The biggest-selling English-language newspaper in the world is not, as some believe, the Ipswich Chronicle. Nor even the Salem News. It’s the Times of India. Every single day, 3.14 million copies of the Times of India are consumed, edging out the Ipswich Chronicle by a substantial margin.
The Times of India’s owners, two brothers, make no pretense of being journalists, or even caring about journalism. Without apology, they run the paper as a money-making business, plain and simple. There’s little or no investigative journalism, nothing remotely like the Ipswich Chronicle’s crack reporting on Caldwell condo conversion complaints or its exposé of unclaimed checks at Town Hall. Instead, the Times of India is simply an enormous bulletin board — information about “what happened yesterday” — and a colossal overabundance of advertisements. Many of the “news articles” are actually paid for by people or organizations who want coverage in the Times of India. In fact, for $450,000, you can literally buy the entire front page of the paper, masthead and all — even rename the newspaper for that day if you want.
Prissy American journalists are horrified by this approach to the newspaper business — we primly insist on keeping our newsrooms separate and distinct from the “business side” — but the Times of India is thriving, unlike hundreds of U.S. papers, and its owners are millionaires many times over.
I say, Ipswich, let’s learn from success.
My recommendations, for purposes of getting discussion under way, are as follows:
- For $125, a Chronicle reporter will write a front-page article about how your Ipswich church is better than all the other Ipswich churches because it bans fewer of the really good sins.
- A mini-auction will determine whether Clambox, Clambake, or Clam House gets the most glowing review. The bidding starts at $250. For an additional $100, we’ll trash the other two places. For $125 more, we’ll thrown in a fake botulism scare.
- $17.50 a week turns the “Ipswich Watchdogs” Facebook page into an actual page of the paper. Hottest topics, like sale of the old Rec. Department air hockey table, may require more than one page, and a surcharge. Or else some discreet censorship.
- The School Committee can pay 1% of the Feoffees funds to get a weekly comic strip about the Feoffees. It would have cute little New Feoffees and adorable little Old Feoffees, and they would always be getting into amusing little conflicts, and Laura Dietz would always come in at the end to resolve the problem wisely, but of course she never gets appreciated for it, yet she still retains her grace and good humor, and bravely comes back for more in next week’s strip.
- For a mere $20 a week, Al Boynton gets a photo feature — alternating weekly between tragic shots of the deterioration of Old Town Hall’s historical value and pictures of his dog.
- We’ll take $35 to run an article every week, year round, about the Ipswich football cheerleading squad getting ready for Nationals.
- It will take $45 to say something good about the Whittier motel expansion, or something bad about the Town’s wind turbines; $10 discount for both. For an additional $15 we’ll avoid mentioning the North Main streetscape improvement project altogether.
- For an extra $3 a week, you get a special edition of the paper that includes people’s names in the Police Log.
- And finally, I’ll personally be contributing $10 a week to run the name, address, phone, and Social Security number of every driver who does 40 on the 25-mph section of Linebrook Road.
Of course these are only idea-starters. I think you can see the financial possibilities. As the Times of India proves, a great newspaper isn’t all about great journalism. There’s something to be said for buying good will, too. And facilitating personal vendettas.
Let’s get started!