Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Back Scratching









On any given day, as I weigh news against each other, I am left ensnared in the play of words while the real story plays hide and seek. The front page of ‘Times of India’ says, “Coalgate : 10.7 lakh crore scam.” The Hindustan Times does not talk about it. The following day HT informs, “CAG trashes report, says it is misleading.” The Times of India, however, sticks to its breaking story.

My cynicism takes roots after reading the morning newspaper. That is when I end up scratching my head. You see, I subscribe to two national dailies and both repeatedly push me on the ‘muddle path’! To an extent that I have started reading a third newspaper! Sigh!
The confusion has compounded. The third newspaper (Mail Today) says , " In its final report CAG will at best, replace the term ‘loss’ used in the draft report with ‘unintended benefit’ that could have accrued because of faulty allotment of coal blocks between 2004 to 2009.

The story is old. I remember, last year, Hindustan Times had initially authenticated the Bhushan tapes, whereas the Times of India had rubbished them. One newspaper had screamed, ‘Aseemanand and four others charged’, while the other said, ‘Aseemanand is a political pawn’.

Hell, what is the freaking truth? By the time truth appears the flip-flop kills the story. The only thing shorter than public memory is public enthusiasm.

The overlap between politics and journalism is increasingly evident. Just as skepticism crept into cricket following match fixing allegations, the Radia tape revelations and the cash-for-vote scam have made me cynical about news. Fueling my cynicism was Vinod Mehta’s anthology, titled, ‘Mr. Editor, How Close Are You to the Prime Minister’? The cherry on the cake was an eminent editor’s sweeping comment, “Hamam mein sab nange hain”. That’s Funny. But unfortunate. I am not sure whether some scribes are in bed with politicians and lobbyists, but surely, they are present in their bedrooms.

Is this how the cookie crumbles? Is this how a story ‘breaks’ on TV? A channel repeatedly denounces government double speak and continues to rap it on its knuckles night after night, giving the opposition an unfair advantage. Whereas another refuses to come out with the truth on cash for votes scam, thereby salvaging powerful reputations. Hello? I can sense back scratching in the backdrop. When the anchor quotes his ‘sources’ I wonder who the source is! Dinesh Trivedi’s resignation was a known fact in the media circles. Much before he actually resigned. The mighty ‘source’ knew it all!

Here is my problem with media’s presence in the politician’s bedroom: The news gets biased and prejudiced. The back scratching is understandable. A positive coverage is the brahmastra for political resurrection. In early 2011, the cameras projected Anna as Gandhi incarnate. A few months down the line, the same cameras pulled Anna down from the pedestal by evaluating his ‘flog the drunkards’ comment. Direct telecast of Modi’s sadbhavna farce / fast did bleach some stains of his starched kurta. Since, media glare can make or break reputations; it makes sense to keep media houses in good humour.

The question that begs to be asked is: Can journalists become political mouth pieces? Night after night, on television, Vinod Sharma (affiliated with HT) more often than not, defends the Congress. Chandan Mitra (associated with Pioneer) clearly acts as the spokes person for the BJP. Wasn’t it the BJP that nominated Mr Mitra for the Rajya Sabha seat? Any quid pro quo is eminent. Ideally, scribes and political affiliations should not go hand in hand. But when did we live in an ideal world? A pity! If one can do it for a Rajya Sabha seat, another can do it for a Padma award. Who doesn’t love a reward for the unflinching support? And aren’t such awards doled as largesse by those in power? The maara –maari for Rajya Sabha seats is out in the open.

At the end of the day journalism is business. To be fair to television channels, they have to survive. The moral in the market place is to protect business interests and make money. Undoubtedly, money and power go hand in hand. So even as the media houses are acquiring muscle, the halo of morality is diminishing. Both in print as well as in pixels.

Busy in our stressful lives we let the media think for us and unobtrusively mould our thought processes, not realizing that media is no longer dispassionate. Today, I am conscious of any hanky- panky as the TV anchor steers my thought process in the direction he deems right. I do not let an article in the newspaper play with my mind, giving the illusion of helping me form opinions. Leisurely viewing, unfettered by serious contemplation is a luxury we can ill afford.

56 comments:

  1. Best of luck,Alka for choosing the best channels for entertainment, the newspaper, Tv news and political news as icing on cake:)

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  2. In my childhood, when all the television we had was the evening transmission of Doordarshan, we used to laugh about the commercial breaks on popular programs, and speculate that the day would come when even the news would be sponsored. Well, truth has a price now. It is dictated by who wants what to be broadcast.

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    1. Journalism is business. To be fair to television channels, they have to survive the battle for eyeballs. You are right, the battle is dictated by who wants what.

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  3. Truth is becoming an elusive concept. To separate it from lies, rumours and half truth is impossible for the common man already indulged in a more important struggle- of earning a livelihood.

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  4. Such a very well written article. Wonder why, when the Indian public isn't fooled, this keeps happening. Wonder what the Indian public can do about this. Grumble about it but accept it? Do you have a broadcasting standards authority that you can complain to?

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    1. There are several watch dogs but the moral in the market place is to protect business interests and make money.

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  5. Bang! Right topic at the right time. Our family has been reading The Hindu for a few decades and recently TOI has entered the fray down South. The war that ensued gave us a good laugh. I still hate to read TOI, i can never feel let down by credibility of Hindu...Still, forming opinions based on newspaper's reports is preposterous.

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    1. I used to get The Hindu in Blore. It was like the BBC. It was not as spicy as TOI or say a Headlines Today.

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  6. I would say that this bias of the media is good in a way for the readers. First it forces you to find out who runs the paper/ channel, whether she/ he got Padma award or RS seat. Second you get multiple reports on every issue; you take some facts from on paper, other facts from another and balance from the third and form your own opinion which could be the fourth. From being investigative journalists a few years back, they have made you an investigative reader. In the past the reader would read The Hindu or TOI and innocently believed.
    Similarly TV debates. My only grouse is that they conduct the debates more or less at the same which prevents me from watching all of them and being an investigative viewer.

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    1. Thats an interesting view point...keep the people on their toes..ha, ha.

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  7. Very well written. The media is biased, and it is a give and take relationship. Survival of the fitest. I think somewhere every Indian, read the papers knowing, this is not the complete truth. As you rightly put forward, its not an ideal world after all.

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    1. True, thanks for spending time on the post.

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  8. MEDIA and TV news makes me MAd .. yesterdya I was listening to the news which was to say that petrol price has increased by Rs. 5 in india but NO the channel had to give a list of every city in india.. EVERY CITY and say like in chandigarh price was 66rs 20 paise and Now it will be 71rs 20 paise .. in kolkata it was 65 rs now it will be 70rs..
    HOW PATHETIC is that .. MEDIA is the worst thing especially in india I dont know how they are running and how people are listening ot them still.

    Maybe time has come for people to get together nad STOP this nonsense called Media

    Bikram's

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    1. Its not that bad Bikram, media has exposed many scams lately and media vigilantism has installed a fear in the corrupt.Yes, reporting is biased but blame it on the times we live in.

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  9. A good piece. Searching for objective journalism in India is like searching for a black cat in a dark room that has long escaped. :) Its like a fiction they say...

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    1. True, it is the picture of the times we live in...the moral of the marketplace is to survive and make money.

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  10. Jornalism has become no more than a play for TRP's and being number 1 in the marked. Why otherwise, pray do we have each one claim that they are number 1. And the latest newspaper wars in the south are a huge eye opener.
    Honestly speaking, everyone who reports politics is a politician. When you are not ready to hear the other side, and instead keep on banging your own self about what is right to you in your eyes, then obviously there is a lot more than what meets the eye.
    The sorry thing being, that, media was hailed as the 4th pillar of our democracy, and like the rest, it has also been infected!

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    1. Very well summarized Sakshi...To give them their due, media has exposed many scams lately and media vigilantism has installed a fear in the corrupt.Yes, reporting is biased but blame it on the times we live in.

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  11. True, journalism is hardly true blue. The affiliations of newspapers and channels is something really blatant for comfort. Somewhere I guess, we do get misled. Like you pointed, news is business. And, though it is still at least doing a reasonable job of a watchdog, there are a lot of murky dealings going on, no doubt. I was very disturbed when Barkha Dutt tapes came out.

    http://rachnaparmar.com

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    1. Now Barkha gets the best anchor at NT awards..shes good no doubt but the thought that she hoodwinked us once is disconcerting.

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  12. i would sy,TV media is now more of news manufacturing factories.
    Did you notice..when it comes to BJP,media goes all the way to run them down.
    The moment Congress gets involved,allthe media mentions is "politicians" and never congress members.
    Oue media has taken freedom too seriously

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    1. True, there are no checks for them.....and CNN is referred to as Congress news network.

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  13. Alka,

    You have rightly pointed out that - Undoubtedly, money and power go hand in hand. It is question of ROZI ROTI for some, so sensationalize the news to gain circulation and of course rewards / awards too.

    Take care

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    1. Sensationalism is one part but biased news is another story altogether.

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  14. The problem is that you subscribed with the countries biggest Paid newspapers, so you were destined to be banged with faulty news. Instead go for newspapers like IE, The Hindu & Pioneer. The combination of any two newspapers listed above will let you get the true insights. And, I do agree that power, money & fame drives the journalism industry nowadays. For change making news visit News Not Making News

    P.S : Poineer has been for sometime a pro BJP newspaper wheras Hindu being a communist face.


    Weakest LINK

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    1. Pioneer has Chandan Mitra, the BJP supporter.... I was not referring to 'faulty' news but to biased and prejudiced news...Hindu is popular in South.

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  15. A forceful article.
    "Journalism and political affiliations don't go hand in hand. But hell, since when did we live in an ideal world." Very true.
    And the situation is getting worse and worse. What's more, the back-scratching is done out in the open brazenly now without any covertness. The first death of media was the mediocritizing the news, and the second and worse death is the slavery to politics.
    Aspiring to become a honest journalist is as risky and dubious as aspiring to become an honest IAS officer or bureaucrat, no guarantee of life, occupation, peace, and well-being.

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    1. True, Mohit. You are right, the back scratching is out in the open...Now that scams are leaking from everywhere how can media continue to don the cap of morality?

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  16. see its all out in the open. NDTV and TIMES NOW is what you are talking about i am guessing. any person with a sizeable knowledge of politics can guess that. expecting idealism in times when everyone has to earn bread for their families and whistle blowers are being murdered in the open is a little too much to ask for

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    1. Even CNN is known as Congress News Network because Rajdeep refused to divulge the cash for vote scam details...His crew had captured it on tape..
      Now that scams are leaking from everywhere how can media continue to don the cap of morality?

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  17. Media is considered as 4th pillar in democracy and there is no need to mention how vital it is in country like our... but diff channels have chose camps and adopted a particular ideology...
    they present biased news... n it sucks big time..
    As a result most of the times I end up watching DD News :P
    Less Adv... and u get all the gist.

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    1. Yup, But DD is again a govt mouthpiece.

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  18. When I read articles like these coming from you Alks, I wonder why on earth do you waste your time in reading me?

    I felt like I was reading a very well presented newspaper report here-in the face, true to real journalism and not just stating the misery of it all but also raising a voice against it. You are so right, media effects our thinking and drags uninterested people like me into greater indifference because we never really know who is telling the truth and at what point.

    Brutally honest and yet gripping read!

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    1. Yours are too chatpata to miss....some are real gems too...like the one on elderly citizens.
      Thanks a ton.

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  19. It's just an illusion. Unfortunately in this world, what appears right may be wrong and what is feted as breaking-news is the biggest joke of all.

    And it's time you ditched Hindustan Times.

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    1. The only good thing about HT is the Sunday edition, it has some good reviews and articles.

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  20. I have stopped watching the 'breaking news' on TV and I don't read the political news pieces in the newspaper. That way, I get peace of mind and can devote more time to my passions. I love the Internet and I would love to see citizen journalism to take over (on the net) within the next 5-10 years in India :)

    Destination Infinity

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    1. Citizen journalism is catching up already...Good that you are at peace.

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  21. Well said!! All we get is the skewed news !

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  22. Well, these news papers and channels seem to be mere pawns, or ardent supporters, for politicians.

    Either way, we are the losers.

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  23. Giri..:)

    Vyankatesh....

    True. And BTW your latest post was a gem...

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  24. I have no idea how you are able to come up with such a balanced point of view ! And, there is absolute economy of words :)

    Just like you said media being a business, I believe, politics is no different either. Yes, media has to survive and it will do anything to keep the camera rolling. Beg borrow steal ! Ethics is just a fancy word used by professors in colleges. Sad, but true.

    I read somewhere that ideally, the reporting should be factual, which is one way of saying that it should be neutral. But I don't know many who watch news on Doordarshan these days. And, since every business emulates the model which maximises its revenue- it rejects the Doordarshan way of doing things.

    So what I say is this: Media bashing would not lead anywhere. We get what we look for,after all. If we are looking for factual/neutral/reporting, we should look at the right place. Doordarshan news still rocks.

    PS- Ma'm check out this, you might like it ( related to media actually )...

    http://www.fakingnews.com/2011/07/manmohan-singh-to-read-news-on-doordarshan-to-connect-with-citizens/

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    1. Gone are the days of neutral, unbiased and unprejudiced reporting . And DD is government mouth piece...Also we the viewers are complicit..who wants to watch DD?

      Interesting link.

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  25. Thats the reason why I have stopped watching the news. True said.

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  26. Alka-ji, the media has crossed that sacred line between the Fourth Estate and the Fifth Column.

    An excellent post.

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    1. As Zephyr says, news has become views.

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  27. First of all, news has stopped being that, but has become 'views'. we have even rookie reporters coming out with their assessment of a situation and viewpoints. In newspapers of yore, even the ones that exist today, we had just an editorial that gave its viewpoint and op-ed page articles those of eminent journalists and experts. Today when everyone who wields the mike is an authority, what can you expect? As for back scratching by anchors, it is to be expected since all media is either directly owned or funded by political parties. What can we expect from them if not toe the party line? As for Barkha Dutt, the less said the better.

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    1. True, a sad picture of the times we live in.

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  28. Rajya Sabha seats, Padma awards and other dollops are given....these media persons can twist any tale as long as they rake in moolah. They are much bigger crooks than entire Tihar put together

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  29. Great read! You right ... but I think today every thing is a business. We all need to use our own heads to make sense and take any piece of news/information with a pinch of salt!

    ∞ © tanvii.com ∞

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  30. Quite right! Media does show bias. Well written.

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