering: would the Economist have suddenly looked at Tamil Nadu’s miracles if it weren’t for the ad?
Conversely, was The Economist correspondent doing a critical journalistic piece and the Tamil Nadu information and public relations directorate heard of it and decided to push in an ad (which was published in all newspapers on May 16)?