Nationwide front page headlines of print and digital media—studded with photos of BJP, Congress and JD(S) leaders—cried hoarse about fears of ‘horse-trading’ after the results of the Karnataka state elections declared a hung assembly last week. Readers of The Telegraph in Calcutta and other eastern cities woke up to a startling sight on its front page on May 19—a four square column photograph of the forest brigand Veerappan, his moustache twirled in defiance, the brown belt of his AK-47 slung over his left shoulder. ‘Veerappan Test Today’, leapt out the accompanying headline, drawing a bold parallel between the smuggler of animals with the kind of ‘poaching’ prevalent in Indian politics. “Nearly 14 years after the death of the Karnataka-born brigand who hunted elephants,” read the caption, “Veerappans in whites are said to be on the prowl to poach MLAs.” The next day, when BJP’s Yeddyurappa resigned, the front page loudly exclaimed ‘Ouch Din’, choosing to pair that story with a picture of the royal wedding at Windsor castle. the unifying strapline: “No option, Yeddy, but to abdicate and let prince kiss the bride.” The Telegraph was probably trying to live up to what seems its ideal about headlines—provocative, witty, campy, often audaciously over-the-top, always eye-catching.
“The idea is to be catchy,” avers Tarun Ganguly, former bureau chief at The Telegraph. “Such headings are associated with tabloid journalism than broadsheets. However, since they are more ‘fun’ they are preferred by some news-editors.” Though Ganguly, who once headed the newsdesk since The Telegraph’s inception in 1982 himself avoided ‘sensational’ headings, he feels they do stand out.