On Monday, I was pleasantly surprised by a very informative and in-depth story in Mumbai’s newest English mainline, The Hindu. What surprised me wasn’t that it was informative or in-depth, of course,  but how deep a dive it was. How detailed. I can’t recall the last time an English mainline took up an important, interesting topic and examined it in such great detail as to give it one whole broadsheet page — all eight columns of it – which, incidentally, was the turn page where the story moved from second lead on the front page. And The Hindu Mumbai had done just that.

The-Hindu-Mumbai_Dec-8-Pg-2-mediabriefDOTcomThe-Hindu-Mumbai_Dec-8-Pg-1-mediabriefDOTcomIt was a story by Sharad Vyas, based on an IT Department report which, The Hindu said, “blows the lid off dodgy dealings”. Movies and everything about them are a national passion, so while on relevance it was a truly intriguing story, what made it stand out was that I’m guessing  Resident Editor Sachin Kalbag decided to give it the kind of play – read space — it deserved. After all, it was based on an authoritative report, from the IT Department, no less, on tax evasion and how exactly Producers, Distributors, Exhibitors and Artists “do it”. It took the well documented report, the first of its kind by the IT department on the Film Industry, and gave it a great spread. The entire second page. The kind of deep dive a Nieman Journalism Lab would like to share with serious practitioners and students of journalism.

Every friend I spoke to in the film industry was talking about the “Hindu’ ki story”. Full credit to Sharad Vyas’s excellent coverage of the report, of course, but a truly excellent decision to give it the spread we’ve seen it deserved.

The Hindu —  ever respected for the quality, balance, relevance and integrity of its reportage and writing which are reflected in its clean, simple, elegant layouts — is without doubt a wonderful addition to the national mainlines in Mumbai

Read the indepth coverage here: How Bollywood turns black money into white And here:  Now showing at your nearest screen: how Bollywood evades tax

The Hindu —  ever respected for the quality, balance, relevance and integrity of its reportage and writing which are reflected in its clean, simple, elegant layouts — is without doubt a wonderful addition to the national mainlines in Mumbai.

Sachin-Kalbag-RE-The-Hindu

Sachin Kalbag

What complements these critical non-negotiables soundly is its editorial team, led by Sachin Kalbag — a young veteran I respect, and whose writings and social engagements and social media exchanges (Twitter:@SachinKalbag) reveal a progressive, knowledge-driven and digitally evolved and active mind.One remembers the good job he did with Mid-day and Mail Today before that.

I may be wrong but I don’t think Sharad Vyas might have received the newsprint space – indeed, real estate – for his extremely well written piece somewhere else. The width and depth of Vyas’ report and its revelations deserved nothing less. And happily, signs are, Sachin and his team believe in high-impact, long format stories. Even Google, which, a couple or so years ago, would frown upon long pieces online and absolutely disliked word lengths above 600, has now begun to give more importance and higher search rankings to longer, content-rich writing.

I’m looking forward to more such stories from The Hindu in Mumbai that are in-depth, well researched, and which students and area experts too would like to cut and keep as good deep dive reference points.

Planned journalism

I remember first being exposed to the idea in great detail during an initial conversation with a titan of Hindi journalism, one of India’s most respected and successful Editor-managers, Sanjay Gupta of the Jagran group, when I worked with him and his brother Sailesh to launch their truly innovative, world- and India-first compact bilingual publication, i-next as Group Editor.

It was an innovative product, of course, and Sanjay Gupta’s belief that well planned and researched and therefore longer and indepth stories or news features, would be a great way to deliver great relevance and value, and achieve differentiation. Civic, societal, business and financial issues of every kind that impacted the lives of its readers were explored, researched, examined and written about in detail in a way that they remained relevant to and useful for inext readers, who were younger, more aspirationally charged and much more bilingual than those of other publications in the markets.

The concept of ‘planned journalism’ – in a very positive and socially responsible way – is something that every publication across mediums will have to work towards. I’m glad Sachin is doing it so well in Mumbai. More strength to him.

If a fortnight back, someone had asked, well, someone else, if there was room for another mainline English daily in Mumbai, that someone else would likely have disagreed and proffered the ‘cluttered market’ cliché. But today, 12 days after The Hindu’s Mumbai edition first appeared, that someone else would likely have answered the same question with an emphatic ‘yes’.

Great content, well presented, can always cut the clutter.

Sachin’s team is doing just that.

Of course, what hurts is the generally vacant solus spot on the front page. But I’m praying it changes soon enough, though to expect it to change overnight is a tough ask in a tough ad market. Even on cover price, The Hindu Mumbai has obviously decided to take the tough approach by rejecting the usual entry-time ‘invitation price’ gimmick; it sells each 20-page issue at Rs 8. No invitation price here; just inviting content.

So in Mumbai too, The Hindu obviously believes in the pull of its content, and rightly too. Great content, well presented, is clutter-breaking.

Anywhere.

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Author: Pavan R Chawla

A mediaholic who mainlines on content, communication, business consultation and strategy, Pavan has been an editor of newspaper and trade (Media, Marketing & Advertising) publications. He is into percussion, remixing of music, watching movies and television, writing, reading and design.

About the author

Pavan R Chawla

A mediaholic who mainlines on content, communication, business consultation and strategy, Pavan has been an editor of newspaper and trade (Media, Marketing & Advertising) publications. He is into percussion, remixing of music, watching movies and television, writing, reading and design.

2 Comments

  • The story is extremely well researched, investigated and brave. The Hindu has done it’s reputation no harm and has truly made an impactful entry in Mumbai. Given the stance the paper has taken with this story, I wish they uncover similar truths behind paid editorials, rampant corruption practices in government organisations and other such issues of importance which are a threat to our democracy. Also what about people like you & me who actually pay taxes? Where does our money go? A pertinent question would be – what have we gained by paying taxes?

    • Absolutely, and very valid observations, Jay. Thanks for your comment.

      In terms of credit for the story, first, it goes to the reporter for getting his hands on the IT report – without doubt, a first documentation of the tax evasion tricks employed by various stakeholders in the Bollywood movies business. He got the report, and then the editor not only approved of it, but also gave it the importance it deserved. Of course, the other research and conversations the reporter did to explore the findings of the IT report through industry people was also what added a lot of value to the report. I wish some good TV News Channel would have a major ‘prime time’ discussion based on this story.

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