Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tapey-Tapey tape tape

Someone sent me an SMS the other day, saying why hasn't K said anything about the 'Tapes' and the 'Fall of Journalism'. Given that this blog has a title like this, I thought I should say something but after that twat Avirook 'exposed' himself making me collateral damage in the process, it would seem petty to write a post.
Though, truth be told I was rather gleeful to see Avirook's benefactor in journalism exposed as a dictation-taking sham artist. Then again, I've always had a strong opinion about 'The V'. Imagine if News X had taken off under old management, it might well have been called News RIL, I don't think any of the old News X staff can talk about the credibility of that set-up any longer. Anyway, as usual, I dither.
Honestly, was this bound to happen one day, sure it was. I mean, yes the leaked tapes are targeted at certain journalists and politicians, particularly journalists and politicians who are/were friendly to a particular industrialist (well, duh!) and the government has now dubbed Niira Radia as a foriegn agent. But, to be fair to Miss Radia, she was very good at her job. Not excellent, because if she was excellent these tapes would never have come out, but she was good.
But first, I really do not believe it is a crime for journalists to talk to lobbyists, it has happened before and it will happen again. They can give you interesting leads and even help you along in a story. On the other hand, taking dictation from them is well, indefensible. We all talk to these people, meet them at the Taj Chambers as we start climbing the ladder from being correspondents to being editors.
There are however a couple of very troubling questions that this episode has raised, the first is that rank-and-file journalists, the guys who go out on the street and get the stories are seen to be fairly powerless. Whatever happened to the pushy reporter? Most reporters are happy for their editors to correct and maul their story in exchange for the lead story on TV or a front page story byline in a newspaper? That several young reporters have a lack of confidence in their language is one thing, but a lack of confidence in their stories?
The second troubling issue is that some journalists seem to have been nothing more than cheap spies. Whether or not someone can prove a fiduciary link is not the question, a news list in my opinion is sacred until the product makes the airwaves or hits the stands. Many years ago, my now wife and then girlfriend who worked for a rival publication then asked me whether we were doing a story on XXX. I flipped my lid, and later discovered that she had been coerced by her then editor to ask me this. I lost all respect for that man that day, to take advantage of young reporter to do something like this is wrong. To volunteer information is bizarre.
As Sukumar pointed out in his column on November 27, these conversations were private and we all say a lot of things in private conversations, make aspersions and call call people names. If people call other people names in a phone call, oh well, they never thought that they would get caught. And usually if they call you names, they never liked you anyway.
Anyway, a few friends and me are planning to do a panel discussion on the topic. Not trying to involve the usual suspects, we are trying to get a lot of younger journalists as well as others who understand what the internet is all about. I will post the details on my Twitter feed as well as this blog.
And there is another cautionary tale here, when you build your reputation around honesty and ethics, be sure never to trip up or have someone trip up doing your dirty work. There isn't a detergent built that can clear the stains on that reputation.


SellingViolets said...

I would comment on the fact that you have upheld the Vs mish mash style as journalism in the past, but I am glad you are writing so Ill zip it for now. Instead I will point out though that if journalism had the space fr honest to good nose to the ground reporting you would never have needed to start this blog. That you discontinued it for whatever reasons says alot methinks. Our journalists have always been caught up in perception. The V merely led the pack of people who neeed to be perceived as influential and seen at the right places to be known as good journalists. This is what our industry rewards. The counter culture, of which this blog is a part, and which was what was once cool and respected is today repressed and frowned upon. Because the trickle down effect is to follow the pack. Dont rock the boat. Dont diss your seniors. And dont call em out. I for one, will be very disappointed, should you fall to that trend and discontinue writing here. The counter culture is the warfare of the intelligent and only those so brave as to bear the conviction of their intelligence.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting how MAD you are at Avirook for "outing" you. Why is that K? You have used this blog to tear into people constantly. It is cowardly to do that isn't it?

If you're going to sit in judgement on B Dutt and V Sanghvi on account of the leaked tapes, just stop to think this?

You weren't a happy man when Avirook "leaked" your identity. Why be hypocritcal now?

Raj said...

good article really, I am not part of the media but even I van get a lot of the stuff ur talking of and agree with you. Of the whole radiagate episode the most disgusting thing that came out in the end was that people like Barkha dutt and sanghvi who claim to be journos are in fact stooges for a particular party and are just there for shaping opinion as their benefactors want pitiful!

Anonymous said...

I wrote the following to 'India Abroad' last sepetember. They never published or responded to me it even after repeated inquiry and phone. Too hot for media?

"Dear Editor,

Many thanks to Anada Shankar for a timely article titled, 'A worthless celebration' (Aug 13). He hit the nail on the head. We are trying to celebrate the governance by South Asians as opposed to British and the point is, is it worth celebrating.
By any measure of governance, South Asia is doing miserably. We may be good at many things, but governing ourselves is not one of them. We are not disciplined and responsible as citizens. The same indian who behaves like a poster boy in a US environment, spits on the road or throws garbage everywhere when he goes to india or even in an indian cultural function in US. The indian ruling elite including the political leadership are wishy-washy, opportunistic, corrupt and weaklings. And, there are always external excuses for our lack of governance including geopolitics. When South Korea, which was at similar or lower socioeconomic standard as India, zoomed past India, the excuse was they were small country, less population, etc., - so easy to prosper. That excuse was in deep water when China zoomed past India. Well, China has a repressive regime and India has democracy and human rights. Let's look at that closely. China is repressive but effective. India is repressive but utterly ineffective. Look at Kashmir. Even after 60 years, India cannot handle Kashmir, whereas China absorbs Tibet with wanton zeal. In terms of basic human rights, i.e. the rights of the lowest rung of the society to have food, shelter, health care and education, and women's rights, the repressive China is miles ahead of South Asia.
Actually, the ruling elite in South Asia can be aptly characterized by chaos, corruption and cowardice. If we look back in history, it is not just from August 15, 1947, this characteristic is evident for hundreds or thousands of years as long as we can see. It is no accident that moguls and british ruled india for as long as they did. There were exceptions, Subhas Bose and Shivaji to name a couple, but they were brought down by their brethern. Whatever other weakness he might have, Subhas Bose was a strong, popular, honest leader with good administrative skills. So, Gandhi and Nehru played politics to move him from Congress.
While many of the human development index in India is comparable to sub-saharan africa, the indians who come here do extremely well, unusually well, reaching the top rung of the society. There is a big disconnect here. There is no other country with similar features. What this confirms is that south asians thrive well in well structured and governed environment but cannot govern themselves. We need to face the facts. That is the first step in self-improvement.
So, on August 15th or any other day, we should do some soul searching. It is not celebrating our independence, but understanding our 'in dependence' for thousands of years and how we can change ourselves internally (no external excuses) to acquire independence individually, socially, economically and politically.