Saturday, August 18, 2007

A conversation...

Not exactly a state of the media post, but I was talking to a friend who has recently quit the profession the other day and she made a few points which I found very appropriate. I asked her to put her points down in a mail and though she asked me to clean it up, a combination of sloth and the fact that I really don't believe this needs any cleaning up, because that will really make it lose its import. Here is that person's undiluted email (she calls it a rant, but anyway).

I've done my time at plenty of media organisations for over ten years and I am stunned by the whole attitude of self righteousness journalists as a clan possess. They are the first to lift a finger and point out favours for bribes, sexual discrimination, gender biases in society, religious discrimination and social ostracisation based on everything from size and weight to ugly betty-ness. Now imagine this - what would any media organisation do if the GM or MD of a major MNC or bank was caught demanding free lunches/ all-expense paid trips from a five star hotel just because they had their account? Cry bloody murder more often than not. But that is what most media organisations and their journalists do. What would the media do if appointments to key positions in an organisation - let's say hypothetically dear lawyers - Reliance were found to have been because of the candidates proximity to a certain Mr Ambani? Bring the house down? Please tell me which of your editors/ senior journalists have been appointed purely on merit based on a series of interviews and not on proximity to top management?

As a woman, I have worked with the top private sector company - Tatas, arguably the top public sector company - IL&FS a mom and pop shop that shall remain unnamed and over 4 different media organisations. I have never been sexually harassed or felt threatened, had my promotions questioned or been unfairly treated in any of the former. I have had issues, yes. But there were always forums, platforms, channels by which to address and solve them. The Tatas famously used a mentoring system by which you can sit down and sort an issue against your immediate boss - with the intervention of seniors without this being used against you in any way in the future. And it works brilliantly.

Protest in a media organisation and stories and spiked, killed, you will be offered a quiet transfer if you make a big enough noise, or you can find a job with an opposing camp if you simply won't be quiet at all.

The only organisations to turn me down with concerns about gender and sexuality at job interviews have been media organisations. One then-senior editor thankfully now no more than a peer, once famously said to me 'You are qualified and capable but you are a single mom and I don't believe you can deliver, so sorry.' In any other industry that would have been grounds to sue.

I have worked with top media bosses sitting in their second floor then-durbars at recruitment phases where candidates who fitted the part were turned down because 'they were too fat'.

Private sector companies have processes and norms in place. Recruitment is taken very seriously and follows civilised standards. You need to justify why you've hired someone, you check credentials, you background check them. Then they are held accountable for what they bring to the table. Everywhere except in the media.

Who does the media think it is? Look at the world around you - every industry has norms except the media. Every industry is progressing into making the workplace a safer healthier more professional environment except the media. The things journalists get away with would be grounds for getting the sack in any other industry. You even need to justify dating a co-worker in some, let alone taking a free meal.

Is the media really equipped to point a finger at any other industry, social or political evil? Look in the mirror guys and oh... take out the trash.


Edited for typos!


Anonymous said...

very well said. this should be developed into a full piece and sent to or definitely some place where it gets wider readership.

K said...

What you think my 400 readers a day aren't enough??? :-)
Any which way, not my piece, but by a friend. So if she wants to take it further will be her call.

Anonymous said...

i saw you in my dream.,..somebody was nepoting for you.......heeeeeee. cheeeeeers the way the things are.....keep the press mving...hooooooo

saurabh said...

Yeah. What're you gonna do?

thalassa_mikra said...

"Now imagine this - what would any media organisation do if the GM or MD of a major MNC or bank was caught demanding free lunches/ all-expense paid trips from a five star hotel just because they had their account?"

Hmmm........let me guess - Viru dada? I like the man, but his shilling at times is unbearable. But then, I wouldn't be surprised if such behaviour is standard across the media.

But I think your friend doth paint a very rosy picture of corporate India. There's plenty of murk over there as well, especially with companies that are run like lala-ji ki dukaan.

GBO said...

Not Viru Dada, I assure you, though sentiments are shared.

BTW, in Agra on an overnight weekend. This place should be taken off the tourist map, and the Taj moved stone by stone and rebuilt in NOIDA. Not safe after sunset.

radical said...

This para from IHT should shame every person connected with Indian media. What the fuck is wrong with the heads of the media moghuls? For last fortnight, all I read is about the nuke deal and the strained relationship between congress & left..Not one person that I know gives a fuck about the nuclear deal..

Its bizzare that I first came to know about the havoc of floods in Rajasthan from the mouth of a very popular contestant on the saregama show - Raja Hassan.. and when I searched for information on the floods on 'google news', the only reference that I could find was on foreign sites like IHT. Cht it yourself and feel the shame..

At a national level, the plight of these flood victims attracts little compassion. Early this month, when the United Nations declared these floods the worst in living memory, the miserable condition of the 31 million affected in India was widely covered internationally but was neither front-page news in Delhi newspapers nor featured on national news channels. Instead, bulletins were dominated by the sentencing of a Bollywood star to jail. In one paper, flood coverage was restricted to a short piece on animals being evacuated from a wildlife park.

Such apathy is not unusual. English-language newspapers in India often neglect the suffering of the rural poor, more preoccupied with the triumphs of the emerging India than the familiar stories of extreme hardship experienced by hundreds of millions of Indians living on the land.

thalassa_mikra said...

Anon, completely agree. The flood coverage is a low point for the Indian national media - when I want updates on the flood situation, I turn to the BBC Worldservice website.

But then this is precisely why local and regional language media is experiencing such tremendous growth - you can bet the flood coverage was much, much better in the local news channels in Assam, Bihar and Bengal.

Anonymous said...

An interesting article on how film stars and the media interact (or rather how the film industry has complete control over the media). Read here