Lobbyist Radia and her obliging media

As a media has-been I read with a certain professional interest The Hindu’s Vidya Subrahmaniam’s piece – The Cosy World Behind the Tapes .  It says  Rajdeep Sardesai made a ‘fatal error’ in saying he detected professional envy in the orchestrated outrage against Barkha Dutt,  of NDTV.  My take is Rajdeep erred,  not so much in saying what he did, but in saying  it at New Delhi’s Press Club meet called to discuss  the media fallout of publication of  the Niira Radia tapes.

And Rajdeep,  if I may say so, hasn’t said anything new or untrue.  As someone who has been in print media for all his working life, I  can say envy has been in the baggage media persons carried ,  even before 24×7 news channels came into being.  Vernacular journalists envied those in English  newspapers ;  sub-editors who held desk jobs envied reporters.  Small-town and regional newspaper people envied those representing the so-called national dailies.  Emergence of TV news channels can be said to have generated a collective envy in print media towards their TV counterparts.

Prime reason is the disproportionate visibility enjoyed by  TV reporters/anchors.  Print media journalists in established newspapers become  entitled to a byline only after putting in years in the business of news reporting, while a TV reporter is visible to all  from Day One.  What is more, a TV reporter with mike in hand, and camera crew on tow, can usually count on easier and better access to news sources  than their poor cousins in the  print media. There is however  level-playing field for TV and print-media folks  invited to   background briefings and off-the-record chats with highly placed sources in government and elsewhere.  Rajdeep,  Barkha and Vir Sanghvi  are ‘ club-class’ journalists . And the point Mr Sardesai made about  ‘orchestrated envy’  against Ms. B Dutt may be applicable to the rank and file in journalism. Its  practitioners account for much of the Press Club crowd. The ‘club class’ journalists are  found at the Chelmsford and other  exclusive clubs frequented by their lobbyist contacts.

I detect in Rajdeep an element of  ‘soft-soaping’ when he argues that sourcing stories from lobbyists,  even if not desirable,  had become a requirement of fast-moving journalism.  This may well be the case with the TV   media in which competing  24×7 channels manage to come up with  ‘news-breaks’  in every news bulletin. What is passed of  as ‘news’ in  journalism of the fast-moving kind is usually sourced from lobbyists .  That journalists and lobbyists hobnob with one another  is not news . What is notable about the Radia tapes is that the equation between them is so tilted that some journalists appear eager to run errands for the right  lobbyist.

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One Response

  1. A good piece and a true picture.

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