Happy Anniversary to All!

10 Sep,2019

 

 

By Ranjona Banerji

 

“Not all battles are fought for victory – some are fought to tell the world that someone was there on the battlefield,” – TV Journalist Ravish Kumar, recipient of the prestigious 2019 Ramon Magsaysay award for “harnessing journalism to give voice to the voiceless”. Kumar, managing editor of NDTV India, is a rare breed in Indian journalism and even more rarely sighted in television journalism. He’s there on the battlefield.

This website and this column celebrate their eighth anniversary this week. When Pradyuman Maheshwari, friend and colleague for more years than I can remember, asked me to be part of his venture, I agreed in a heartbeat. Idealistic, straight as die, doughty, courageous, tenacious, industrious, maybe a little crazy, Pradyuman moulded MxMIndia.com into the force it is today.

In these difficult times for the Indian economy and the Indian media, he has stood by my long and relentless critiques of the Indian media, regardless of business considerations and loss. And the past eight years have been an enormous education to me. I started writing a media column in 2010 when Pradyuman was in charge of exchange4media’s content, including the magazine, Impact. From there to MxM in 2011, what a comparatively innocent time it was for the Indian media. I wrote about changes in style and pattern, about individual transgressions and tracked growth and diversions.

But after the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, it was the end of the age of innocence for the Indian media and yes, I do include the shame of the Emergency here. In front of my eyes, I saw the collapse of my profession and I had the task of chronicling that collapse, twice a week. And as names and reputations have fallen, as renowned editors and media houses have capitulated to power, you find yourself scrambling to find redeeming elements.

For some years, I genuinely believed that if television has fallen to government pressure, newspapers still carried the torch, sort of. Those days have gone. Most of what passes for news on television is execrable, but the standard of print journalism has just followed suit. The nature of the beast gives the print media more places to hide but the cowardice and lack of courage, another name for complicity, is self-evident. It is no longer possible for me, or anyone, to carry on with the shibboleth that the print media is streets ahead of television when it comes to ethics or the basics of journalism. The scales have well and truly fallen from my eyes, as they have from many others.

Even a couple of decades ago, journalists who were known to be close to ruling dispensations or power centres were despised as sold toadies or stooges, used by both their sources and their employers. Today, they are celebrated for their proximity and defended by their colleagues for their sycophancy. Social media has been an amazing revelation here. Well-known bylines and faces expose themselves, their biases and lack of professionalism with remarkable regularity and lack of self-awareness.

The fact that Kumar has both won this award and talked about being on the battlefield has only won him enemies, especially from within his fraternity. He has shown so many up by simply doing the one thing we are all asked to do, of “showing truth to power”.

The last eight years, from 2011 to today, have taught me that the need for media scrutiny has never been more important because a fair and free media is essential for democracy. I thank Pradyuman Maheshwari and everyone at MxM past and present, for fighting that battle with me.

Happy Anniversary All!

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia.

 

 

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