“Man Tera raazdar tha hee nahi;
Ab zindagi mujhsey sawal na kar”
(This heart could never keep any secret of life;
Why do you my life propose so many questions)...
- Sayed Mohsin Raza, Journalist, Islamabad
The previous blog piece on Narendra Modi’s ‘Diwali Milan’ outreach to media tried to ignite a debate how hypocrisy has sought to murder today’s media credibility in India. I started journalism in late eighties …actually during my teens. Journalism though was unattractive financially and glamourwise, as many youngsters think today, to me it was not only a different and an exciting thriller of a profession. Actually after my ‘adventure with science’ flopped miserably like a pack of cards, JOURNALISM emerged as my SAVIOUR! To give it a romantic flavor – after my grand mom – Journalism became my first love ! The encouragement from senior Naga journalists and my All India Radio 'guru' Asheem Poddar is worth cherishing.
And thus I remained only ‘non-Naga-journalist’ working with local papers in early 1990s in the state for quite some time covering political headhunting and insurgency!
No wonder, and often heard certain unscrupulous elements stating that my wings ought to clipped. So the thrill was also a bit risky?
And the ‘first love’ adulation remains and no wonder my wife finds journalism ‘her chief of rivals’ in every other sphere of life – perhaps including past-mid night and on bed!! Sorry, I am not getting vulgar! Books and newspapers more often accompany me and my pillows.
So when one finds the same ‘beloved’ Journalism in the shape as it is today -- conceivably I must try to draw a distinction between old school journalism – as I understood in my humble wisdom and hailed – and the journalism of today – where I am almost misfit!
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“Blo…. Journalism…is like that,” my onetime roommate Shashi Kumar Nair, ex-PTI colleague, used to often say and try to console me.
But what’s that ‘old school’ journalism? Before one ponders into a debate, it ought to be stated that most editors in the town have given up that ‘old school’ and hence this casualty stage. Difficult to find role models! You have guessed it right.
Bertrand Russel once wrote: “Religions grow old like tress unless reformed from time to time”.
Journalism too like everything dynamic – like religion - in this world needs changes. But journalism has actually ‘changed’ pretty fast and possibly towards a wrong direction.
It needs a reform today but the bigger challenge is - it has to come inherently. And this looks difficult under the given circumstances largely because selfish motives of glamour and money have struck people. And sadly even freshers joining journalism in India today are guided into the noble profession with motives.
I am not suggesting earlier generations were saints. Things started deteriorating almost by the turn of 1990s. This coincided with liberalism of economy and advent of television and so called pink paper (business) journalism. The new era journalism brought in packet journalism and ‘gifted’ press conferences! Slowly the standards reached higher scale – it got mixed up with demand for flats, foreign junkets etc. Owners and Editors were no sacred cows (or any other animal) too!
Thus - the stage where we stand today.
My understanding of journalism – which perhaps need not fit into today’s definition - is basically that - it is an ethical game guided by commitment of individuals towards the profession.
This is a shortage today as very systematically things have been destroyed. In today’s journalism and especially among younger generation and even colleagues from our era, we find certain mandatory provisions lacking.
These are wide reading, inter-disciplinary approach and importance of detachment. In fact we have just the opposite ‘virtues’ prevailing in today’s journalism. The vanishing act of reading has brought in mediocrity and below average qualities.
Hence – even senior political journalists would not know that Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections are held every six years and not five!
On moral front, ‘jugadu’ journalism is the key stepping stone today – more so in large cities Delhi, Mumbai and various state capitals. Journalists no longer talk about ‘stories’ or working in challenging situations as opportunities! They talk about junkets, getting into official patronage and in the long run even closer to the throne – where it suits.
Some journalists and journalism organizations have second generation syndrome – because their papas and uncles thrived in practicing the ‘wrong’ kind of game – so you have generation next doing the same and doing it more intensely.
And when it comes to doing journalism per se – news channels and news papers have given up the role of ‘providing information’!
Social networking has made life almost like a nightmarish puzzle.
Legendary Nikhil Chakravarty once said, “If can see the world going up in flames, your job is to communicate that there’s fire so that people can call the fire brigade”. But switch on the TV channels and you will tend to believe – journalists believe its their role to play the fire brigade. Hence covering Narendra Modi or writing about BJP means - you have to write against them.
You have to take up the role of a secular or ‘sickular’ player ! I have no issues with citizenship – the problem is with ‘neo-activism’ as the same anti-Modi brigade will do anything for selfies and the same crowd will try get closer to Arun Jaitley. Result is country’s Finance Minister is also known as the ‘Chief of Bureau’. Thus the real story about journalism is far from over.
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