The spotlight has never been as intensely focused on the media itself as it is now as the respected Fourth pillar find itself being subjected to the same questions that it showered all these years on the other three pillars of a vibrant democracy.
One after the other, incidents,leaks,expose have come out in the public sphere bringing out in open the dirt that was always present in the media but was very subtly swept under the carpet.
Journalism is about truth and spreading the information. But rare are periods where it was confined under these limits. Ethical and moral limits in journalism are loosely codified and very rarely followed.
Politics,Police,Paisa which ostensibly amounts to ‘power’ have always been a part of the media. And when these three walk with you side by side you are bound to enjoy the rise associated with them and equally share their disgraced fall.
When the recorded conversation between a lobbyist and people from different sphere, some of them from media, came into spotlight the reactions was as expected. Editorials, talk shows, anchors, politicians, actors all joined in to create a hullabaloo on the lines of ostracizing the people who were involved in the conversation.
Many celebrated and not so celebrated journalist from media houses like NDTV,Times of India, Hindustan Times, PTI were heard on the tape discussing many things, which for some, automatically transformed into a showmanship of ‘power broking’.
Discussed was who should be made the minster, who should be allotted which portfolio, why should the business war between two brothers sorted out and how. In short, if Radia was interacting with a politician she spoke their language and if she was talking with a journalist she was working on how to use their ability for her and for her clients gain. What she was doing was her job, which was to lobby. But whether the journalist whom she interacted with also doing their job is the question that needs to dwelt on, a question that has some very difficult answers.
As soon as the tapes were out critics too were out with sharpened swords and pointed pen as articles after articles flew. One of the journalist who was till then a star reporter for many became the ‘butt’ of the severest criticism.
The merits of the criticism and whether she deserved the criticism though is a different matter all together , article on which I have already written previously.
But what this particular expose has achieved is that it has brought the revered Fourth estate to more reasonable deserving heights. It now stands on a pedestal where it shares space with its three cousins. The judiciary, the executive and the legislature. And no one can claim to be Ceaser's wife here.
There was a time when the editor of Times of India was considered as the second most important man after the Prime Minister. There were moments when a Chief Minister would literally run after the bureau chiefs of national dailies so he could get audience with the journalist. And seldom would he succeed. That was before the journalist got into this tempting habit of fiddling into the working of a state.
They forgot that their job was to report what is happening and not to decide how it should happen.
With influx of corporate culture came the time when money became the primary aim of the publishers. For them it was all about bringing in government ads and generating revenue through corporate houses. And as is the rule of nature, if you need something, you have to dish out many things.
So for the sake of government ad from a particular state, the concerned bureau chief was asked to meet the CM. Generally the chief minister would happily oblige and in turn the journalist was now one of the CMs men. That was how it turned, the table that is. Negative truth about governance and alike stopped coming out from the state. Even if a journalist would do such a story the management would refuse the run it, least it offends the CM. And in the end it was the journalist who got the flak from both the sides.
Gradually it spread to the other areas. You cannot run a newspaper on the basis of your readership alone; you need huge amount of money. And for that you need to have a good rapport with the business houses and the politicians. It all turned into a game of obligation. You help me in your way, I will help you the monetary way.
In states like Madhya Pradesh ,Journalism is a much more coveted profession than being a civil servant. The power a journalist enjoys are tremendous and not going into the finer details, I was amused when I saw journalists from Bhopal going all out against Barkha Dutt for her ‘misdemeanour’ .
They tweeted all sorts of things, which primarily was related to the moral and professional ethics of journalism. And the reason for me being surprised was that the same people who themselves had allowed politicians, bureaucrats and businessman to oblige them in so many ways were now spitting venom against Barkha for bringing a bad name to journalism.
Was it irony? or was it hypocrisy or just a pale attempt to come out good.
No organization is unbiased. Every one of them has to look after its client. And there is no exception to it. Exceptions are individuals who are working for these organizations. These individuals have not been bought by any of the politicians and business houses because they cannot be bought as for them journalism still remains a duty towards the society.
But sadly like exceptions, these cadre of journalists are very few in number.
And people still believe the myth that we have an unbiased and free media. Bull shit.
What the Radia-gate has done is that it has torn off the transparent cloth that was covering the much rampant ill practises of journalism. And now the truth is out there, naked, shivering to be seen and adjudged by those very people that were themselves subjected to the same scrutiny by the media.
The meetings at press club of India in Delhi condemning the individuals exposed in Radia gates or participating in protest march to raise voice against the corruption in media are all token gestures. They will be forgotten the next day but the hard fact will remain that the media too is playing in the same dirt which it has all through these years accused the others of.
Media needs to be reformed but the question is how and who would do it. My answer is simple. It has to do only that part which it has been allotted to do. And that is to report the ‘Truth’. Not the manufactured one but the real one.