When my daughter was around six years of age, I remember buying her a series of books titled ‘I Wonder Why’. I found them pretty neat and better than the ‘Tell Me Why’ volumes that I read as a kid. I don’t know about you, but I keep wondering why a host of things in the Indian media – especially in the news business – happen on each single day that I work here.
Here are some of the ‘I Wonder Whys’ that surfaced in my mind last week:
1. Why is the Indian media so quiet about the naming of a business journalist in the case of a forged letter of stockmarket regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)? The journalist, by the way, is no rookie. The SEBI order on the case says he is designated Assistant Editor and from the modus operandi of the financial crime that was committed, it’s very clear that he was very actively involved.
2. Why is the media not talking of the fact that the owners of the newspaper in question had a stake in the indicted company? The media owner runs a controversial scheme that offers free advertising in its offerings in lieu of stake. Part of the quid pro quo for stake is reportedly preferred status for editorial mentions. The division’s website talks of case studies where the media group has helped in raising awareness levels by way of “educating” people on an invested enterprise’s brands. The SEBI order also talks of the involvement of an executive of a PR agency, which incidentally also went to bed with the media group in question to form a joint venture. If all of this would have happened to a government or even private enterprise, the entire media would’ve gone ballistic. So why not here?
3. The fear factor amongst employees of newspapers is on the rise. Last week, soon after laying off a sizeable number of staff, DNA made an internal announcement of pay cuts. At Mail Today in Delhi, the scene is no different. A whole lot of journalists, who’ve called or messaged me post this, are wondering why the newspapers in question hired them if their business models weren’t in place. While I know it’s a horrible thing to happen, but given that there was an equal greed amongst employees when they were hired, why complain now?
4. The issue didn’t get discussed last week as the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) meeting is put off to May 1. But when they do meet, India TV’s withdrawal from the NBA will surely be much debated.
Given the dispute, I wonder if there is any need for a redressal body that was formed to ward off the possibility of being regulated by the government. The licensing and NBA rules could insist that every channel appoints an ombudsman to address complaints.
5. Is a section of the print media deliberately trying to paint a rosy picture of the economic scenario? Without taking names, P Sainath writes in The Hindu that “at least two major newspapers have informed their desks that the word ‘recession’ is not to be used in connection with India”. I think I know at least one of the papers that’s trying to paint a cool pic of the world, but why do that? Do you think it will help up positivity, and hence revenues?
6. I was aghast reading a story in Mumbai Mirror two Fridays back that reprinted the entire police statement of a rape victim. The lady’s name wasn’t revealed, but all other bits – the institute, course, country of origin, age, etc. – were there. The paper apologised, though the damage was done. Is it a news channel-like battle to come up with bigger stories that’s causing this?
7. If you haven’t read about the way news TV treated the Akriti case, read BV Rao’s column on exchange4media (Newsmanic, April 25). I hope the bulletins are reviewed by the channel bosses. For, more than the regulators, it is the viewing public that gets angered by such excesses. Since higher ratings (and hence revenues) is what everyone’s seeking, such mindless reportage could lead to a backlash. My worry is why allow all of this in the first place?
8. I wonder why mainstream editors continue to treat bloggers with disdain. I don’t think this is due to the fear of being driven out of business by just about anyone who can write. It’s possibly because of the bad apples around leading eds to look at the entire blogosphere with suspect. Or perhaps it’s just that they don’t understand the web. The fact is that there are enough good bloggers in the country, which is perhaps why BusinessWeek listed Amit Varma among the 50 Most Powerful People in India for 2009. Varma’s blog, called India Uncut, impressed many, including Wall Street Journal and Mint, who asked him to write for their pages.
9. I tried suggesting this to one of the papers I worked with, but didn’t manage to push it enough. Given the Pyramid Saimira case, I wonder why all news media entities don’t have a code of ethics that is adhered to very strictly, signed by everyone in the team, including the owners.
10. Lastly, I really wonder why media companies and professionals – especially those in the news business – are so allergic to criticism. For too long no one has done it. But now that a few critiques exist, they aren’t too happy.
(No scope for ‘wondering’ here. The views expressed here are my own. If you’d like to comment on any of the ‘I Wonder Whys’ above or would like to contribute your own, use the comments board below.)