Ranjona Banerji: Will sucking up become worse in Delhi now that the ‘bureau chief’ is incharge of I&B?

11 Nov,2014

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The Hoot is doing a survey on the role of social media on journalists and people who use it as a news source or to share stories. It is worthwhile to go to the website and answer the two minute survey. Given the rising influence if not power of social media, studies are required to put its reach into perspective.

 

Social media gains in significance as “mainstream media” in India at least flounders between flattery and objectivity. You can therefore forget scepticism. Even the bogus heroics of celebrities posing with brooms purportedly to “clean India” is reported with breathless excitement, except for a few exceptions which have told us how garbage is being brought to places just so that it can be moved around by politicians and celebrities.

 

Meanwhile, the man known as “bureau chief” in Delhi gossip circles has been relieved of the defence ministry and given Information and Broadcasting instead. Arun Jaitley has good friends in the media and this presumably made him a better bet than Prakash Jawadekar. If you are a conspiracy theorist this makes you wonder about government control of the media. (Not, it must be pointed out that the UPA in its second avatar was any better, especially the way Kapil Sibal went after people with the Information Technology Act.)

 

But it is also true that journalists, senior and junior, in Delhi have appointed themselves as government spokespersons and sometimes take it upon themselves to explain and justify government policy. One assumes that they are trying to make Jaitley’s job easier out of friendship and concern?

 

However, the fact that the BJP and Jawadekar discussed the pointlessness of an I&B ministry has been lost in all the rah-rahs. No party wants to give up any ground when it comes to controlling the media.

 

While on the subject, does anyone know what happened to the big talking Markandey Katju who was going to revolutionise the media and educate journalists? Last heard of, he was ranting about corrupt judges from a decade ago but I have at least not heard of any journalist who was taught anything by the Press Council of India chairman except perhaps how to laugh out loud.

 

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The Press Institute of India and the International Committee of the Red Cross give away awards in humanitarian journalism. I have been privileged to be one of the jury members. While it is heartening to see the number of stories done on the subject in India especially in conflict zones like Kashmir, the Naxal areas and even the problems faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka, it is equally disheartening to see that almost none of them find their way into national newspapers. It is as if we prefer to sit in our artificial bubbles and self-consciously refuse to know what is happening around us.

 

One cannot blame glamour news here for distracting us. We are looking at news editors and editors concentrating on government announcements and pretending that that is news while ignoring ground realities.

 

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There has been speculation in the world of cricket journalists on whether Sachin Tendulkar’s newly released autobiography, “Playing it My Way” will only get unparalleled praise or some criticism as well. But once you get past the excitement of the launch itself and the pre-release controversy over Greg Chappell, there has indeed been some mild criticism.

 

It will be interesting to see how the big names in cricket journalism respond to the book.

 

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There has been some sad commentary on twitter that none of the political and media gossip handles which bear the legend “Lutyens” managed to reveal any details about the Cabinet reshuffle that happened in Delhi recently.

 

Sad though that is, I am not unfollowing any. If nothing else, they are amusing!

 

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