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.

9 lessons in Journalism from Tweets

Peter Griffin is Editor, Special Features, at Forbes India and ForbesLife India. He always considers himself as a student. He also handle social media for both publications. Last week the magazine carried a cover story on Flipkart and created a “HO HO” !! Based on the last week’s brouhaha on the cover story and that Peter being a late convert from advertising into journalism, he has listed nine lessons he learnt about Journalism practiced today. He writes in his column in Forbes India magazine :

Being a late convert from advertising, I’m probably the least experienced journalist in the Forbes India team aside from our interns. So I’m always grateful for the lessons the world can teach me.

• It is possible to pronounce judgement on an article based purely on a headline and/or tweets about it.

• A critical cover story must be a marketing gimmick by the subject of the article in collusion with its “critics,” because, after all, as Mr Barnum said, bad publicity is still publicity.

Read the full piece by Peter in Forbes 10 lessons on #journalism from Twitter

Note from Jeetu Shah: Yesterday the full text of the post was published here, but the author objected to that terming it as unethical and directed me to just include part of it and give the link to read the remaining post, which I did. However, I think how grave the crime was it, if the full piece was posted? So, I wrote back to Peter and tried getting some education from him.  ” Lesson # 10 in Journalism”.

Below is, what I wrote back to an Editor, Special Features of a globally acclaimed publication:

Peter, It depends on how we interpret ethics in a certain profession. However, since you are the author and I have committed a sin of letting know the readers of my blog about the 10 lessons you learnt, I shall honor your wish.
I still do not understand though, what difference will it make if I go back to the post, edit it, just include a short excerpt and a link and tax the readers to click the link and visit your whole post? If blogging was my profession (money making) it would be 100 % unethical to earn my livelihood on somebody labour (here writings). And is it really unethical that on a non-money making blog even after I have extended all due credits (authors name/fame, picture, magazine’s name, its link, etc) to the related post, even tendering an unconditional apology, for the “sin” I have committed, instead of just taking it lightly, you are so insistent on making me edit the post and update it again? What will one achieve out of it? Can’t we, as a fellow journalists, just be cool about it? Forbes & you are now globally acclaimed identity and people already know you and admire your work.
Even though you are an Editor, you are so down-to-earth & modest to write that you are ‘always a student’, I was inspired to include the full text of your post (instead of making the readers travel on the net), so that people who know & do not know you, can also admire you (especially after the brouhaha about your Flipkart cover story). In many of my other postings, I normally do what you ordered me to do with your post. But this was a relatively small piece, so I thought an honorable journalist of your stature won’t mind.
But, now I know it’s not you, the designation after your name who is hurt. Thanks for teaching me lesson # 10th.
But, my dear friend remember, it’s always good to get respect by one name and work, as the “belt”(designation) doesn’t remain permanent. Though, I am also a journalist (25+ years), I am also from the trader community being a Gujarati. We usually have a signboard in our shop which says,” These days will also Pass” (whether good or bad). I wish you well, Peter. ~ Jeetu

What is Arundhati Roy’s problem, “truth”?

Colin Todhunter writes in column titled ” Looking In The Mirror, Living In Denial: The Arundhati Roy Effect” in Countercurrents.org about problems with Arundhati Roy, that her critics acknowledges the fact that what she says and writes the true motives and intent underlying official policies. That, she is a Malayali/Bengali and it has always been fashionable to take an opposing view and that she is merely playing to a western media that are always looking to paint the India in a poor light.

Arundhati Roy holds up the mirror and forces people to look. Picture by Richard Avedon

Arundhati Roy’s recent 6,000 word article in India’s Outlook magazine in March contained a wide ranging critique of US foreign policy, capitalism, imperialism, globalisation, India’s industrialisation and the nation’s various internal conflicts and numerous other matters. All the things she has become noted for. Predictably, it provoked the kind of personal attacks that Roy has become accustomed to.

You either agree with Roy’s overall analysis, or at least parts of it, or you do not, and it’s always interesting to read critiques of Roy’s stance based on logical argument. Those who try to counter Roy in this way at least respect her views enough to spend time critiquing them. There are many, however, who like to leave logic aside and concentrate on Roy the person, stridently attacking her motives, psychology and personality.

What is it about Roy that elicits such bitter reactions, especially from within India and particularly in upper middle class circles? Such responses confuse personal prejudice, character assassination and sniping with critical analysis. Notwithstanding that no one can ever be right all of the time, it could well be that there is nevertheless a good deal of truth in what Roy says on various matters, and perhaps that’s the problem.

If her arguments are too black and white then show it. If she leaves little room for nuance then discuss it. If she is playing fast and loose with facts, challenge her. Instead, what we too often have are outbursts that have little to do with the issues themselves, but with Roy and what some consider her to be.

There are the accusations that say she merely plays to a western audience that buys her books, she is a self publicist or that her writings display some sort of personality deficit in terms of her constant attention seeking. While it may well be the case that there is a certain underlying misogyny inherent in some of the personal attacks, the question remains as to why do so many ordinary people in middle class households get so fired up over her.

Anti-establishment figures in all countries have always been vilified by newspapers, TV channels, politicians and opinion leaders. And ordinary folk often follow suit. Noam Chomsky experiences it in the US and journalist John Pilger has also had to bear similar establishment backed wrath in the UK. Roy is as terribly anti-India as Chomsky is as single-mindedly anti-US, so the warped line of reasoning from officialdom and its cheer leaders goes.

Most of the time, the writings of such figures delve beneath the rhetoric and propaganda to highlight the true motives and intent underlying official policies. Their arguments, however, too often become buried beneath personal criticisms and smear campaigns which set out to undermine them as people and by proxy their analyses. Why deal with uncomplicated truths that challenge officialdom when they can be brushed aside or attention can be diverted from them with abuse?

As far as Roy is concerned, the smears against her take many forms. She has writer’s block, so she seeks the limelight by jumping on the latest cause celebre. She’s not an expert – others in a given field have been working for a cause for decades and never get the column inches she gets. She is Malayali/Bengali and it has always been fashionable to take an opposing view. She is merely playing to a western media that are always looking to paint the India in a poor light.

And don’t forget that she doesn’t really understand the plight of the poor or oppressed. How could she choke on the stench of poverty or oppression with such a big silver spoon filling her mouth?

India doesn’t need Roy to tell us what we already know, does it? We don’t need such a celebrity activist with prosaic writing to tell us how to put things right? India has thousands of hands on community activists and workers who are making a real difference every day.

Such is logic of the anti-Roy brigade.

Looking at onself in the mirror can be a painful process, especially when the mirror is, like India, not as shiny as you were led to believe. Roy holds up the mirror and forces people to look. It is then that the gap between the poor and violently oppressed and the self congratulatory ‘new’ India of AC shopping malls, gated communities and all manner of conspicuous displays of luxury which the Indian upper middle classes cherish so much becomes too unbearable to accept. So what better response than denial? What better reaction than to vilify the messenger?

Could it be that Roy makes many feel too insecure? Could it possibly be that living in denial helps suppress the guilt that would gush forth if people were to acknowledge that a terrible price is being paid for an urban-chic lifestyle built on squeezing the life out of much of India via population displacement, land grabs, highly exploited labour, environmental degradation and state backed violence?

You don’t have to be living in the gutter before you are allowed to express a valid opinion on poverty or oppression. And if you have a message, it would be foolish not to use your talent to reach out to as wide an audience as possible. But maybe that’s part of the problem. For some, holding up a mirror to Indian society is bad enough, but Roy has the ability to project a realistic yet unpalatable image of India across the globe. With all their new found wealth, that’s what seems to annoy her critics most. When you strike at a raw nerve, unthinking, knee jerk reactions usually follow.

Colin Todhunter : Originally from the northwest of England, writer Colin Todhunter has spent many years in India. He has written extensively for the Deccan Herald (the Bangalore-based broadsheet), New Indian Express and Morning Star (Britain). His articles have on occasion also appeared in the Kathmandu Post, Rising Nepal, Gulf News, North East Times (India), State Times (India), Meghalaya Guardian, Indian Express and Southern Times (Africa). Various other publications have carried his work too, including the London Progressive Journal and Kisan Ki Awaaz (India’s national farmers’ magazine). A former social policy researcher, Colin has been published in the peer-reviewed journals Disability and Society and Social Research Update, and one of his articles appears in the book The A-Z of Social Research (Sage, 2003).

Hyderabad’s 1st afternoon daily introduces E-paper from Sunday

http://static.issuu.com/webembed/viewers/style1/v2/IssuuReader.swf

Scribble Media & Entertainment Pvt Ltd (Scribble Media)’s postnoon, first compact afternoon newspaper of Hyderabad, which is the first-of-its-kind afternoon English daily in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad introduced its e-paper from Sunday May 27, 2012.

With 32 colour pages of hyper-local, national and international, entertainment, sports, lifestyle, health, fashion and business news;postnoon offers a succinct mix of national, international news interspersed with local information. The compact daily is designed to appeal to teens / college students, corporate executives, homemakers, business and retired persons. The articles are concise and precise so that the reader can take in all the key facts quickly, and news is chosen for its relevance to the lives of its target audience and for its ability to stimulate the readers.

Paid News Business In India: Murdoch & Co.may be praying to be born in India in “agle janam”!

In the “paid news” affair some of Indian media’s market leaders have been named as the major violators, but remain largely unscathed. Should this episode in British media history say something to us in India, asks PADMAJA SHAW. She writes in her column Issue In Media in a pioneer media watch-dog website The Hoot :

……The pattern is pretty much the same with other major issues concerning the conduct of other media houses. No one is willing to cast any “stones” apparently because all perceive themselves to be living in glasshouses. When a media baron is on the verge of being arrested, a lightening phone call would go to all the media houses and the story is killed and the arrest managed. When a CBI charge sheet is filed on a media house, it is buried deep under the spike, even as CBI charge sheets against all and sundry are dissected and individuals are tried and convicted in ten-minute studio discussions.

Well then, are we unhappy that our media houses are grubbing money and not primarily chasing power instead? Is spending better than earning? Since there is no real answer to this ethical dilemma in India, one would like to exit with a fond possibility: Murdoch and his offspring may be praying that they be born in India in their “agle janam”!
……In India, in the “paid news” affair, again it was the market leaders who have been named as the major violators. The news organisations also could put pressure on the Press Council of India (PCI) to prevent publication of the Thakurtha-Reddy report and to keep their names out of public knowledge.

What was the crime? Some major newspapers and journalists were either offering package deals for coverage or taking individual payments to ensure favourable coverage during elections. The PCI-sponsored report on paid news estimates that the unrecorded money earned this way could run into several hundred crores. The newspaper giants involved were earning big illegal bucks for providing favourable coverage. Neither the tax departments nor any other investigative body in India has been asked to look into this affair where there was a secular openness and willingness to accept payments from anyone who is willing and to promote the payers’ cause for the money taken. It is the same newspapers that lose no opportunity to hold forth editorially on democracy and criminalisation of politics.
Read the full column in The Hoot : But who will bell our big guys?

Teachers & Scholars, not sportsmen should be in RS: Mini Krishnan

“..today’s media have become urban centric and dalits, minorities and women are given least priority.  The stories which are covered in media are decided by the those who sit in newsrooms. The news that are covered in media are strongly coloured by these newsroom people.”

said, Mini Krishnan, Editor, literary translations, Oxford University Press, Chennai.

Mini Krishnan was also critical of the penchant of political parties to nominate sports persons and film stars to the upper house and said instead teachers, scholars and those in the academic field should be nominated.

Ailing practices like untouchability, superstitions that exist in our society should not be carried to next generation in this regard media should play a bigger role,

urged  Mini Krishnan.

She was addressing students on ‘pivotal role of translation in Indian media,’ a special lecture which was organised by centre for proficiency development and placement service (cpdps) in Manasagangothri campus here on Monday.

Translation has a power to interpret and convey things in proper manner. In Indian scenario most of the mediapersons gather information in local languages and whatever chosen by him will come to light through translation, she said.

Why Indian Mainstream Meda Wants Social Media Dead

In recent times Herman Cain, an Afro-American candidate, pulled out of the race for the Republican party’s nomination for US Presidential election in 2012. Three women from his past had alleged sexual harassment by Cain which eventually forced him to abort his campaign. In contrast, Abhishek Manu Singhvi (AMS), MP and Congress spokesman, resigned on April 23 from various posts after his alleged sexual adventures were leaked through a video on the internet. That was enough for the Mainstream Media (MSM) and even PCI Chairman, Justice Katju, to start screaming for controls over the social media. The sex CD which involves AMS and a female lawyer was reportedly made by AMS’s driver and according to AMS was “fake, doctored and morphed”. How a driver went to Darbangha (Bihar) and found enough money and support and morphed a tape will remain a technological wonder for a long time. His alleged motives are “dog-bites and low pay”. Seriously, many of us may complain about our salaries but going to the extent of morphing our bosses into sex videos is taking even revenge too far.

 The case was brought to public light not by the driver or by the MSM or by the social media. It came to prominence when AMS filed a police complaint against the driver and got an injunction from the Delhi HC against airing of the CD. On what basis the HC gave the injunction is another mystery and it almost sounds like pre-screening. Naturally, people wanted to know what was on the CD and what the facts were. This is where the MSM failed as it completely blacked-out the story. The court had stayed airing of the CD and not the reporting of the story. It was then that the story spread like wildfire on Twitter, Facebook and other social media and finally parts of the CD were uploaded by some on the internet.

 In response to the public clamour for the story Rajdeep Sardesai even responded by calling them “EternalVoyeurs”. Such is his disdain for ordinary people. Rajdeep also asked why the Opposition was silent over the issue, as if they, or any political voice, should determine what the press or media should be reporting and discussing. A dead give-away.
Even so, when the cookie finally crumbled, the MSM wasn’t discussing the AMS sex incident, they were busy debating whether ‘Internet is above the courts’ (For uploading the CD against the court injunction) and some like Justice Katju andSagarika Ghose were discussing ways and means to ‘check’ the social media.
Nothing would please our MSM (and some politicians) more than to see the death of social media. It has come to challenge their monopoly, their bias, their spins, their lies, and their selective reporting. In the US the Internet media has seen the death of many newspapers and quite a few TV channels. Some 300 newspapers have died in a small country like UK. Unlike print and TV, social media requires the regular MSM and public figures to be interacting with people sensibly which is where they have failed in India. Public opinions can be suppressed in newspapers and TV but not on the social media. So while raging against the people on the social network and wanting to desperately ‘check’ them the Indian media really needs to understand the way social media works and harness it productively and profitably. Comments under the post “Media as cover-up artist for Seedy Singhvi” will reveal how even keen news-watchers were totally unaware of the AMS incident. That is how successfully the MSM blacked-out the story.
The Internet wasn’t created in India. The Internet didn’t evolve in India. None of the major social media engines were created in India. For all its other problems the US still remains a country with absolute freedom of speech. President, Pope and even religion are no exceptions to such freedoms. Books are not banned and books can be burned. Nazi group marches through Jewish localities to offend them is allowed. Protests at funerals against dead ‘gay’ soldiers, in bad taste, are allowed.Bad taste is not a crime. Therefore, for Internet and social media to thrive in the US environment wasn’t as big a challenge as it is in India. Mind you, the same laws that punish defamation or illegal activities otherwise also apply to social media in the US. It does in India too. It is just that in India free-speech is largely reserved for the powerful and the MSM. Now that the situation is changing it’s causing unease among many in the media and politics. US citizens over many years have grown used to and cherished their freedom of speech. Most of them know what to believe and what to ignore. The Indian govt and media simply doesn’t trust ordinary people to have the good judgement over issues.
Courtesy: Ravinar & Media Crooks (http://www.mediacrooks.com)
If the AMS CD was uploaded on the net it was because the media didn’t discuss it. It got uploaded because people generally believed that this level of gagging by a court and black-out by MSM can only mean there is truth in the story. That a prominent lawyer like AMS would seek an injunction and instead of continuing the FIR against the alleged conspirator reach a settlement with him further reinforces the belief that the CD is neither morphed nor doctored. Apart from the frivolous discussion; “Is Internet above courts” on CNN-IBN (who else but Sagarika Ghose?) and other channels, NDTV even discussed if ‘India is going the US way’ on the media issue. Among participants on NDTV was Shoma Chaudhury, editor of Tehelka, a near-gossip tabloid, and the same tabloid that famously used call girls to do their jobs. That is enough said for morality in media.
If there is evil in the social media, it is prevalent elsewhere too, particularly in the MSM and politics. It is how we respond to it that counts. It is not easy for someone to survive in the social network by constantly peddling lies and misleading information. In Indian media it is definitely possible and sometimes it even seems they are paid for it. For those screaming about morals so much in the MSM there is an example of a prominent journalist Keith Olberman who was suspended from his channel, MSNBC, for a small but undeclared donation he made to politicians. In contrast people like Barkha Dutt are celebrated in our media despite established wrong-doings. In the US Barkha Dutt would have been permanently trashed and out of the media for good. So people like Rajdeep Sardesai would do well not to sermonise on morality, which he often does. The likes of Shoma Chaudhary, Sonia Singh (NDTV), Sagarika Ghose should also be frequently reminded of the sordid NOTW affair in UK. That tabloid is what much of Indian MSM should be compared to and not values of ‘Freedom of speech’.
In the last US presidential election Youtube was successfully used by CNN to allow ordinary people to put questions to the candidates and have them debate the issues. Many other clips from Youtube are also used by US news channels in their reports. Why Indian media cannot find productive use for social media other than promoting egos of individual journalists is simply the fear of sharing their turf. Forget harnessing social media productively, the frequency with which our news channels twist and manipulate tweets to suit their agenda actually amounts to abuse of social media by them.
The MSM perceives a loss to the social media on the issue of AMS, his sexcapade and his final resignation. This is hardly the truth. Social media did not bring AMS down. In the final scene of the movie ‘All the President’s men’ WaPo editor Ben Bradley chides Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein thus: “You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit”. That’s right half the US didn’t know and didn’t give a shit till Nixon finally resigned. That was despite tremendous coverage by the Washington Post and a few more newspapers. Here we are, an entire MSM blacking out the AMS story and they want the world to believe it is the evil of social media that has to be ‘checked.
Social media didn’t bring AMS down. He brought himself down with his dirty deeds, social media just showed the courage that MSM did not just as Woodward and Bernstein didn’t bring down Nixon on their own. MSM, and Justice Katju, would do well to partner social media rather than try to check it. If ever ‘Power to the people’ made sense in a democracy it is Social Media. Celebrate it!