Then and Now: How TOI covered the Tata change

There is a change at the top of Bombay House, the headquarters of the Tatas, and the manner in which it is covered by Bombay’s biggest media house, The Times of India, is illustrative of how much journalism has changed, and how much the way journalists look at business news has changed, in the last 20 years.

On top is the ToI news item announcing the appointment of Ratan N. Tata as the chairman, 20 Octobers ago, succeeding J.R.D. Tata. Below is today’s ToI front page, announcing the appointment of Ratan Tata’s successor, Cyrus P. Mistry.

# Then, the news of the appointment was not the lead story, it was probably second lead on columns 6,7 and 8, continued on “turn page”. Now, the news of the appointment earns lead story status. Business news is no longer anathema.

# Then, when print was king and television was not commonplace, the news of the appointment was conveyed as is in the headline. Now, with television and internet having broken the news 12 hours earlier, the lead headline is a smart pun.

# Then, the front-page picture was larger than the two tiny mugshots now. Interestingly, the 1981 picture had both the outgoing chairman and incoming chairman in one frame. Not so in the tightly controlled media atmosphere of 2011.

# Then, bylines were mostly anonymous. “By Our City Editor” was shorthand for our business editor, probably the veteran D.G. Gupte. On today’s front page, there are at least three bylines: Reeba Zacharaiah, Boby Kurien, Namrata Singh.

# Then, it was just news of the change. Now, there is plenty of backgrounding (“Why Cyrus? How he swung the vote”, “The Mistry connection”) plus a colour piece on his hobbies (“Avid golfer & foodie, avoids cocktail circuit”). Bollywood also sneaks into today’s front page with the slug “Being Cyrus”.

# Then, it was all black white, now there is a profusion of colour, although much of the colour now appears in the typography in the info-box in the absence of a good picture. Then it was just one story, now it is four stories, an infobox, two quotes and five pointers.

The Times of India‘s blanket coverage is also interesting because the paper was blacklisted twice during the outgoing chairman Ratan Tata. Once in protest at ToI’s coverage of the Tata Finance scandal, and then against the backdrop of the Niira Radia tapes, which proved to be a public relations disaster for the group.

Images: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: Why Ratan Tata hired Niira Radia

Have the Tatas blacklisted Times of India again?

Everybody loves a nice mutual admiration club

Four lessons in journalism from Tata’s chief PRO


  1. Yes, the way buisness news is covered has changed. My editor, Mr G Kasturi had told me in mid-1980s that if one was writing, say, about Bajaj and his scooters, it has to be about the one ‘made in Pune’. Using a brand name amounted to advertising.

    Now, newspapers, especially some including the ToI have treaties to promote brands in which the group has a stake acquired in lieu of advertising and careful reporting.

    Because, newspapers have become businesses.

    How things have changed, indeed.

  2. TOI the flagship of the group has had a checkered life and known as the old lady of Boribunder generally has been playing tunes of the time. Could they have really made a Faux pas as recently as the one involving a libel suit damages running into a crore of rupees?
    Besides fair comment I suppose facts are also sacred whether it be the Tatas or equally renown groups or personalities in the country are involved while reporting news or news makers of the day.

  3. Very interesting post! I really appreciate the list of reasons, though I think one important aspect that was ignored is the fact that TATA is now a much bigger player in the game.

  4. @Peoplecentric,

    – Journalism during your times was bullshit. It was boring, dull, arrogant and rubbish. Some stupid Editors thought that they were the masters of everything.

    Today’s journalism is liberal, free and interactive.

    1. A JOURNALIST: You missed the point; it was not praise but comparison of then and now.

  5. Vinita

    Didn’t Ratan Tata take over from JRD in 1991 and not in 1981 as TOI has reported and you have reproduced?

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