Dissertation Abstracts

Understanding Stringer System in Indian Language Journalism: An Ethnographic Work in Two South Indian States

Author: Nimmagadda, Bhargav , williamsite@gmail.com
Department: Communication, SN School of Arts and Communication
University: University of Hyderabad, India
Supervisor: Prof Vinod Pavarala
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Areas of Research: Communication, Knowledge and Culture , Comparative Sociology , Theory


This doctoral dissertation is an attempt to methodologically augment ‘field theory’ to understand regional language journalistic production with ‘stringer’ at the fore.
Bourdieu’s field theory was never employed to study and understand journalism as a field in South India. Even as the French Social Anthropologist asserted that field theory is a work in progress, seldom there was an augmentation to his idea corresponding to regional language media (print) production in this part of the world. Most of the ‘field theory’ studies focusing on journalistic production deal with traditional conceptions like ‘autonomy’ and ‘heteronomy’ giving little agency for the players in the corresponding field. Stringer is one such figure.
The term stringer can be traced back to a time when part-time news reporters were paid by the column inch. Instead of receiving a set compensation for each story written, a stringer is paid by using a piece of string to measure the amount of newspaper space occupied by his/her writing. Stringer would then provide the newspaper with his/her string, cut to the appropriate length. The newspaper would make a payment to the stringer based on the length of his string. (Ninan, 2007: 42; Jeffrey, 2000: 143-146). However, Polumbaum (2009: 644) says that the above is an untraceable urban legend and cites Oxford English Dictionary which states that stringer is “one who strings words together.” She notes, “The usage grew in the 1950s, especially as applied to photographers and foreign correspondents, and thanks largely to the expansion of Time Life magazine operations.”
After tarrying with stringers in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (South Indian federal states), this ethnographer strives to pitch the character – stringer – against personages in South Asia like Harkara and Pyraveekar (See, Henry and Burnell: 2008). One of the things that this doctoral work suggests is that it is not possible to understand regional language news production without considering role of stringer in South India.