CP Surendran: Are media’s fortunes linked to Vir’s and Shekhar’s?

03 Nov,2014

By CP Surendran


CP Surendran

This is a piece I must write with some caution, because it involves the performance of two icons at the concluding session of the very well-organised Tata Literature Live! Vir Sanghvi and Shekhar Gupta were discussing the survival of Indian media as an independent entity. The session, chaired by Siddharth Bhatia, also featured a mostly smothered Samar Halarnkar.


While the great camaraderie and the heart-warming uniformity of opinion Sanghvi and Gupta displayed brought tears to the eyes, to say the least, it was, in passing, also a measure of how self-rationalising and mutually compromising their basic position was.


Their apocalyptic conclusion was that the media had gone to the dogs since their relative exit from primarily operational positions. And how did this happen, someone in the audience asked. Because both print and TV journalists suffered from greed and need for fame, according to Gupta, and because the chase for TRP ratings had overwhelmed reportage, according to Sanghvi.


Gupta said journalists have come down to a point where they were competing to take selfies with prime minister Narenda Modi. Those naive among the audience laughed uproariously in seeming agreement. Never mind that during, say, Indira Gandhi’s time, Steve Jobs was probably still a wayward wanderer and the Apple had not yet fallen on his head. Sanghvi said the future of journalism was doubtful; he didn’t specify it was post-Radia tapes, which, he said, were doctored. Both said they had no problem ever with proprietors. Why would they? They were the proprietors– more or less.


Gupta prefaced the discussion by saying he was not “defending Vir”, though what was on show was a mutual endorsement love fest of two evidently embittered veterans suddenly finding themselves at the broad end of the table.


Sanghvi set out his vision for the media in his concluding remarks: print would be dead soon except for a clutch of players who would find a new revenue and content model; in that bleak and near future, “only people like Shekhar” will have the credibility to pull off individualistic forays in terms of social media dissemination of news. Both trashed TV.


This writer, who was one of the hapless audience, tried to get the mike but was denied because he had already remarked — rather loudly — that Sanghvi and Gupta were victims of post-diluvian syndrome.


Are these Delhi heavyweights for real? Both had been in top management positions of the print industry for close to three decades. They were at the centre of the highly incestuous media discourses in the capital. They were — and are still — TV show anchors and guests. They have wrung riches and fame — the two things they seem to hold against a lot of regular, salaried journalists with half a roof over their heads — to the last sad drop from the media. And factually, too, they were too hasty in writing off good reporting.


Only recently this paper did with meticulous research and rigour the 2 Janpath Diaries, exposing the nexus between CBI director Ranjit Sinha and giant private company representatives.


Both Gupta and Sanghvi had a seminal role to play in the structuring and shaping of the contemporary media. Surely, if the model of reportage and edit writing they introduced has led to the decline and fall of the media, how ironic that it coincides with their own slow slide into the trash bin where in their good days they must have consigned so many stories and secrets?


The author is the Editor-in-Chief of dna.


Republished from dna with permission of the author. The article is also available at: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-are-media-s-fortunes-linked-to-vir-s-and-shekhar-s-2031604


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