Ranjona Banerji: Stand-outs in the world of selfie-taking journos

18 Mar,2015

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The conversation continues to be about internet sites which provide a higher class of journalism than many mainstream newspapers. This is mainly because so far they run on investor money and not advertising or corporate pressures say the cynics and cynics are usually right. The focus for all journalists therefore has to be how to find a better mean between money and good journalism. The money is necessary, no point pretending that it is not and taking a Commie-leftie position on it. A state-sponsored media is no media at all (I leave aside for now all jokes about how many senior journalists and media houses have become de facto PR agencies for the current government).

 

Meanwhile, congratulations to Supriya Sharma of scroll.in for winning the prestigious Chameli Devi award for an Outstanding Woman journalist for 2014-15. Sharma is the first online journalist to win this award and has done some ground breaking work for scroll on election coverage, the “ghar wapsi” programme of Hindutva rightwing outfits and workers’ security. Scroll.in has been praised here and elsewhere for the excellent job it has done in promoting old-fashioned journalism based on hardcore reporting. The future is here.

http://scroll.in/article/713959/Scroll.in’s-Supriya-Sharma-wins-prestigious-Chameli-Devi-Jain-award

 

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The Indian Express stands out as a newspaper which has been doing great stories, sticking to news gathering and taking difficult positions. This is not new for the Express which has a long reputation of being effectively and consistently anti-establishment. But the recent months have seen the paper step up the ante when others have succumbed.

 

One understands that journalists based in Delhi are under tremendous pressure, almost as much as bureaucrats are. But is this enough reason for the sort of sycophancy and cowardice some of these journalists display? It is particularly disappointing to see middle level journalists – those ready to handle the reins – falling to the level of autograph hunters. How else would one describe this trend of taking “selfies” with politicians?

 

The poor Aam Aadmi Party must be wondering however why it can never get that level of “luurrrve” which Narendra Modi and Amit Shah of the BJP manage to garner. AAP, having built up expectations in the media and with the people of Delhi is under very close scrutiny from journalists. Modi, Shah and the BJP however have been given a comparatively longer rope.

 

The tragedy which these middle-level journalists have not understood yet is that eventually, the rope will win. And all those selfies may not be quite so useful then.

 

I decided when I started writing this that I would not either take on or mention Arnab Goswami of Times Now. But I do it now to agree with him – the cosy club of Delhi journalists is one which needs to be challenged and taken on by all those in the media who live and work in the rest of this vast and wonderful nation.

 

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Having started off by praising internet sites for the new blood and enthusiasm they have transfused into traditional journalism, I end with a complaint. Those websites which expect people to write for free and those journalists and columnists who succumb for the sake of publicity are doing a great disservice to the profession as a whole. They are the equivalent of scabs which are brought in by the management to break strikes and trade unions. I don’t mean to sound like a Commie-leftie so I’ll end like a good right winger instead: they are traitors to the profession. To loosely translate a good old desi phrase, they are kicking those who write for a living in the stomach.

 

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