Ranjona Banerji: Goodbye to Modi rah-rah!

01 Oct,2015

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The prime minister of India’s second visit to the USA in his 16-month term was a slight reality check for a breathless media. Unlike last year, it was not blanket coverage of Narendra Modi’s every waking moment, there was a small realisation that NRI hysteria does not reflect the situation at home and there was, gasp, some small criticism even from the head honchos of Silicon Valley about India’s business-friendliness.

 

There were a few other problems as well. Much of the world was also in the US and the main topics of discussion were IS, Syria, Ukraine, Russia and the US. The visit by the Pope overshadowed everything else. In fact, the rah-rah over India having been done last year, this year was business as usual and the US media as it happened barely registered the Indian prime minister’s visit. C’est la vie. Running a government is not the same as running a fan club and no matter how many cheerleaders you have, the world will move on. I am of course very clearly pointing fingers at TV news here for its jaw-dropping sycophancy of last year.

 

And then there’s this video of Narendra Modi and Mark Zuckerbery and Shelly Sandberg of Facebook. A few months ago, it would have been shared on social media and that would have been it. But now it has made to the mainstream media. That’s the problem with democracy you see – sooner or later even a whom-are-we-here-for media realises that it is here for the people and not for politicians and prime ministers…

 

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Since the subject is a matter of discussion from Silicon Valley to here, it would be extremely helpful if the mainstream media paid some more attention to the topics of net neutrality, Digital India and Facebook’s idea of a controlled internet. There have been columns and interviews across some newspapers but I would hazard a guess that more is necessary. At the best of times most of us are hapless consumers blundering through websites and apps. A little more help here, guys.

 

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I have said this before but I feel I must mention it again. It is nothing short of appalling when members of the media are so blinded by their political leanings that they forget the basics of their profession. The political divisions in the Indian media – particularly between left, right, centre and objective – were made clear when LK Advani – started his Rath Yatra to build a Ram Temple in Ayodhya at the site of the Babri Masjid. This divide has become extremely bitter and even more fractious since the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre last year.

 

I must reiterate that I am not talking about members of the public here. I am talking about working journalists and former journalists and journalists who understand very well how a newsroom functions. They bombard you on social media with vicious uncorroborated rubbish which would not pass muster even with a raw intern. When you question them, they dissemble and pretend like they’ve made a mistake. I am ashamed to say that I have even worked with some of these people now that I see their understanding of journalism is so shallow.

 

Many of these are journalists who are younger than me but are still experienced enough to be at the top of the pile, running newsrooms. It makes you wonder how they ever manage to sieve through the information they receive at work, if they cannot in a casual sense, separate arrant nonsense from fact.

 

If people like this are the future – and I see them everywhere – I shudder for the future of journalism. I see open upper caste superiority, hatred for minority communities, complete non-application of mind when it comes to internet cons and an inherent need to support this political dispensation or that.

 

Sad.

 

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