Can Telangana Today ‘make a difference’?

telagnana-todayBy Ramesh Kandula

Can Telangana Today, the latest media venture from the KCR stable, be the ‘true’ voice of Telangana and ‘make a ‘difference’ in the overcrowded Hyderabad market?

A couple of weeks is not much of a time for a newspaper, but the jury seems to be in already. The look and feel of the paper is good, and the layout is appealing. But as every one suspected Telangana Today lacks depth and character. Despite an experienced team with credentials at the helm, the content of the paper is less than inspiring.

The reason, of course, is not difficult to fathom, given the nature and purpose of its ownership. The paper is the second publication from Telangana Publications, the company in which Telangana Chief Minister KCR has an investment of a little over Rs 4 crore (as disclosed in a 2014 affidavit). It is owned de facto by KCR and his family, and the association was certainly not ‘distant’ as some half-informed media reports said.

Having effectively subdued language newspapers in the region, KCR probably wanted to discipline the half-a-dozen English newspapers published from Hyderabad. They have not been as amenable to the ruling party’s diktats as the Telugu newspapers are. Having tasted success with T News Channel and Namasthe Telangana newspaper, KCR seems to have decided to teach the English press a lesson or two.

But that is going to be a tall order, given the changed circumstances. The fervor of the past is long gone. The formation of the state has changed the political and social equations. KCR and his party are now the establishment. Biased reporting and writing are lapped up in vernacular journalism, not so in the English press given the nature of its readership. It is for these reasons that the paper did not exactly set the Musi on fire, despite the ubiquitous hoardings put up across its polluted shores in the city. 

The earliter foray Namasthe Telangana had a better opening. The paper was launched during the height of the Telagnana agitation, and provided an aggressive coverage for the movement and against the perceived Andhra aggrandizement. The daily became a platform for venting out the prevailing dominant sentiment against Andhra politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats as well as Telugu film industry.

Impartiality was never its strong point, but Namasthe Telangana did emerge as a foil to the Andhra-owned newspapers.

Clearly, Telangana Today cannot have the same stuff. Nor can it be critical of the ruling party, or its leaders. The paper’s primary job would to be portray the TRS Government in good light, which in itself militates against the interests of the readers. So the ‘true voice’ claim is not an achievable objective. The paper cannot either claim to be the first Telangana-owned English newspaper, as The Hans India, still struggling to make a mark, already took that title.

If the idea is to appeal to the Telangana sentiments among the educated Telanganites, that may not really work as the pie is too small for English readership in Telangana. Cracking Hyderabad market is tough enough, while towns like Warangal and Karimnagar can barely sustain an English newspaper. As of now, it is indeed difficult for Telangana Today to ‘make a difference’ in these challenging circumstances. 

But to be fair to KCR, reportedly neither he nor his son KTR have interfered in the editorial matters of the paper. KCR apparently called up Telangana Today editor K Srinivas Reddy and expressed his happiness at the way the paper turned out. Even KTR is said to have told the Editorial Board that the paper should strive for a better image than its sister publication Namasthe Telangana.

As of now, the paper’s editorial tone is restrained to the point of being a little dry. How long will it be able to sustain the interest of the readers without some big bang reportage remains a moot question.