With less than a year for the elections, the BJP seems to be doing some thinking on its approach to media. The Economic Times reported on Friday that party members have been provided with a ready reckoner on how to deal with journalists and ensure maximum impact on social media and television. The manual has several useful tips, especially on how Twitter handles should be used and which time slots on television are most-watched. If the BJP is simply looking for coverage, it should not worry, it will get plenty of it.
But, sharing their weekend and retreat numbers with editors and reporters, taking them out for coffee or lunch and sending them ‘thank you’ notes will not help them build relationships with journalists. While it may cut ice with a section of the press, the better journalists are not looking to be wined and dined. They do not want to be fed the party line. The television channels may be grateful for the presence of BJP members and ministers on their channels, but serious journalists want unbiased and honest perspectives, which the current crop of ministers seems unwilling to share.
This government believes more in propaganda—they talk about how many villages have been electrified, how many Mudra loans have been sanctioned and how many beneficiaries the Ujjwala scheme has and so forth. Reporters will dutifully file these copies but the sharper ones will come up with the good stories—the ones that show the government’s performance, on several counts, has not been as good as their claims. In fact, even though the UPA government messed up so badly, leaving the economy in deep trouble, it did not really get the kind of bad press it deserved. That is because the UPA was friendlier with the media; if the BJP can do this, it can throw away the manual.