Press Club Bombay honour bigger than Padma Shri: Vinod Mehta

07 May,2012

By A Correspondent


Acknowledging to the audience that his heart still favoured Mumbai over Delhi and it was Mumbai that saw him at his pioneering best, Vinod Mehta, now advisor to the Outlook Group, was a picture of pride and fulfilment as he received the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed on him by the Press Club of Mumbai on May 4.


Receiving the award from Kapil Sibal, Union Minister of Communications & IT, Mehta thanked the members of the fourth estate and said that this award means more to him than even the Padma Shri. Mr Mehta was felicitated for his selfless contribution of more than 35 years to his passion – journalism. Mr Mehta joined a host of winners from the fourth estate that were honoured by the Press Club for outstanding contribution to the trade.


The evening also witnessed two special awards being given to late Pradeep Vijaykar (formerly with Times of India) and eminent journalist Madhu Shetye for their outstanding contribution to the domain. Gurbir Singh, President of Press Club of Mumbai delivered the keynote address while veteran sports journalist Ayaz Memon was the emcee for the evening.


Prior to the awards ceremony, the evening witnessed a scintillating panel discussion on the role that media was portraying in the country and whether it was headed in the right direction. The panellists included Arnab Goswami of Times Now, who moderated the session, Vinod Mehta of Outlook Group, Kumar Ketkar of Divya Marathi and Uday Shankar of Star India.


Mr Goswami began by stating that there is no shortage of attention being showered on media but expressed concern when he said that never has the media done so wrong. “The question that all journalists and editors need to ask ourselves is, are we doing everything right today? Is the chase for news headed in the right direction?”


Replying to his question, Mr Mehta said: “There is no problem with the direction, what is essential is for us to judge the media in the environment it works in. The judiciary and press media still function with a degree of idealism and integrity but there is so much of self-congratulation that is happening; that is something that is slightly out of proportion.”


Expressing his views on the issue of responsibility, Mr Mehta said: “Where the young journos are concerned, I feel they have a good sense of idealism and integrity but if there is somebody who has to take the blame for the current state of affairs, it is the editor. Even if somebody from the team has committed an error, the editor has to take ownership of that and find a solution to it. The problem is that the editors have forgotten what their job is and are pursuing their own agenda. The need of the hour is self-examination; we need to introspect and be accountable for our actions.”


Replying to Mr Goswami’s query on whether there was unity between members of the fourth estate and the role that editors essayed, Kumar Ketkar said: “It is the editors who stop news from being published and not the management as many think. The editors try and control their reporters and that should not be the case.” Mr Ketkar cited the example of the slain BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, who was shot by his brother a few years ago. “When his brother was arrested for his murder, he had written a letter from the jail explaining his stance and he wished to supply the letter to all in the media. I was told that most editors had agreed to play up the letter in their publication and so I went ahead and planned a big editorial spread for the news. But the next day, I was surprised to see that only my paper had carried the news. This shows the lack of unity existing between the media players today.” According to him, “The media today is not clear on the role that it has to essay. They are not mature enough and lack understanding skills. Journalists themselves are timid and lack courage.”


Uday Shankar, CEO of StarIndia went on to describe how television as a medium emerged in a big way first during the 90s and then again during 2008-09. “A lot is being said about how news television has been crowded space but I feel it managed to rediscover its own agenda during 2008-09. I cannot understand when some people say media doesn’t do self-introspection. If that is what is claimed, then how come they’ve come to rediscover themselves? Personally, I feel media has done the right thing by chasing news. If there are people who still have questions about the role of news channels, then I cannot understand whether media should be responsible for what it does or whether it should concentrate on doing the right thing?”


The panel went on to discuss how urban centres led by metropolitan cities were receiving maximum attention from the media and how stories from the rural and less important towns were being ignored in a large way. The need of the hour, the panel highlighted, was to bring out stories from these small cities and towns which were inspirational in nature.



Ashish Khetan, Editor – Investigations, Tehelka

“I bagged the top award for my story on the national rural health mission scam that was unfolding in UP. The story was not about the bonds between the corporation and ministers but how corruption was actually killing people. The funds which were allocated for improving healthcare for the needy and rural people were being siphoned off and embezzled by the whole gravy train of bureaucrats, including politicians. Unfortunately the story did not get much play in the national media because it was centered around the poor but I feel the story was more important than 2G, CWG or other scams that were covered by the media.”


Abhijit Sathe, Sr Asst Editor, Mumbai Mirror

“I won the runners-up award for Crime (Pradeep Shinde award) for my story Hiranandani vs Hiranandani. The award means a lot to me. The story was a big one that chronicled infighting between families of one of the biggest names in business today. I exposed how two siblings were sabotaging each other’s interests. I am greatful that I was selected for, and eventually won the award.”


Rafique Baghdadi, Business India

“More than react to the win, I would like to say this: more than 62 years ago, a lady called Ms Panna Shah, had done a PhD in Indian Cinema and since then there is nobody who has done that course in the industry as yet. It’s high time the business houses, film industry and the state government should give grants and scholarship to aspiring candidates to pursue that course.”


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