How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

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Location: India

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

'Tehelka'

Courtesy a friend, I read a few issues of 'Tehelka', the weekly 'people's paper', for the first time recently, and I got immediately interested. There is a ring of honesty to the paper, and content is given importance over empty style, both in the choice of report topics as well as the language used.

The paper is in the tabloid format. It carries one first-hand investigative report every issue (or almost every issue), besides other articles. Most of the reports, however, have an investigative flavour. It is not mere news reporting, but news analysis. The advertising is also minimal. In fact, the only advertisement I've seen in all issues I have read is a full-page one on the last page. That may seem heartening, but also raises the question of how long the paper can sustain itself on donations and other such sources of money. The printer's paradox says that a newspaper actually makes a loss on each new copy, since the cost of printing it is more than the price that can be charged for it. Hence, increased circulation means more loss - a paradox. The way most newspapers make profit is through ad revenues. That makes Tehelka's business model fragile, though it highlights the principled nature of the people who run it. But then again, I'm not aware of their complete business model, so I could easily be wrong.

My friend told me that when it started, all of the articles were fact-based news reports and analysis. Now they have started a lot of columns, some of which may be opinionated. And of course the paper is not perfect. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are not uncommon, the reporting is sometimes amateurish, and some of the reports (like one on Aishwarya Rai and one on Mumbai bar girls) are too shallow, biased and opinionated.

But again, as my friend said, if you collect Tehelka issues over a period of time and then go through your collection one day, you will get a great idea of some of the most important happenings in India. That reminded me of another great weekly that no longer appears, and that should have been collected - 'The Illustrated Weekly of India'.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Praveena. said...

Isn't that the weekly that Khushwanth Singh was the editor of, for a while? He is credited with increasing its circulation. He's supposed to written a column called "With malice towards one and all" I think. He also had a section of different ethnic communities in India. There was one on tam brams, with the Iyers and Iyengars and their love for 'Tayir sadam' too!

4:42 AM  
Blogger Tadatmya Vaishnav said...

That's correct. He also brought out a book by the same name ('malice' etc.). I think it was a collection of some of his 'best' columns, but I'm not sure about this. Pritish Nandy has also been an editor.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Salil said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:58 AM  
Blogger Salil said...

As a founding subscriber to Tehelka, I must point out that after the initial interest, I found that the content became extremely opinionated. Tehelka's hatred for the BJP can be understood, but after a series of anti-BJP articles (surprisingly no anti-RSS) and some pro-Commie articles, it is pretty obvious that Tehelka is not 'free and fair' as they claim to be.

1:59 AM  
Blogger Tadatmya Vaishnav said...

Salil,
You may be right. I need a greater sample of issues to make a conclusion. Maybe I'll visit the website when I get time. There was an article about RSS' declining appeal recently, but that seemed fact-based and contained views from both sides. And yes, one person who gets walloped in almost every issue is George Fernandes... his career and image sure took a nosedive after Tehelka started :)

3:18 AM  

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