Ranjona Banerji: Vicious anger against the media

11 Mar,2014

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The media is now well and truly in the middle of the general elections in India. And it is the Aam Aadmi Party which has stirred up the pot. For one, the fact that journalists are joining the party has riled both politicians and other journalists. There are questions being raised of fair play and objectivity – how far should one trust a journalist’s work just prior to his or her joining a political party? And it is the Bharatiya Janata Party and its supporters which are most upset. Yet this is not the first time journalists have jumped into politics in India and it won’t be the last. And as for the BJP, from the top of the head let’s count Arun Shourie, Chandan Mitra and Swapan Dasgupta who all are or were journalists but are still part of the BJP.

 

There are enough other names and being part of the PMO or the Prime Minister’s press office – Sanjaya Baru, Suman Dubey, MJ Akbar (who even stood for elections for the Congress before he fell out with Rajiv Gandhi and turned against the party), Sudheendra Kulkarni who was part of LK Advani’s office, Rajeev Shukla of the Congress was once a journalist apparently, thus stretching the meaning of the word. Madhu Kishwar, once the flagbearer of feminism in India and editor of Manushi now appears to have become Narendra Modi’s main cheer leader, whether self-appointed or not it is still unclear.

 

Therefore, this phenomenon is not new and it is not unusual. The anger against AAP of course is that this new party has threatened the status quo. And also, perhaps as significantly, is that television has now made the media accessible to everyone and the internet has given everyone a voice. As has been observed many times before, anyone with a weblog or a twitter account and a camera phone considers himself or herself no different from a reporter or even a columnist. It is another matter that very few outside the media can comprehend that a print newsroom is not populated only with reporters. And very few of those who watch news on television can envisage that there is anyone in the Times Now newsroom except Arnab Goswami.

 

The anger against the media is vicious and it appears that the situation is only going to get worse in what is one of our most polarising elections in recent times. Of course lay allegations about media biases are usually unsubstantiated and sometimes even amusing in how gigantically they get it wrong. It is a bit sad that a lot of the anger against the news media on social media comes from former journalists, especially those who have joined PR. I am not sure that our sisters and brothers in public relations are following a wise course here. After these elections are over, life might a little difficult for those in PR who need the “mainstream media” to further their clients’ interests.

 

**

 

The general elections in India are of course big news. And the mammoth personalities of Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal make for compelling stories. But the biggest story of the week has been the missing Malaysian Airlines plane. Has the Indian media done it justice? Perhaps to the extent of being suitably insular and informing the Indian public about how many Indians were on the passenger manifest. But there is more to this story and we have missed the boat on this one. And the plane.

 

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