Friday, January 23, 2009

Lightning Rod

I really didn’t think that 2009 would start with a media bang – first a letter of resignation and then a column of indignation. Both posts became lightning rods for comments from both sides. Not that I should be surprised after the events of December 2007 and January 2008 when a constant stream of News X news flowed through this blog. And I take issue up with Vir, not just because he holds exchange4media up as a paragon of journalism (please!) but because I believe the coverage here was far better than anywhere else. Just kidding but anyway.
People have called and asked me what I think on the matter, now I’ve got divided loyalties. I believe Vir is a blessed writer, one of the best in the country. On television, it might be a different thing, but he is an amazing writer. Sukumar has the country’s best collection of graphic novels. In fact, both these guys have a bit in common with their attitude towards plebs, far too much in common, but I’m not going to go into that issue.
What would I have done? Lets look at it from both sides with my rather limited understanding of the media after almost a decade of working here and generally being myself.
As a columnist whose column was dropped, I would have written an indignant column in a rival paper or now that technology (of all things, given the person involved) allows make sure that I write a stinging rebuke (far better than the column incidentally) and make sure that it ‘leaks’ out to a media content ‘aggregator’ or ‘blog’ from a friendly source – which is exactly what happened and then wait and watch the fun from the moral high ground.
Also, remember to buy enough bandwidth to make sure that when two hundred people press the link on aforementioned blog (mine) at the same time the site doesn’t go under and leads to another round of speculation.
As an editor, it is my prerogative to decide which column goes through and which column doesn’t. No-one else can decide that, and no columnist, no matter how good (even Jeremy Clarkson or A.A Gill good), has absolute rights. However, given the equation in this case – this is no ordinary columnist not just because of his writing – I believe the piece should have been carried. Along with a rebuttal, a detailed rebuttal of the allegations mentioned in the piece and not least of all the bunkum about ‘gut’ feeling.
Sure, many of us are very lazy, but if we all started writing articles based on gut feeling, I would be spending a lot of time with Ramalinga Raju in jail for defamation or write that the price of fuel might come down by ten bucks based on some random sheet of paper, the fact of the matter is that political reportage still has that cloudy area where contacts determine everything, business reportage is based a lot on facts and figures reported to SEBI. The rules were made by politicians. Just because I might feel that daal mein kuch kala hai doesn’t mean I say it without resorting to facts. Sentiments are nice, but you can not be sentimental (in a matter of speaking) when writing. And what is with the Dhirubhai Ambani love?
Not least because that the columnist involved was an interested party and while I agree that Mint’s initial coverage of the INX saga was very one-sided, once their other media reporter (and I wish Sruthijeet all the best at ContentSutra, he is one the country’s best media reporters) came onboard the coverage improved manifold. Doing so would still have stirred the honey-pot and the bees might still have stung, but the moral high ground would not have been ceded.
Listen these are just my two cents on the matter. I know there are far higher political hi-jinx behind all of this and the philosophy of ‘never forget, never forgive’, is in play. By no means is this the end of the matter, and I will try and keep everybody posted on what happens next. As always please do comment and leave your opinions. Have a great weekend and Republic Day.


Anonymous said...

If even you are convinced that Mint's coverage was one-sided to begin with, then what is the issue about?
These American-returned journos keep lecturing us on their superior media ethics. Truth is they are just as fucked up as us. The debacle of Mint has proved that.

Anonymous said...

Its no good to have lofty ideals that are not praticed. Mint needs to walk the talk. It needs to prove it is ethical beyond doubt.