Have you heard of this thing called ‘Medianet’? If you are an average citizen, you might not have. If you are a reporter, the chances are you definitely know about it… and you’ve chosen your camp as well.
Let’s try another question… have you heard of the ‘Radiagate’? That whole scandal about that woman who apparently had the power to influence politicians and appointments and all that. I’m sure a lot of you wouldn’t mind being her, despite the scandals.
These are two issues that the Indian media has surprisingly been quiet about. Not a carefully guarded secret but something not bandied about in public either.
Of course, after the ‘sting’ operation by a foreign newspaper, some of our own presses have begun declaring that the supplements, which were thought to carry news, are actually ‘advertorials’.
To me, that move comes as a relief, even if I find it a little funny.
The India media has been sliding down for a long while now. Bribes and corruption exist among the watchdogs too… and has only gotten worse since it all became about the bottomlines.
24 hours of news has to be filled, and it needs to be ‘fresher’ and ‘different’ from the other 24 channels reporting the same thing. Considering how many channels have a chance to get scoops, it is only natural that they each resort to the shock value. And as the audience gets a little numb, the voltage is hiked up a little more.
People break down under constant pressure. Burnouts happen. So sometimes, we do take the easy way out. If someone like Radia offers us an exclusive in exchange to play messenger, the journalist compromises. It doesn’t seem like a big thing.
Then we grow lazier. We want the stories to come to us. If someone offers you a story on a platter, you do not bother digging into facts?
The first rule I was taught in journalism was never take anything at face value, always verify the facts. Even if the PR sent me the release, I would have to double check everything.
Recently, someone wrote an article about how the PR people were harassing the journalists to get their articles in place.
The field of PR and brand management were created for a reason. The PR does have some use to a reporter… they are under as much pressure to get publicity for their company as a reporter is under to get news. Perhaps more.
Any PR person with ethics would not cross boundaries to get their articles in place. Any journalist with ethics would not take the freebies in return for an article.
So it all comes down to ethics… and what you are willing to do to get that job done. If you want to be lazy, if you want to compromise on quality, if you want to misuse the power that you do have.
We become journalists because, somewhere, we were all idealists and we believed we could make a difference.
We can. If people do believe us.
But now, we don’t believe that we can. So where does that leave the idealist?