Speaking of news: Press, democracy, and metapragmatics in a changing India

by Mark Allen Peterson

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By Mark Allen PetersonFull Article: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.12163/full


(image:
http://americanethnologist.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/10/peterson-firetruck-600px-300x225.jpg alt: Barakhamba Road, New Delhi, 2009. Vans are crucial to India’s many new 24-hour news stations. Photo: Mark Allen Peterson

Barakhamba Road, New Delhi, 2009. Vans are crucial to India’s many new 24-hour news stations. Photo: Mark Allen Peterson

) An NDTV van at the Metro Station on Barakhamba Road, New Delhi, 2009. Vans are crucial to India’s many new 24-hour news stations. Photo: Mark Allen Peterson.That the news matters is a fundamental postulate of modernity. Yet the ways people talk about the news varies across cultures and over time. In this article, I examine how such “metapragmatic” speech about the news changed across a 15-year period, during which India underwent seismic shifts in its political and economic order. By unpacking and contextualizing five metapragmatic utterances collected between two fieldwork periods, 1992–93 and 2007–08, I examine how people used the tension between the concepts of “news as public good” and “news as commodity” to indexically position themselves as democratic citizens in a changing nation. Furthermore, I explore how and why these discursive practices changed during the Indian economy’s so-called liberalization.