Friday, September 22, 2017

The Big Fight

Those Were The Days
Image from here


Dogs don’t bite dogs goes the canine dictum.
Doctors don’t bill doctors goes the medical motto.
Journalists don’t expose journalists goes the reporting rule.
But the unsaid went out of the television studios when one news channel decided to do an entire show exposing rival news anchor, Arnab Goswami. 

It all happened when Rajdeep Sardesai discovered an old clip where Arnab Goswami is seen fabricating Rajdeep’s Gujarat riot experience and allegedly narrating it as his own. Rajdeep tweeted, ‘Wow! My friend Arnab claims his car attacked next to CM Res in Guj riots! Truth: he wasn’t covering Ahemdabad riots.’

I heard the clip on Twitter, although it was erased from YouTube adding to the culpability of Arnab. There is no denying that the clip shows Arnab looking like an old coot who never went to war but loves narrating war stories and regaling audiences. Or an avuncular figure who never went hunting but enjoys telling tales about shooting tigers. In all probability, the bombastic anchor went overboard during a club meeting some years ago. 
Sagarika Ghosh, Rajdeep’s wife jumped in by revealing her literary palette and disgust, ‘The pudgy little Billy ‘Bunter with the soprano shriek turns out to be an utterly brazen liar,’ she chirped. 



 By afternoon twitter went in meltdown mode and it was like a virtual war between the Cali Cartel and North Valley Cartel. Those tormented by Arnab’s belligerent, binary debates were more than happy to give it back to him for torturing their ear drums night after night. #ArnabDidIT

If truth be told, my initial thought was - High time someone pricked the righteous bubble encapsulating Arnab. But what made me squirm later was the fact that one channel went ahead and got their jollies by making the crack in the veneer of Arnab Goswami’s righteousness a public spectacle. The twitter shaming was not enough.

For one, there are far bigger issues that can be held against Arnab than an alleged lie narrated many years ago during a club function, the context of which is unknown. Arnab should have been pilloried for his reporter’s insensitivity (recent Ryan International case), for prejudice, for war mongering, for jingoism, for passing theatrical drama off as a sensible debate and also for pronouncing instant verdicts.
Second, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t be the first ones to throw stones in public. Emboldened by twitter support, Rajdeep asked if Arnab would apologize and resign from journalism. Coming from someone who has been embroiled in a so-called public brawl spreading alleged lies and abusive direct messages, the virtuous tweet was a bit tough to swallow. As expected, it became a Left vs Right war of digging dirt and Whataboutism.


Past dinner, the nation was glued to a jaw-jaw, paw-paw, between India’s topmost anchors, once colleagues, and siblings of the same mother (NDTV). All the while, there was no response from the other side barring an undated picture of both boys with a crew that covered the riots.
 As long as it’s not yours, watching dirty laundry being washed in public is fun. Such was the public interest in this duel that media houses realised that digging up dirt on rivals could fetch them more TRPs than their Hindu-Muslim or Cong-BJP TRP tirade. 

No matter what they say, there is no denying that media mavens are threatened by Arnab’s popularity. But the rivalry between Arnab and Rajdeep goes back decades. In his book – 2014, The Election that changed India, Rajdeep gives us a glimpse when he writes, ‘I remember a slim, floppy haired bespectacled youngster visiting my house in the 1990s to enquire about TV opportunities. I had then been a mentor of sorts to him. We worked for a decade and even co-anchored a show. But television news can be maddeningly competitive and a personal relationship can easily descend into slightly troubled professional equation revolving around constant one-upmanship.’ 
Rajdeep also talks about how Arnab snatched the first Rahul Gandhi interview from NDTV. Naturally, snatching an experience after snatching an interview was bound to push the wrong buttons.
Moreover, Arnab has been shouting about the cosy Lutyens club of journalists, some of whom like Vinod Dua, Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai were awarded a Padma Shri in 2008 by the previous government. What if, let's say, Arnab decides to retaliate by airing insider information on Radia tapes, cash for vote scam and clearances for bungalows awarded to his peers?

Personal rivalry and exposes on Social media is a part of the game. Even acceptable. On television, it's not. Let’s face it. Most journalists and media houses have taken positions across the fence. So the high moral perch and the pretext of being apolitical fools no one. Needless to say that the public spectacle on television lowered the media image. If that were at all possible? My fear is the ugly will get uglier. And no one will emerge smelling of roses.





12 comments:

  1. It is really pathetic,the way these honchos have taken sides.And now they have descended to open fights.

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    1. Yea, imagine the other guy responding and then it's a free for all.

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  2. Sadly when we see someone like Arnab who is acting more like a political agent than anything else. I remember how he indulged in cover up when Gauri Lankesh was murdered. He has dishonored journalism but yes there is an unwritten rule, we don't castrate in public the ones in our fraternity. But, then at the same time, Arnab has been playing this silly game too much, Alka.

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    1. Is don't disagree Vishal, everyone is playing their silly game. Some less, some more. Just don't make news shows a platform for your personal fights is all I'm saying.

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  3. Well written. I agree with most of what you said Alka. Looking forward to reading more such posts.

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  4. Sad days for Indian media. And likely worse times ahead.

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    1. Print media is dying but a shade better. The television media is more drama than substance.

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  5. It was a bit like a breakout of an underworld gangwar. Trust me, if it weren't for a feisty freebird, I'd have never learnt about the cockroach skeletons that tumbled out of the media cupboard!

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    1. Haha, yea kinda gang war. Always a pleasure to see you here.

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  6. Alka, when we were younger watching the news used to be a good thing. We knew we could trust the sources and the presentation was sans drama. Nowadays with fake news and orchestrated incidents, it is difficult to judge what is or isn't real news.In-fighting between journalists reflects badly on the media.Where are we headed? Brilliant writing.

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  7. You are right Sulekha, can't even tell our kids to watch news. Thank you.

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