Both Kalita and Corey-Boulet note that coverage is often rushed, one-sided, and tends not to provide a lot of background on ongoing stories. That can make it hard for readers who may not have been following along. “A lot of articles aren’t heavy on context,” Corey-Boulet says. “The expectation is that you’ve been reading all along. Part of the reason they do that is that they’re trying to cover all their bases every day.”
Stories also tend to be shorter, Kalita says, another function of having so much competition. “There are lots of headlines and short nuggets of information. But you’re counting on your consumers seeing three papers a day.” Rarely will a front-page story, even in the Times of India, jump to another page. Indian audiences, Srivastava says, “like short articles, punchy headlines. They’re very into the breaking, happening news of the day.”
According to Arul Louis, a journalist who pays close attention to trends in Indian media, this also tends to mean less in-depth coverage of issues, like the environment, that don’t involve breaking news. “Not many [papers] will spend resources on covering the environment because it’s not competitive,” he says. “So that tends to get sidelined.”
In some ways, though, journalists say the constant competition is a good thing for the public. “It means people keep trying to scoop each other and dig deeper and look for different angles on stories,” says Louis. Oftentimes, Srivastava explains, smaller publications will do this by pursuing more in-depth investigative pieces—something that readers won’t be able to find elsewhere.
For the past ten years or so, especially, journalists have experienced little if any government censorship or interference. “India really values its free press traditions,” Corey-Boulet says. “That sort of thing wouldn’t fly. Indian journalists, they’re feisty.”
Unlike in the U.S., though, most publications are openly partisan. But that, Srivastava says, can actually be a good thing for the reader. “You know when you read an Indian paper where they stand,” Srivastava remarks. “They wear their bias on their sleeve. Once you’re used to it [you] just know what a newspaper’s biases are.”
For American journalists, openly biased journalism, or the idea of a paper that has clear connections to a particular political party, might be unsettling at first. But for those with an open mind and a desire to work in a country where both media and the economy are experiencing incredible periods of transition, a stint in India might be the way to go.
Srivastava, who graduated from Washington and Lee University in Virginia in 2004, is now trying to help some of his newly unemployed American colleagues to find jobs in his native country. Picking up and moving halfway around the world is not for everyone, he acknowledges, but he recommends it to young, hardworking journalists looking for an adventure and a challenge.
“It’s a different form of journalism. It’s very exciting and very vibrant,” he says. “If you don’t have a lot of college loans—because you won’t make a lot here—and you think that you can spend a year really roughing it, it’s fantastic. India’s just an exciting place to be. There’s this raw energy about the country that’s exciting to capture.”