That the Indian media is more interested in pandering to the whims of sponsors and making money rather than doing responsible news coverage has been well established, and enough bloggers have ranted about it. That the Times of India (TOI) is a leading light in this phenomenon is also quite well accepted.
But what is really annoying is their impression of readers being too stupid to figure out the real news from the b*llsh*t. A prime example of this is the frequent surveys they carry out. The front pages have garish headlines crying out what the city’s youth think of pre-marital sex or how many teenagers have tried drugs or what proportion of parents think it is fine to cane their children.
In trying to pass these surveys off as the general reflection of the people, the media does a great dis-service to the country. Which, by the way, consists of a cross-section ranging from the homeless and hungry, through those people struggling to make ends meet, and right up to those spending their free time and surplus money at discos and malls.
If only one reads these survey reports carefully, one comes to know exactly what a huge con they are. Witness this one, carried out by the TOI as part of some campaign to make Delhi world-class in 10 years. They talked to people ranging in age from 15 to 55 and came up with the conclusion that compared to other major Indian cities, Delhi has made the best progress in the past half decade:
Three-fourths of the respondents believed that Delhi has the best roads in the country and almost a similar proportion had the same to say about Delhi airport…. [I]n terms of medical facilities, the city is way ahead of its rivals with 86 per cent of the respondents saying so.
And so on, with a colourful graph to support their findings that 89 per cent respondents believe the city has made good progress. However, it so happens that only Delhi residents were questioned in this regard! How is a local Delhiite supposed to come up with a fair and informed analysis of another city?
But the last straw is the survey sample. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry upon realizing that these “89 per cent” Delhiites who believe their city has made “good progress” are represented among 301 respondents!
According to the last census (2001), the population of Delhi was 13,782,976. Which makes 301 people about 0.02 per cent of the population. There was no mention of any sampling method to make sure the selection of respondents was representative of a cross-section.
(And not to mention the fact that anyone who has lived in Delhi for the past five years with their eyes and ears open knows very well that progress is the last thing the city is making!)
So was this survey an accurate representation of the state of nation’s capital or an eyewash to make TOI’s own campaign look good?