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.