It’s all about the coverage

News is covered differently by different newspapers. The tone, inferences and conclusion of a particular news report has a significant impact on the opinions we make about a particular issue. Take for example the coverage of joint exercises planned by the Indian and US air forces — Cope India 2005. The issue was about protests by leftist parties against the proposed military exercise. Let us see how two media houses, TOI and BBC, reported this issue.

An excerpt from Times of India (read: Slimes of India):

Has Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s anxious call to Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee finally done the trick, forcing the CPM to go slow on its avowed threat to derail the Indo-US joint air exercise? Indications are it has.

Eighty-one US Air Force personnel were on Saturday taken to the Kalaikunda air force station for the drill slated to begin on November 7, sources at Kolkata airport said.

There was little trace of the protests that had on Friday rattled both India and the US, embarrassing the UPA government at the centre, of which the CPM is an ally, no end.

The same issue was covered by the BBC:

Hundreds of left-wing activists have protested against a US-India air exercise in India’s West Bengal state.

Protesters converged on three airports and threatened to mobilise “millions” against the 12-day exercise – the longest between the two air forces.

The leftists oppose increased US-India military co-operation, saying it undermines India’s independence.

Delhi on Friday pledged the exercises would start as planned on 7 November and said security would be stepped up.

I wouldn’t say these news reports were conflicting, as both touched the main issue of protests against Cope India 2005. However, according to TOI the protests were not that much of a success, where as BBC, with the usage of the term “hundreds”, claims otherwise. These discrepancies are pointers to which way these media houses lean, or whether they have any agenda associated with their news reporting. Earlier, I had blogged about an article analyzing BBC’s way of covering news, and how it ends up being as dorkish as the Indian news media.

Nevertheless, these media houses still continue to be our main sources for news. Given the fact that their depiction of news influence public opinion in a large way, we just have to make sure that we form our own independent judgment instead of simply following the opinions of these media houses.