The Role Of Media in India : Barkhagate & its aftermath

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Puys, First of all my thoughts & prayers with the victims & heroes of 26-11..which happened exactly two years ago! Starting this thread to hears views on the unfolding #barkhagate #mediamafia controversy brewing on Twitter for the last w...
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Being a journalist too, and having done my good time in the mainstream media, I have come to realise that in India, journalists are not as powerful or as important as they are indoctrinated to believe they are, nor are they as important as they should be in a healthy democracy. But the environment they work in is a make-believe fantasy world - editorial teams do believe and keep telling themselves that they are doing phenomenal work and are making a large-scale impact. Which is far from the truth, because if you started counting the number of categories/entities which are simply out of bounds for a journalist to write against, you would lose faith in the system. So what basically follows in the life of a journalist is a day-to-day existence, which involves second-guessing their media house's management and keeping off negative coverage of issues/people/companies/parties/agencies, which are known to be close to the owner. Think about it - since 2000, we have become such a consumerist society. We buy stuff daily. Do you ever recall seeing a story about problems faced by consumers of XYZ product? Hardly ever, as everything - whether it is cars, gadgets, fast food, loans, furniture, property - has promised a multi-crore ad campaign.

The biggest proof of the fact that a journalist means zilch is the full front-page ads done by newspapers such as ToI, HT and other biggies. It's a clear message - "Our newspaper does not sell because of the news, so we will go ahead and put a jewelry/real estate full-page ad on its front page and people will still buy it from a newsstand. So what journalists do is important only to an extent."

All this has huge implications. The journalists with very good potential lose motivation, and may choose to either merely exist in their jobs for that occasional moment of glory, or may quit and join some other profession. The rest of the cubicles are filled up by young wannabes or those with clear motives. The former category is of bimbos (either gender) who are just too happy to get access to those perceived as glamorous/powerful in our society and have the capacity to pull off 4-5 years in the profession projecting their awed selves in their articles, until they switch over to the PR industry. The latter category is a larger rot in newsrooms and you can even imagine. I'm talking about those journalists who will directly/indirectly ask for private compensation in order to feature you in good light. Compensation includes everything from goods, fully-paid holidays, to property (if you are playing that high stakes a game) to cash. And why not? Everybody around us is buying things - expensive mobile phones, flats, weekends at Mauritius, etc.

And then there are those who get really, really close to power and turn into conduits or even worse, fixers while they are holding their journalist positions.

BD and VS display something of a conduit/beneficiary behaviour, though not exactly fixer behaviour (no evidence of them getting largesse out of this has emerged). Barkha got a chance to defend herself the other day on NDTV, but she blew it badly whining and interrupting others (like she usually does). VS was more measured in the Headlines Today show and was more openly agreeing that he realised that his behaviour was wrong. VS has been penalised by the loss of his column in HT. No such sign of remorse from BD side. She still sounds just so shocked that people could even question her.

But for every BD and VS, there are hundreds of junior level nameless journos who are very corrupt at their own level, whose stories we unsuspectingly trust. And those who really do want to play honest, will not be allowed to because the Editors are compromised.

Anyway, the larger point I want to make with this long post of mine is that the pressures that stop "free journalism" today are so many, that those in the profession realise how pointless everything is. Some of those are making hay while the sun shines, while others are deserting the ship.

I come in peace. Take me to your leader. http://www.twitter.com/apurv
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Right..I think we need to let others weigh in with their takes as well..if not, I'll take my discussion with you offline 😁 ( @Lokesh89 )

You can't cross a wide chasm with two small leaps
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NDTV News

should view this page, i think it will satiate!
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I feel that BD & VS would have had to resign on the spot had they been working at any top media houise worldwide..N.Ram reconfirmed this belief of mine on Karan Thapar's "The Last Word aired on CNN-IBn..haven't seen the program , just saw a snatch and a few tweet reactions..but in any ccase..I started this thread to discuss what's next ..and not whether BD & VS ar erigh tor wrong 😁

You can't cross a wide chasm with two small leaps
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she has numerous tweets on this issue & has denied the charges
infact her show "the buck stops here" had aired the controversy the very second day, they even came out with a defamation suit against open magazine
Infact they ran their legal response to open magazine the entire second day.

some tweets by barkha dutt, u can verify them :

"For the record: I think EVERY journo has the right to engage a source, its NO CRIME. am just questioning selective standards of commentary."


"Not that I think all journos dont have a right to engage a source. am just curious to the narrative on twitter being about one or two alone"

"Outlook site has dozens of conversations of journos from diff TV channels and newspapers with Radia. So why is the focus selective? curious"
"@amishra77 it also does the SANE job of separating every conversation. And also names all the other names. Doesnt appeal to you naturally."
"and let me say, Im not passing judgment on the people from India Today who are on the tapes, just challenging hypocrisy"


You're right, i'm not disputing her or any Journos right to engage sources, nor do I dispute that she's been made the face of the media while she's perhaps not alone on these tapes, but that's besides the point.

But nowhere has she denied that she didn't speak to the congress on behalf of Radia. Also if you've listened to the tapes she mentions having just spoken to "them" several time. If the "them" refers to anyone in the Congress , as the context suggests, then THAT's where the real issue lies.

As for their legal case against OPEN magazine, the fact that they've file a case means nothing. I'm not sure if you're aware of a blogger named Chetanya Kunte who wrote a blog decrying Barkha's irresponsible journalism in the heat of the moment on his blog in the aftermath of 26/11.
NDTV and their legal team went after this poor chap and forced him to write a retraction and his blog went off air after that .. the matter never went to court..had it gone to court (As perhaps Chetanya due to lack of adequate legal counsel never knew) NDTV's case might not have been that strong at all, as there weren't too many factually incorrect statements in his post which was a compendium of several opinions (some of them harsh , but opinions nevertheless and not baseless falsifications)

In any case NDTV practises acute double standards and hypocrisy when they try and corral for themselves the right to free speech, and the right to express opinions; and arm twist others when they practice the same right.
You can't cross a wide chasm with two small leaps
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she has numerous tweets on this issue & has denied the charges
infact her show "the buck stops here" had aired the controversy the very second day, they even came out with a defamation suit against open magazine
Infact they ran their legal response to open magazine the entire second day.

some tweets by barkha dutt, u can verify them :

"For the record: I think EVERY journo has the right to engage a source, its NO CRIME. am just questioning selective standards of commentary."


"Not that I think all journos dont have a right to engage a source. am just curious to the narrative on twitter being about one or two alone"

"Outlook site has dozens of conversations of journos from diff TV channels and newspapers with Radia. So why is the focus selective? curious"
"@amishra77 it also does the SANE job of separating every conversation. And also names all the other names. Doesnt appeal to you naturally."
"and let me say, Im not passing judgment on the people from India Today who are on the tapes, just challenging hypocrisy"

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Lokesh89 Says
firstly (Open & Outlook) they have selectively pulled out tapes and published them, if they were so confident about this collusion of journalist & lobbyist then they should have published each & every interaction between the involved parties, they shouldn't have pulled out only select tapes.


My take is that this isn't true. As far as Open magazine is concerned, they have posted the taped conversations in their entirety , these are not spliced conversations. Also as they state in their clarification/follow up article on their website, they only left out certian conversations not relevant editorially to the story. They should ideally have taken a response from the parties they were raising fingers at, but they have tried to explain why they felt doing so might have compromised the story in its entirety.

regarding the contents of the tape, any one who hasn't heard the entire interaction will feel and react the same way, the way the ordinary netizens reacted..
now like u said "Also here, there's nothing BD or Vir Sanghvi are extracting per se as info or ANGLE from MS Radia. BD's clearly promising to OR actually talking to, people in the congress with specific tips from Ms Radia on what BD should say/ask !!"

as i said before journalist often promise for placebos just to placate them otherwise their sources wont respond to them.. and further the tapes only mentions that barkha is talking to senior congress leaders, that doesn't prove she actually did!


Bizarrely, while as you nailed it this is the crux of the issue, I have yet to see even one statement from @BDUTT either on her shows or on her twitter account or on her statement responding to the controversy denying this!!
You can't cross a wide chasm with two small leaps
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firstly (Open & Outlook) they have selectively pulled out tapes and published them, if they were so confident about this collusion of journalist & lobbyist then they should have published each & every interaction between the involved parties, they shouldn't have pulled out only select tapes.

regarding the contents of the tape, any one who hasn't heard the entire interaction will feel and react the same way, the way the ordinary netizens reacted..
now like u said "Also here, there's nothing BD or Vir Sanghvi are extracting per se as info or ANGLE from MS Radia. BD's clearly promising to OR actually talking to, people in the congress with specific tips from Ms Radia on what BD should say/ask !!"

as i said before journalist often promise for placebos just to placate them otherwise their sources wont respond to them.. and further the tapes only mentions that barkha is talking to senior congress leaders, that doesn't prove she actually did!

see the point i m trying to make here is, today media industry is at it all time high with cut throat competition, these tapes are just a result of that...
how many ppl knew about open magazine before they published Barkha Dutt on their cover page!
Media today breeds on sensationalism, any thing which stimulates the viewers is NEWS!

as far as the journalism itself states that "anything that is apparent might not itself be true"

all we need to do is to use our own brain and understand news & interpret it ourself, its all open for debate....
and i can say this as i m a journalist myself!:

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Lokesh89 Says
i believe its too over stretched, every journalist has the right to indulge in news sourcing, many a times journalist promise their sources placebos just to placate them so that they divulge vital information...

True, agree with that wholeheartedly, but after listening to the tapes am not convinced that that's all they were doing. I may be wrong here but in any case, I think the reason why this is being so actively taken up on twitter is that this is the first clear proof we have that our media is not unbiased, that it airs slanted opinions and that this happens with absolutely the top-notch journalists as well, not with small time papers or channels but we're talking NDTV & HT no less !!

Also here, there's nothing BD or Vir Sanghvi are extracting per se as info or ANGLE from MS Radia. BD's clearly promising to OR actually talking to, people in the congress with specific tips from Ms Radia on what BD should say/ask !!
VS on the other hand, does much worse in my opinion, again he's not acting like I would expect a journalist of his stature to act !!

Lokesh89 Says
and besides if at all these ppl were involved in lobbying for berths for DMK or for that matter congress, why are we missing the fact they are lobbying for the ppl we have voted to parliament & power, its our tacit approval for such lobbying...


Lobbying wherever it exists, is an intrusion into the democratic process. Ideally the elected officials concern themselves only with their constituencies and viewpoints of their constituents and roll with that.All decisions they take at a public, local, regional, national or international issues should derive its basis from that. However, Lobbying is an escapable natural outcome of the democratic process and facilitates results at times when democratic processes (unaided) could heald for animpasse or deadlock.

THAT said, journalists have NO business at all (and i control my language here ) being any part of this lobbying.Then it's clear that they are pro-government mouthpieces. How can they ever be ??
If journalists are involved in such lobbying they should only be involved through their public perosna and presence, not like this!!! (as of now they deny the lobbying part , mind you !)
This kind of behavior is clearly violating fundamental principles of journalism in my opinion, even if it proves to not be illegal.

Which is why I think this brouhaha has bubbled over so violently on Twitter, and i guess now, slowly on MSM as well.
You can't cross a wide chasm with two small leaps
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i believe its too over stretched, every journalist has the right to indulge in news sourcing, many a times journalist promise their sources placebos just to placate them so that they divulge vital information...
and besides if at all these ppl were involved in lobbying for berths for DMK or for that matter congress, why are we missing the fact they are lobbying for the ppl we have voted to parliament & power, its our tacit approval for such lobbying...

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