There was a time – in the 70s and 80s – when newspaper reporters enjoyed a reputation of being a hard-boiled lot. Many of them had an ‘attitude’, and simply walked out from wherever they were unwelcome. Now, they sulk, and shout slogans against event organizers. The media persons in Mangalore did just that the other day; because, they were not allowed in, at three of the four Rahul Gandhi functions.
A newspaper report said agitated media persons blocked vehicles at a venue by squatting on the road. Wonder why they had to make such a spectacle of themselves? After all, there was nothing personal about the media ban; and, by keeping reporters out, it was the Congress, and, to a lesser extent, Rahul, that stood to lose media goodwill and coverage.
With such unseemly protest our media friends were not upholding the cause of press freedom; or asserting people’s right to information. Do the Mangalore reporters believe that newspaper readers really cared, if some meetings Rahul had with his party youth, school kids or fisher folk, went unreported in newspapers?
As it is, I reckon, our media have overdone Rahul Gandhi’s ‘discovery’ tour. On top of this, we have these reporters cribbing that they were not being allowed to do more. The Hindu story – Discover-India tour leaves media fuming…- makes pathetic reading. Shouting slogans against the Congress, Mr G or the security doesn’t enhance media’s public image. It smacks of frustration. The reporters’ case is that they were turned away from a venue, after having been invited by the state Congress leaders appealing for ‘wide publicity to Rahul’s visit’.
Perhaps, there was an ego issue. Reporters were cut up because a bunch of guys in khaki had the temerity to turn them out, citing security reasons. Real reason, presumably, was that Rahul wanted to share his thoughts with the party youth, school kids, the local fisher folk or whoever, without the inhibiting presence of reporters. After all, Rahul was on a discover-Karnataka tour; and was entitled to the privacy of his ‘discovery’, without a platoon of media persons breathing down his neck.
When reporters had the door slammed on them by the security people they took it as an affront to the media. My hunch is that the assembled reporters would have willingly obliged, if the event organizers had made a request; better still, if Rahul Gandhi had worked his charm, and told the assembled media to take ‘a coffee-break’. Mr G, it seems, intervened, but did so after some media guys blocked his vehicle.
Rahul is reported to have admitted that he evaded the press because they were after 30-second ‘bytes’ wherever he went. Reporters, on their part, appeared under pressure to produce a Rahul ‘quote’ every few hours to feed 24×7 news channels. Too many channels chase the same story, as if there is little else happening that makes news.