India’s Best Journalists: Arun Shourie # 1

Ravinar, worked with one of India’s largest selling newspapers and other orgs in Marketing functions who sincerely believe a corrupt media is the most dangerous threat to any democracy writes about 10 most respected journalists in India on his blog Media Crooks:

Since the article on India’s Worst Journalists-2012 (IWJ) last April I had received many suggestions to do one on India’s best. Some even recommended that the same ‘worst’ should be put to another poll to find out which are the best among them. When I looked up the ‘Charter of MediaCrooks’ there were hundreds of provisions to identify and talk about the crooks but not a single one to identify the good ones or the best in the business. Fair, since that wasn’t the task of MediaCrooks. So I derived inspiration from the ‘Worst list’ and ‘manipulated’ the Charter to enable this site to identify the best journalists. The candidates on the best journalists list were all picked by people on the social media. (Thanks to all who contributed). If I had left it to the Anti-SocialMedia (MSM) probably none of these names would have figured.

There is something else about the journalists on the list. You won’t find most of them flamboyant or glamorous. You won’t find most of them frequently in those back-scratching media awards functions. The greatest thing about the candidates on the ‘best’ poll is that when they write an article or appear on TV it is highly unlikely you will find them asking: “Oh God, what should I tell them”? They speak their own free minds. So here are those who have been voted India’s Best Journalists (Poll results on the top right of this page):

10. Ashok Malik – Malik has been in the business for over two decades now. His association has mostly been with The Pioneer but you can also find him in other journals and lately also on many TV channels as a panellist. His writings are not the kind that will set you on fire but Malik manages to put across his views and arguments gently and without offending. That might be surprising since many bios of his mention his wanting to be a gossip-writer in film magazines. That’s hard to believe because he looks so serious. It would be nice, though, to see a gossip column from him – just to see some stuff from him on the Poonam Pandeys, Sonam Kapoors and Uday Chopras.  In any case, don’t expect him to be politically incorrect. Like other successful journalists who have adapted to the Internet Malik understands and values the social media. He is happy to write in a form that the MSM wouldn’t consider really ‘Sexy’ in these times. He speaks his mind anyway and that’s the obvious reason he’s here.

9. Madhu Trehan – She’s one of the survivors from the journalism of the old world charm. The co-founder ofIndiaToday, India’s first weekly news-magazine, has many firsts to her credit. The other significant claim to fame has to be her video news-magazine ‘Newstrack’, in the days of Doordarshan’s monopoly, which was made available as videos through her magazine and through regular video outlets. But Madhu Trehan is not on this list for her past laurels though. She has re-invented herself and has been active on the social media. Her news channel Newslaundry is growing in popularity. It’s a site where Madhu and her colleagues launder the regular crooks in the media with a lot of humour and candour. Viewers and readers of Newslaundry have often felt she has been soft on the crooks but that takes away nothing from her sincerity and her commitment. She has also learned to engage with the crowd on social media. Her popularity is on the up again.

8. R. Jagannathan – Business World, India Today, Express group, Business Standard, DNA he has worked with all of them. A significant involvement has to be the launch of Business Today. Other than that he has spent relatively smaller tenures with most of these publications. But TheJaggi, as he calls himself on Twitter, came to greater prominence with FirstPost. Though I call Firstpost the online sidekick of the Network18 group (CNN-IBN, CNBC-TV18 etc.), Jaggi has brought a lot of balance and freshness in the online news business. As editor of Firstpost not only his own articles but even those of others have largely been truly interesting and fair. That’s what is amazing. Since the group’s TV channels are heavily biased and are nearly political mouthpieces, Firstpost doesn’t appear to be so. Being a business journalist himself, his articles on economics and financial matters make exceptional reading. I don’t have numbers but I would dare to state Firstpost could easily be the most popular dedicated online news site at the moment and will grow in strength. A lot of credit for that must go to TheJaggi.

7. P. Sainath – He calls himself a ‘rural’ reporter. One of the few Indians to receive the Ramon Magsaysay awards Sainath is the art movie equivalent of Bollywood in journalism. And I say that in a nice way. On the mainstream media degenerating into entertainment he once remarked: “”I felt that if the Indian press was covering the top 5 per cent, I should cover the bottom 5 per cent” and that he does splendidly. On another occasion he observed there were 400 journalists reporting on a Fashion show in Delhi but not one reporting on poverty in India. One recent article by him “Reaping gold through cotton, and newsprint” about the misreporting and twisted journalism by TOI is indicative of the tenor of most of his articles and exposes. It is indeed surprising that he hasn’t been called upon to be a panellist on TV shows relating to farmer suicides and such related issues. Maybe he just detests the very format of these debates and avoids them. Outspoken against Paidmedia and other evils of the press he is one reporter who should be inspiration for a lot more.
6. J. Gopikrishnan – There must be a reason his name starts with G. His stunning investigative reports on the2G scam has exposed many corrupt politicians and the entire UPA govt itself. Gopi, as he is called in trade circles, systematically pursued and exposed the manner in which scarce nation resources were sold for a song by the corrupt. Naturally, apart from rising popularity among people a number of awards followed as well in the last year or so. The mostly compromised bigger media outlets started following the 2G story only after his reports. That Gopi works with a relatively small newspaper like The Pioneer also reflects on where good journalism is coming from lately. In the words of his own editor, Chandan Mitra, “He has put on no airs despite the accolades he has received and the many awards he has won. He remains committed to his profession and profession alone”. What followed Gopi’s reports are similar assessments by the CAG on 2G and worse, the explosive Radiatapes that exposed the media-politician-lobbyists nexus. More power to him.
5. Sucheta Dalal – She could have been somebody…. Somebody like… You know who, a media super celebrity. She could have easily compromised ethics and traded that for millions. But Sucheta Dalal is one of the most reliable financial journalists around. From the Harshad Mehta scam to Ketan Parekh to current misdeeds in the financial markets she has served ordinary investors and consumers all her career. Having worked with all the major newspapers in the country she now runs her own web magazine, Moneylife. Apart from various investment and securities boards, including those of the govt, she is also on the board ofConsumer Education & Research Centre in Ahmedabad. In the crowd of many unscrupulous financial and stock market journalists, in print and on TV, she stands out like a beacon. One hopes future aspirants in this domain will look to her for inspiration.
 4. M. J. Akbar – There isn’t much that I need to write about MJ Akbar that people don’t already know. From a Trainee in TOI to launch of major journals like TheSunday andTelegraph and to also being a member of parliament there isn’t much that MJA hasn’t achieved. One of the senior most journalists of India he has also authored many books. In particular, his analyses of Indo-Pak relations are easily among the best anyone can get to read. His recent launch, the onlineSundayGuardian, has acquired a fair bit of popularity on the internet news readers. SundayGuardian is as hard-hitting a news magazine as you can get. He is currently the Editorial Director of IndiaToday and their TV channel HeadlinesToday. That he retains a high level of popularity after four decades in journalism say everything about why he is still rated as one of the best.
 3. Kanchan Gupta – He is most famous for his association with The Pioneer and even more so as an advisor in the PMO for Atal Behari Vajpayee. Apart from writing on politics and current affairs you could fairly call him a reasonable expert on middle-east affairs owing to his work in that region. He can be subtle, wry and sarcastic but don’t expect him to make you fall off your chair laughing. Straight-talking, blunt and sometimes provocative, his writings do not spin facts. That’s the reason he is very popular with the right wing and not so popular in the mainstream media. Often appears on TV shows but gets shouted down very easily. That is not so much because he doesn’t have a booming voice but because he stops when asked by the moderator and cares to listen to others. In a country where journalism and media is dominated by communists and being ‘right-wing’ is almost criminal, his success stands out for his brilliant, insightful and honest writing. Has been another one to quickly learn the future of media is online and has now started his own venture called Niti Digital.
 2. Swapan Dasgupta – Quite easily the best and most popular of contemporary journalists around. That should be a surprise because he too is a ‘right-wing’ journalist. Not just that, he also happens to be the most sought after TV panellist. I refuse to call him an ‘intellectual’ as many do since I consider that term reserved for ‘Nobeler’ souls. Let’s see, I would callAmartya Sen or Dileep Padgaonkar an intellectual. Which is why it is dismaying to find him debating ‘intellectuals’ like Mani Shankar Aiyar. SD is simply blessed with an extraordinary abundance of simple common sense. That’s what makes his writings a delight to read. The number of journals he writes for is too long to be listed here. Sharp observations, deep insights and simple honesty are key features of his writings. Like Sachin Tendulkar he is not gifted with great vocal chords but he makes up for that with his solid batting. If he is on a TV debate you are assured of a decent one without the usual cacophony that passes for debates. Whatever one’s ideology he is clearly a role model for budding journalists.
1. Arun Shourie – This is quite a surprise. I say that in a nice way because Arun Shourie hasn’t been a very active journalist for quite some time. That he remains the best journalist with voters is a tribute to his standing and accomplishments. He is the first of India’s true investigative journalists who led to the fall of a Chief Minister in Maharashtra in the eighties. His most reputed tenure is that as the Executive Editor of Indian ExpressAt one point the Congress govt had nothing less than 300 cases slapped against the IE after the Bofors episode. Author of many books, MP and was also a minister under the NDA govt. It’s distressing for many that since the days of Shourie the fiercely independent IE has more or less become a ‘handler’ of the govt’s agenda. He had also strongly opposed Pratibha Patilfor president and it’s not so hard now to see why. Every article and book written by Shourie is perhaps better researched, more thoughtful and provocative than any of the ones by many modern day journalists. Not surprisingly, he was he named as one of the International Press Institute’s 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the past 50 years in 2000 apart from being honoured with the Magsaysay award. The likes of Shourie and the others on this list keep the flame of hope for good journalism floating.
So there it is; India’s Best Journalists and I expect they will remain so for quite some time. In an age where skin colour, lipstick, make-up, laundering and brokering skills determine the prominence and influence of a journalist, it is not very difficult for them to stand out. I believe they would have stood out anyway. If most of the media crooks are a danger to democracy and freedom then there are some who strongly protect it too. And those are 10 good reasons to cheer.

Nothing ever like it on Indian TV : Arnab Goswami’s veritable ‘Devil’s Dance’

Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India B. Raman writes in Sri Lanka Guardian about TIMES NOW Editor Arnab Goswami‘s theatrics while anchoring the prime times news at 9 on the Times Of India’s news channel:

 

Even if there is no exciting news, Arnab manages to produce excitement out of what is available.And when exciting news is available, Arnab keeps his viewers enthralled.

I understand Arnab Goswami of the Times Now news channel is an increasingly viewed news anchor of India today.

I am not surprised.
Ever since he started his 9 PM daily news programme, people no longer have to go to night clubs and bars for their evening excitement.

They get it in ample measure by watching his daily debates on the important news of the day.

It may not be appropriate to call them debates.
What he serves the viewers is a veritable Devil’s Dance— with no histrionics barred.
The more hysterical you are, the more valued you are by Arnab.
It is immaterial whether you know the subject, whether you have insights and whether you analyse lucidly.
What is important is your ability to add to the colour and excitement of his Devil’s Dance.
Things like Netiquette, politeness, courtesy, patience to let others speak, decorum, gravitas are not important.
It is not a debate, it is an exciting performance.
You can do anything so long as you attract viewers.
You can scream.
You can shout.
You can pull your hair and that of others.
You can try to monopolise the show by not letting others speak.
Not much is intelligible because everybody speaks and shouts at the same time.
As in some Greek shows where the author also joins the play as an active participant, Arnab is not just an anchor.
He also joins others in their histrionics.
There is never a dull moment in Arnab’s Devil’s Dance.
Even if there is no exciting news, Arnab manages to produce excitement out of what is available.
And when exciting news is available, Arnab keeps his viewers enthralled.
For the last three days, Indian TV news channels, which were going through the summer silly season, have found something exciting to show and talk about following the arrest of Abu Jundal, a co-conspirator of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, by the Saudi authorities and his transfer to Indian custody.
You can depend on Arnab to make the best out of the excitement.
His Devil’s Dance, full of anti-Pakistan histrionics, has acquired a new excitement, a new rhythm and new drum-beats.
Many retired spooks are happily joining the Devil’s Dance every day.
You can save money on going to bars and night clubs and instead watch Arnab’s show at 9 PM every night.
Nothing like it seen on Indian TV before.

Indian Media has lost their conscience: No talk about Indian Emergency of 1975

On 25 the June 1975  was the unfortunate day when President Fakhrudin Ali Ahmed  declared a state of emergency under article 352 of constitution of India upon the advise of prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Election’s and Civil liberties were suspended and suspension of article 352 effectively bestowed on President to rule by decree. In the history of Indian Independence Indian democracy was derailed for the first time.In 1977 democracy was restored and since then we are fortunate enough that our democracy has evolved and following the right path so that it could evolve.

 

I am not writing this post to glorify the resistance against government in emergency and they established democracy again in 1977. I am writing this article to convey the current status of one of the most important pillar of Democracy of the present era. This pillar is know as “MEDIA”. After visiting almost all the websites of Major Digital Channel and print newspaper in English and Hindi one point has astonished me no one is talking about Emergency of 1975.

One of my observation about Media is one part of their content strategy depends on what is trending on Twitter. All the English and Hindi website of Print media will write when Google will honor any one through a Google Doodle but their editorial framework don’t think that they should talk about “DARKEST PERIOD OF INDIAN DEMOCRACY” today as a significance to tell the story of history to the current generation. Why Indian Media don’t think that the current generation need to know the importance of the hard earned democracy in which they are living? Media is avoiding looking towards history and asking many question’s which is needed to answer is a dangerous trend for India and Indian democracy.

There is a Saying  when we start avoiding or telling lies about history history never forgives us. We are not telling lies but we are seriously avoiding our history. Since morning Emergency 75 is trending on Twitter India but not a single conventional media has come up with a story. On Twitter all the famous Editor of major digital news channel always present their views but today no one showed up with their enlightening views.

Two important characters of Indian emergency which is Emergency itself and Indira Gandhi were trending on Twitter for a long time. #Emergency75 is still trending on twitter India.

Rajdeep Sardesai who tweeted in defense . This is the sate in which Indian Media has reached when Editor in chief of a national news channel has to defend themselves. I have no right and knowledge to say anything about Rajdeep Sardesai and I prefer to believe what ever he is saying is true. on a personal level I believe people. There is one question I want to personally put in-front of him and all the editor in chief why people perspective towards media is not right.

 

What I have observed on Twitter is general public of India is surprised as emergency in 1975 didn’t get any importance or coverage from conventional media. I think the main reason behind this issue can be central Government which belongs to Congress didn’t want people to remember emergency which was imposed by Congress Party only. The story ahead you can easily guess. (This post was published by Rai, in http://videathink.com on June 25, 2012)

Indian Media: Sexual favors demanded from 90% women journalist in Kerala, god’s own country!!!

Dhanya Exhuthachan writes in her article titled “ACCEPTANCE OF FEMALE JOURNALISTS IN KERALA” Kerala’s own “City Journal”, how woman journalist are not accepted as bride in Kerala. Malayalees do not prefer to send their daughter to work as a journalist and that most of the woman journalists are exploited by their male counterparts to receive pay hike, promotion, etc :


A significant number (40.2 per cent) of female journalist did not complain because they felt sexual harassment is not taken seriously in their workplace or that their complaint would seem trivial or over-reacting.

THERE are many girls among us who wish to be a Barkha Dutt or Leela Menon when they grow up. Most of the times, those dreams are shattered due to contradictory circumstances. Female journalists are aplenty in Kerala; definitely majority of them are more talented and sharp than their male counterparts. Still, Malayalees are yet to prefer journalism as a career for girls. It is a fact that most of the female journalists reach for the work overcoming disagreements even from their parents and husbands. Parents cannot be blamed as they are concerned about the safety of their girls as journalism is about taking risks and challenges. But it’s really ironical that even boys here do not prefer to marry a working journalist!
Arun Menon, a mechanical engineer says, “I cannot accept my wife going for reporting. I do not blame their profession. Of course, it’s a cool one. But it will not be nice if my wife goes out of house at midnight. I know it’s a part of their job. They should be present if something happens. I respect that. But even if I accept, my parents will not be. They are old people. We cannot change them. So I prefer a job for her in which she can go in morning and come back by evening.”
As journalism became a profession, women were restricted by custom and law from access to journalism occupations, and faced significant discrimination within the profession. Nevertheless, women operated as editors, reporters, sports analyst and journalists even before the 1890s.
In several places now women can no longer be ignored and also the old tradition of keeping women out of the workplace has been set aside by the younger generation of newspaper owners. This has happened in Malayala Manorama. Fifteen years ago, women were not allowed to write the entrance test for recruitment to Malayala Manorama. In those days, even receptionists in the organisation were men. Today there are women in almost all departments, the change brought by the second generation owners and their spouses.
A male news reporter in the city says, “Its true people have started to accept female reporters. But still there is a concept among public that female journalists are bad. It’s common people pull a long face if they find any girl on the road after 7pm. Moral policing is very high in Kerala society. Now the newspapers and channels provide cabs for security of female reporters. But those who travel in bus or train at night have to suffer the male gazing even if they are journalists. Boys think female reporters are daredevils and they will command everything if they marry them. Lack of feminine look is another problem in their eyes. It’s true as part of the profession, the reporters adopt dress styles similar to men and go for short hairs. The society is yet to change. There is no doubt that females are excellent in reporting and finding things. They stay a step above us always. But they have many limitations.”
Some have the opinion that male domination is very high in media field. As being a ‘Pennu (Woman)’ in their language, most of the times, the girls have to face several harassments from workplace. 90% of the female journalists here come across a situation in which their male seniors demand their body to get a salary hike or promotion. Some girls obey that demand thinking of a better payment and position, some leave the job and majority suffer without saying all these things to others. Maybe, all these exploitation also stop parents and boys not to prefer female journalists.
National Commission for Women had conducted a project on the ‘Status of Women Journalists in the Print Media’ to look into the issues affecting the role of women working in media. The project was prepared conducting survey of women journalists all over India.
A section of the project says, the biggest burden on women in journalism is their domestic responsibilities as wife, mother and daughter-in-law. The brightest and most successful journalists have left a bright career to settle down in matrimony or have moved to less demanding jobs when children arrive. For women, almost invariably, the home comes first.
AT Jayanti editor of Deccan Chronicle, believes that “As home is always a woman’s responsibility, it naturally affects her work. I have no problem with any girl until she marries,” she says.
Findings of the projects also include that sexual harassment is part of work culture in media organisations in India but women either do not know how or, for a wide variety of reasons, choose not to do anything about it. Only 15.2 per cent of women who experienced sexual harassment had made a formal complaint. 10.8 per cent of those who did not make a formal complaint did not do so for fear of intimidation, victimisation or losing their job. A significant number (40.2 per cent) did not complain because they felt sexual harassment is not taken seriously in their workplace or that their complaint would seem trivial or over-reacting.
A senior Malayalam journalist, who spoke to the Commission on the harassment of women both sexually and professionally, put it briefly: “A woman works alone and suffers alone. She finds no support either at home or at office. Men on the other hand, when faced with allegations, close ranks and stand by their colleagues.”

Indian Media: Why journalists hate trolls

Pagal Patrakar (in his blog – http://blog.fakingnews.com) writes without any screaming and shouting in plain English and without any intellectual nonsense or any stern voice and constipated faces either, about how journalists thinks that it is their duty, as a journalist, to show “mirror to the society” and not let anyone show the the mirror:

..For them(journalists) , a troll is anyone who is not following the rules and decorum of a civilized communication, and who argues without showing much respect to logic.

At this point of time, some of the top journalists leading the crusade against trolls would claim that their objection is only to the abusive and hateful trolls. I have reasons to believe that this is just an excuse.

The thought process (no lateral thinking involved here) behind creating such a list is rooted in a journalist’s arrogated right to frame rules and decorum for a public debate…..However, more than the anarchic nature of Twitter (and much of the virtual world) and a public display of love towards civilized discourse, a journalist’s problem with Twitter arises from the fact that traditional journalism is ill-conceived to allow and incorporate feedback and criticism.

……..I’ve been a (television) journalist myself (in pre-Facebook and pre-Twitter era) and don’t remember a single editorial meeting that was called in to discuss feedback. In fact, there was no mechanism to collect public feedback at all.

The only ‘feedback’ that we were responding to was weekly TRPs. There were weekly meetings to analyze what type of program gathered the highest TRP and how to repeat the “success”. And I guess things haven’t changed much since then.

Most of what is being dismissed as trolling by journalists (not all of them, I must admit; many of them are doing really good on Twitter) are actually instant and angry feedback by their ‘consumers’.

Traditional journalism, as an institution, has always seen itself as ‘giving feedback’ to the society and hasn’t thought it necessary to ‘take feedback’.

I remember Indian Express editor Shekhar Gupta’s interview with Star News (now ABP News) after the coup-story controversy where he claimed that a member of Team Anna (most probably Arvind Kejriwal) had asked him whether Indian Express took feedback from the readers on what it publishes (Express had published a string of stories ‘exposing’ Team Anna before).

Shekhar Gupta thought that the suggestion (about taking feedback) was irrelevant as it was his duty, as a journalist, to show “mirror to the society” (his words) and not let anyone show him the mirror (my words).

A bulk of the problems of journalists with Twitter is rooted in this nature of journalism, where feedback is not deemed necessary, in fact, it’s seen as an unpleasant development, something they happily dismiss as trolling.

Read the full post : Why journalists hate trolls

Maya “Bush”: Goa Sting Operator Who Gave Up Anonymity

The multiple exploits of Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, the journalist who exposed Goa’s paid news racket, pulled off a prank by planting a fake Nazi story in several well-read dailies, and has held up a mirror to the media in other ways. He is known in Goan media circles as Bhushan, or The Bush. He has written an hilarious article titled  ‘Pimples on Paradise’ about the various corrupt activities of media in Goa in newslaundry.com:

“Bhushan gives the home minister too much tension. He gives the chief of police too much tension as well. He is too straightforward.”

Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

I live in Goa. In a small corner in that paradise.In that corner, where I live, there aren’t any dancing virgins. There’s only journalists. And crimson trails of torn professional hymens.

And the story I have to tell is not new. It isn’t even a big story.Like the one which spilled out with the Nira Radia tapes. There’s no Barkha Dutt. There’s no Vir Sanghvi. Not even a relatively low-brow, shrill Prabhu Chawla.

The story is about a small place. The heroes here are a lot smaller in scale. So are the villains. But the stories from this small place are as interesting as the ones which come from the big cities. Trust me. The sweet, warm smell of purification reeks the same everywhere.

As the author of this piece, I will reserve stories involving me for later.

The first story’s a comparison between two opposite journalistic poles.

This is the story of Ash. And the story of Pats.

Ash has been a journalist for nigh two decades. He’s conscientiously worked on the newsdesk and reported extensively in Goa. He’s anchored newspaper editions for all three local newspapers in Goa.

Ash has been a journalist for nigh two decades. He’s conscientiously worked on the newsdesk and reported extensively in Goa. He’s anchored newspaper editions for all three local newspapers in Goa. But then he went on and did three things over the last few years – not necessarily in the order listed. He became a founding member of a newspaper employees union seeking fair working conditions. Later, he contested civic elections after putting in a legit leave of absence. Third, he befriended me.

Result: He has been virtually unemployed for the last four of the eight years. There are four daily English newspapers in Goa. One monthly news magazine. And several other news, feature and lifestyle magazines. But no jobs to be had for him. In my honest opinion, he has the professional wherewithal to fit into any newspaper set up across the country.

The one reason which editors and newspaper managements in Goa give him for rejecting his job application, is his ‘voluble’ support and perceived involvement in an anonymous media critiquing blog I ran by the name of Penpricks. And he wasn’t even part of it.

Directorate of Official language organized a book release function on 31st May 2010 at Maquinize Palace, Panaji at the hands of Shri Digambar Kamat, Hon’ble C. M./Minister of Official Language in the distinguished presence of renowned music director Shri Ashok Patki, following three books were released in the function, one of which was “Vikas Khara Khota” written by Goa’s most prominent, resourceful, respectful and seniormost journalist, editor Shri Raju Nayak (extreme right) in Marathi
(note: This picture is not suggestive of any imaginative character in the article. It is only published here to show how Goa governments has been encouraging prominent literary personalities from all walks of life to promote art & culture.

Now, Pats has also been around a bit. He’s on the vernacular end of things. His honest cherry popped early and was perhaps replaced by a big red plum. He was caught using a ruling Congress politician’s credit card for wardrobe shopping. Took paid-news suparis regularly. Bought a few mining trucks. Started real estate projects. Until one fine day he was asked to leave by his newspaper management, when they discovered that he hadn’t withdrawn from his salary account for several years. Within a month he was snapped up by another vernacular newspaper and his cycle of corruption renewed once again.

The second story has no central characters. There were just too many of them during the run-up to the assembly elections in March this year, for any one in particular to take centre stage. Early during the campaign, both the Congress and the BJP came in with war chests to cultivate the media. Well, there’s still no confirmation of the exact monies doled out to the media here. But then there’re things you see for yourself. While one political party offered journalists covering the polls tablet phones along with money, another party simply offered cash on the barrel. So if you see media folk in Goa who suddenly flaunt a tablet phone and tell-tale signs of a sudden flush of cash, chances are you may have just spotted a bad egg.

The deal struck between journalists and newspaper managements and poll contestants these last elections was relatively uncomplicated, but also had a sheen of innovation.

Conventionally, the concept of paid news involves payment of money for publishing of favourable content. During the March elections however, the paid-news deals involved not just writing favourably about one candidate, but also blanking out news involving his opponents. Paid-news emerged as an evolved and a matured entity this time round.

Those interested in looking up lop-sided reportage, could scan the poll coverage in the Herald for a comparative analysis of assembly constituencies like Fatorda, Curchorem, Quepem, etc, where the coverage has been extremely ‘unusual’ to say the least. There were other newspapers who did it too, but none with the élan of the above-mentioned newspaper.

And then there’s this little story about me.

I’ve been a working journalist since 1997. I have worked for The Asian Age in Mumbai, Herald in Goa, Tehelka in New Delhi and have also been part of a band of journalists who produced investigative news software for television channels. And then I’ve done some writing on and critiquing of the media in Goa over the years. There’s the story about editorials for sale. Then there was the fake story about a holocaust varmint Nazi being arrested by a fictitious secret German police unit floated by me which was published in several newspapers across India and the globe. Then there was another story about newspapers publishing sex advertisements promoting prostitution, where instead of listing the pimp’s number, I inserted phone numbers of the same editors whose newspapers published these lewd and solicitous adverts. There was also the story of how the Goa Editor’s Guild (GEG) set out to gag the media critique blog, by listing the item on the agenda of an official Guild meeting. And then another one establishing paid news in these assembly elections in Goa.

Result: I’ve had to do my bit of scrounging. I have been at the bottom of the barrel for a spell. In the course of exposing the above-mentioned stories, I’ve been out of a job for a long while. There was no money coming in so I resorted to all sorts of odd writing jobs, since writing is the only paying skill I possess. I did some cheap sweatshop commercial-writing by pitching to postings on craigslist. I’ve written and rewritten about yoga mats. About turd-cleaning devices, which help you clear dog poo off the floor, without leaving stains. I’ve even written tasty little descriptors for websites hosting porn films and sleazeclips, sometimes making $2 for 500 words.

All this, until a friend and fellow journalist Fredrick Noronha voluntarily and graciously gave up his job writing for a news agency from Goa, so that I could pitch for it.

So now every story told through the ages has had its morals. And I am still looking for the morals in mine.

But like I said earlier. The story is the same everywhere. Journalistic corruption is not special to Goa. Dammit, it’s not even as big as the big metros. So why did I do the things I did and say the things I have over here?

Things come across a lot clearer in smaller places. There’re fewer people. Fewer buffers. Fewer layers of camouflage. There’s lesser intrigue. The smaller journalistic microcosm of Goa is representative of the profession’s ills and helps one understand the depravity of the broader journalistic setup in India in an easy way.

A shot of Goan feni in a Goan tavern works as well as the finest scotch in Delhi’s tony, well-heeled clubs. But what would cost you ten bucks here could cost you a few hundred quid in Delhi, with perhaps a Bangkok junket thrown in for good measure.

Indian scribes are compelled to pay ritual obeisance to PM’s “personal honesty and integrity”

Madhu Purnima Kishwar writes Honestly Speaking in Outlook: 

Dr Manmohan Singh cannot escape responsibility for appointing people with dubious credentials to occupy key positions of power—starting with the appointment of Pratibha Patil as the President of India.

Today, the Indian media—both print and television—is focusing on the recent corruption scandals involving the UPA Government with unusual zeal. However, I fail to understand why almost every commentator, every TV anchor, every editorial writer feels compelled to pay ritual obeisance to the “personal honesty and integrity” of Dr Manmohan Singh while dealing with the scandals emanating from his cabinet colleagues. They do so even when there is clear evidence that the Prime Minister was well aware of various shady deals, as in the case of Telecom scam, and that he did nothing to stop the brazen economic crimes indulged in by his ministerial colleagues over the last 6 years. 
…In recent weeks, some of our most respected columnists have been warning us that we should look at institutional reform rather than target individuals because it can lead to loss of faith in democratic institutions. But how do you retain faith in democratic institutions if powerful individuals use their office to systematically subvert the autonomy and credibility of institutions meant as watchdogs of democracy? The best of institutions take no time in becoming slavish instruments of partisan agendas if you plant subservient and heavily compromised individuals at their helm.

……..A PM who compromises national interest, as in Kashmir, just to indulge the personal fancy of the PM in waiting, a PM who looks the other way while his Cabinet colleagues brazenly loot public funds and get away with extorting thousands of crores by way of kickbacks, a PM who is widely perceived and lampooned as a “rubber stamp” does not merit being called “an honest man” or a “man of integrity” because integrity in his job demands putting national interest above partisan politics and personal loyalties. Integrity also involves taking full responsibility for all his acts of commission and omission which have earned UPA II the dubious distinction of being publicly named as the most corrupt and rudderless government in post independence India


Madhu Purnima Kishwar is Founding Editor, Manushi Journal, Founder, Manushi Sangathan–Citizens First Forum and Senior Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

 Read the full piece Honestly Speaking in Outlook