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Archive for July, 2013

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Disclaimer: To all anchors, editors, journalists and contributors to media outlets, please do not feel offended or aggrieved if you find yourself missing on the attributes of a compromised media person that I have listed. If you find a reference to your paper or channel, it is merely to give an apt example and I have nothing personal against you or your outlet.

‘The nation’ appears every night on prime time television and demands to know everything that the nation has not thought of asking the person on the other side. Although ‘The nation wants to know’ has become an Arnab Goswami patent, I am taking it as an analogy without any hint of malice against Arnab or questioning his integrity, just to use his patented phrase. Does the ‘nation’ always ask the right questions? Is the agenda and outcome of a debate pre-decided by the show anchor? Is the ‘nation’ actually serving the nation’s interest? Does the ‘nation’ have a political leaning? If yes, then is it open about its political ideology or portraying itself as a non-biased, non-partisan entity?

Lately, I have developed a sense which helps me anticipate the way a debate is supposed to head. When I see the participants on the panel and the question of the night, I predict the last lines of the show host. In my mind, I have marked out the editors who have ‘Setback for Modi’ on the clipboard and those who have ‘complete failure of the central government’ ready to be pasted under any headline, no matter what the judgment reads or the nature of the calamity. Are these headlines in any way synced to campaigns like ‘Bharat Nirman’ or ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ that may have kept the advertising sales in the green? Where is the non-partisan media? It is understandable if a party mouthpiece like Saamna propagates party manifesto since the reader picks up the copy knowing expected content but to act like a non-partisan, non-aligned media outlet and to push a particular party’s program is hypocritical and deceitful. The moment a pro-government article is published in a newspaper, opposition camp runs to find out the number of ‘Bharat Nirman’ adverts it has carried in the previous month. Similar exercise takes place when excited reporters throng to report Narmada clean-up.

While one understands that even TV anchors, editors and reporters have a political leaning, to let it affect the news copy is deplorable. Editors need to realize that there’s a dedicated editorial page on which they can put forth their opinions, vent their angst and even propose radical change to a society, but to seed news article with their outlook is both self-serving as well as partisan journalism. Thankfully all is not lost and there are many who are sticking by the ethos of the profession and don’t consult the advertising sales department before writing a piece, but the weed that’s spoiling the crop needs to be plucked away. Apparently, a prominent institute of journalism has received applications in thousands and in a couple of years; your doors will be knocked constantly. Please hire carefully.

While many journalists highlighted India’s ranking in the Transparency International’s 2013 Global Corruption Index, they fail to pinpoint their own frailties. Isn’t political advertising equal to backhand bribing to foster a party’s policy? What then gives you the liberty to call yourself ‘the nation’? The syndrome is not limited to the political writings; it has walked in the backyard of judiciary, economy, cricket and cinema. Film journalists no more hang around the Film City or Kamalistan studios, rather preferring to lurk over celebrity TLs in the comfort of home to turn every little byte into an article. Movie reviews are manipulated and well-known analysts retweet tweets demeaning fellow critics. One gets confused whether the sensibilities of the critics are disparagingly different or they have seen a different reel altogether to give indifferent ratings. I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with the pre-release dinner invites. I prefer to watch my reviews on KRK Live on YouTube. At least, I’m sure the guy was not invited to any of the dos.

Back in the last decade, journalists outraging about the portrayal of women in the society wrote for the same tabloids that carried skimpy-clothed models as objects of male desire on page 3, without ever letting their disapproval known to the editor. In another tabloid, an erstwhile doctor prescribed to fictitious teens how jerking would do no harm and it was okay to have some fun as long as both partners were willing. The agony aunt attended to the married woman who was infatuated by her hunky neighbor. All of it in the hope that a certain readership will pick up the copy to get some fodder for fantasy. None of it seems wrong unless you choose to wear the monk robe once the copy has gone to the pre press. Why the hypocrisy?

Hell broke loose when an acrimonious friend of Narayan Pargaien, a reporter for the channel News Express, uploaded a video showing him reporting from the shoulders of a flood victim in Uttarakhand. Poor reporter became subject of much loathe of the fellow media person, dubbed as the new low for the profession and was rightly fired by the channel. After all, he had misused his privilege.

Then came the story in The Times of India about Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s savior act for 15,000 Gujarati flood victims. Anand Soondas, the reporter of this story, found himself at the center of ire for asking a Muslim IAF pilot how he felt about saving Hindus flood victims in Uttarakhand. The outrage, mostly billowing from the journalist community centered on the argument that it was idiotic of the reporter to ask such a question to the pilot. While Narayan and Anand are not well-known names and attracted huge uproar from the journalist community, why does it chooses to ignore the questions that our celeb anchors put forth or the answers they put in a panelist’s mouth. Each time you cut a panelist, I pre-empt the dialogue he was to utter, every time you close the discussion without fair timing to each of the panelists, I realize you couldn’t have managed a monologue and tried to put forth a drama.

No matter how loud you shout, demand to get an answer to your pretentious ignorance in the name of the nation, the nation knows it all. Yeh public hai public babu, yeh sab jaanti hai!

If you believe all that has been alleged is untrue, damaging and has malicious intent, you’ve been true to your profession. Or if you know that it’s the reality that you’re unable to alter, think this could go on like the way it is going at present, drop that saintly robe and enjoy the bounties!

Sarfraz Khatib

July 13, 2013

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