Ranjona Banerji: Barkha Dutt leaves NDTV, Rajyavardhan leaves women fuming

17 Feb,2015

By Ranjona Banerji


Celebrated TV journalist Barkha Dutt shot to fame during her coverage of the Kargil War-Like Situation. She also gathered an enormous fan following with her studio discussion programme, We the People, which debated various issues in a sort of unstructured format. Many feel she has a way of connecting to people that is rare and appealing. In her 20 years with NDTV, in the various names the channel has been known as, she has been an abiding face.


However rumours of her leaving the channel have not been new in media circle, from when Peter Mukerjea set up the Newsx-9x brand to when Rajdeep Sardesai quit CNNIBN. Now Dutt has quit to set up her own media outfit, although her two shows, We the People and The Buck Stops Here will continue.


Yet, Dutt’s tenure in television has not been without controversy. There were objections to her access to army positions during the Kargil conflict. Her coverage of the Gujarat riots of 2002 angered Hindutva followers and her coverage of the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai angered many who felt she gave away vital information putting lives in danger.


But her worst moments were when the Niira Radia tapes were made public by Open and Outlook magazines. To hear a senior journalist agreeing to become a messenger for a corporate lobbyist trying to influence the appointment of a cabinet minister for the telecom ministry was shocking even to hardened journalists. Dutt denied she ever meant to pass the message on. But why Radia ever thought Dutt would help her was not made clear. To some of us oldtimers, at the risk of sounding unbearably self-righteous, there are limits beyond PR reps are not allowed in. Calling you at 4 am to discuss cabinet ministries is one of them.


Even worse, as was brought up by then Open editor Manu Joseph during a questioning of Dutt organised on NDTV itself, was why a journalist as experienced as Dutt did not see a story in Radia’s request. The fact is, the telecom industry was pushing for A Raja of the DMK to become telecom minister in UPA 2. By any standards, that’s a story.


And here’s this one:




Last week, Information and broadcasting minister and Olympian shooting champ Rajyavardhan Rathore annoyed women and journalists by a speech he made to the Indian Women’s Press Corps. The minister said that women journalists need not go out into the field but might better use their skills for analysis. He also mentioned their safety and their other roles and responsibilities as mothers, sisters, daughters and so on.


There was immediate outrage on social media, where his patriarchy was questioned. Rathore then responded with a number of tweets which first said that he was misinterpreted and then that he was misquoted. India Today took their story off their website as a result of the tweets and blamed the news agency (IANS) for the mix-up. But as the link below from newslaundry.com shows, Rathore did indeed make those remarks and those media outlets which succumbed to his tweets and took down the story, had jumped the gun.


Women in journalism have fought very hard to get where they are. And they do not need advice of this “know your limits” sort from anybody. No need for a shooting champ to shoot his mouth of.





Twitter fascinates me, as regular readers of this column know. The way companies respond to complaints and ideas tells its own story. Makemytrip possibly wins with its sense of humour demonstrated when BJP candidate and now MP Giriraj Singh said that all opponent to Narendra Modi should go to Pakistan. Makemytrip’s twitter account said it was organising charter flights. On a personal note, Makemytrip has always responded and helped when I’ve tweeted to them. So have Indigo and Jet Airways, Tata Docomo, Vodafone, Ten Sports and Neo Sports.


The two failures in this regard remain by old bugbear Star Sports, now without ESPN but still as silent to tweets and Tatasky.
My humble opinion is that companies which do not respond to customers and people on social media will one day pay the price…




For those who missed this, Twinkle Khanna’s brilliant column on the All India Bakchod Roast and the Indian right to be being offended:



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