If The Economist looks at Tamil Nadu, it’s news?


In a bleak advertising scenario, Indian magazines have been pushed into running cheap and ugly advertisements, advertorials, and other intrusions dressed up as thinly disguised “innovations”, like a bit of editorial here for an ad elsewhere, to keep the ship afloat.

But The Economist, too?

The latest issue of the “newspaper” (as the magazine calls itself) has eight pages of a Tamil Nadu government ad heralding the achievements of two years of chief minister Jayalalitha‘s rule.

And, presto, there is a one-and-a-half page story on Tamil Nadu preceding it.

Headlined “A successful show begins to pall“, the Economist calls the state “one of India’s great success stories”, a “consistent economic performer” and “one of India’s most prosperous states”. An accompanying box titled “Lights, camera, election” dwells on why so many Tamil politicians are former film stars.

All very valid observations, no doubt, but all very old hat (the Economist was first published in September 1843).

Thankfully, the piece has enough caveats to blunt any accusations of doing what the adperson ordered.

It calls Jayalalitha a “Brahmin starlet turned autocrat” who has faced several corruption charges; it labels her co-star Cho Ramaswamy as one who “both seduced and murdered her on stage”; it talks of the endemic graft and Jayalalitha’s penchant for filing defamation cases against her critics.

Still, you are left wondering: would the Economist have suddenly looked at Tamil Nadu’s miracles if it weren’t for the ad?

Conversely, was The Economist correspondent doing a critical journalistic piece and the Tamil Nadu information and public relations directorate heard of it and decided to push in an ad (which was published in all newspapers on May 16)?



    Neither of observations are true. Whilst superficially it appears that you’ve unearthed a nexus of sorts, both the ad & the edit are two exclusive events. Here is why I think so – firstly The Economist’s timing of coverage was bang on, the incumbent govt has finished two years. So a stock check is a routine editorial affair. On the ad front, the AIADMK govt has been liberally splashing their achievements on every possible platform. Inclusion of a prestigious platform like The Economist is a natural media planners choice, given the class of readers the magazine offers. So the ad and the article are worthy occurances in their own space and time! The same may not be the case with a number of other publications.

    1. oommen joseph

      …..worthy occurances…. ? what is that ?

      1. AL SRIRAM

        Well, worth the ad value for the magazine and worth the edit value for the readers!

  2. Nag

    I have noticed something similar in both The Hindu and Frontline. In the newspaper recently there was a half-page ad on the launch of seaplane services in Kerala; the top half was a mush mush piece on the service, carrying a byline ‘special correspondent’

  3. Pratibha Iyer

    yeah yeah Sure! The Economist Loves India and Jayalalitha as much as the Sun Loves to rise in the West!
    Indeed it is value for money – why not? everyone believes this is pure co-incidence!
    The readers are economists are such ‘Oafs” thatthey dont recognise a plug when tehy see it?
    This supposedholy grail of Publishing is waiting to go the way of TIME magazine! its just a matter of TIME! 🙂

    However,would Amma take it kindly if Indian Media Squared her money away and wrote such kindly words about her? Fie on them! but Gora MAgazines that are way past their prime & relevance can get away with calling her all kinds of names n accusations! Including what in Indian Media can be a ‘casteist Slur” Brahmin Starlet!

    As for Economist timing, if they start covering every govt that completes one and two adn three right from Tamil Nadu to Pappua New Guinea, that is all they will do! But they dont, do they..?

    1. Sethu

      they don’t 🙂

  4. Yuvamani

    My Gawd . What Bias I say

    They have been covering Indian States for a while now and TN is a good state to cover because SUN or Leaf , it usually ranks high up in every economic metric – the left ones or the right ones.

    And if you have missed it you should have read about the piece they did on 36garh vs UP in terms of last mile development …

  5. Anonymous

    If I know the processes in The Economist, feature articles take a few weeks before they find space in magazines. For example, a special report on India would take three months in the making. The advertising would know before hand of say an India feature and they would sell advertising space to Indian clients saying that they will get coverage in the special edition. Though the reporter in this particular story may have worked independently, someone in the advertising definitely knew about the timing of the article and got a few ads. It may not be a quid pro quo but definitely finding advertising and praise in the same edition of Economist is poor display of editing. I am certainly beginning to have doubts.

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