Current Issue
Organiser Home
The Moving Finger Writes
Media Watch
Thinking Aloud
Kids Org.
News Round-up
Readers’ Forum:
Kerala Newsletter

Previous Issues
September 04, 2011

August 28, 2011
August 21, 2011
August 14, 2011
August 07, 2011

July 31, 2011
July 24, 2011
July 17, 2011
July 10, 2011
July 03, 2011

June 26, 2011
June 19, 2011
June 12, 2011
June 05, 2011

May 29, 2011
May 22, 2011
May 15, 2011
May 08, 2011
May 01, 2011

April 24, 2011
April 17, 2011
April 10, 2011
April 03, 2011

March 27, 2011
March 20, 2011
March 13, 2011
March 06, 2011

February 27, 2011
February 20, 2011
February 13, 2011
February 06, 2011

January 30, 2011
January 23, 2011
January 16, 2011
January 09, 2011
January 02, 2011

December 26, 2010
December 19, 2010
December 12, 2010
December 05, 2010
November 28, 2010
November 21, 2010
November 14, 2010
November 7, 2010

October 31, 2010
October 24, 2010
October 17, 2010
October 10, 2010
October 03, 2010

2010 Issues
2009 Issues
2008 Issues
2007 Issues
2006 Issues

About us
Contact us


January 13, 2008
Organiser Home
Special Report
The Moving Finger Writes
Special on North-east
Media Watch
Readers’ Forum
Open Forum
Kids’ Org

January 13, 2008

Page: 18/33

Home > 2008 Issues > January 13, 2008


Journalism is a clean profession

By M.V. Kamath

Indian Journalism: Keeping it Clean, Alok Mehta, Rupa and Co., pp 152, Rs 395.00

Alok Mehta is editor of Outlook Saptahik and currently president of the Editors Guild of India and has won several awards. His work on contemporary journalism, therefore, commands attention. Additionally, the book carries a foreword by Inder Malhotra, himself a distinguished journalist and contributions from Hiranmay Karlekar, a former editor of Hindustan Times, Somnath Chatterjee, Speaker of Lok Sabha and Justice G.N.Ray, chairman of Press Council of India.

Alok Mehta could not have found a better trio to support his undoubtedly authoritative and at times provocative work. Malhotra, in his brief foreword, has rightly drawn attention to the general belief that crass commercialisation has eroded the print media?s social commitment and professional values more than considerably, with editors losing ground to market advisers to the point that in some of the largest newspaper chains, the institution of the editor is virtually extinct. Somnath Chatterjee makes his point that ?it is extremely important that the journalist or the editor does not project his/her or the management?s views as news?, when they can be expressed in editorials as well as in signed articles. Well said. Hiranmay Karlekar makes the point, so evident these days, that ?there is an increasing trend towards trivialisation? in the Indian media ?underlined by the attention paid to a strange category called Page Three people? with ?serious coverage? being given the go-by. Karlekar should know. ?Ethics?? he asks, ?where is the place for such a thing in the globalised marketplace celebrating social Darwinism??

Justice Ray his written like a judge, which he was. As he sees it in today?s media, facts are very often distorted to ?suit a particular kind of opinion?, even when he asserts that ?reporting truth is not libel?. Is the Justice in favour of investigative journalism? According to him a reporter has to ?keep in mind the principle of limitation of harm? which means that he needs to give due weight to the negative consequences of all disclosures, creating a practical and ethical dilemma. But in this matter one sees the learned judge walking on the razor?s edge. According to him ?this kind of journalism verges on risking ethical standards as the work involves undercover journalism or the use of whistleblowers.? One expects a clearer stand from so distinguished a personality. This kind of undercover investigation that Tehelka has indulged in can only be dismissed as unethical. This is a question of ends and means. One cannot use ignoble means to achieve noble ends and there can be no compromise in this regard.

There can be no compromise either in the matter of what is known as ?chequebook journalism?. Shri Mehta seems to think that this is okay ?when important issues of the general good are involved?. He concedes that chequebook journalism ?amounts to paying wages for vice?, but shockingly adds that ?the reporter should resort to this only if no other way of getting news is available?. Who is to decide that? The reporter himself? Mehta is also for collecting news or information by taking photographs ?stealthily?, using audio aids or taping personal phone conversations, but only ?when it is fair and essential for the general good and no other method is in sight?, a most questionable stand.

We are in the gray area where caution is abundantly needed. The Press Council of India is fairly clear on this point. According to the Council, the private life of a person, even a public figure, is his own and the disclosure or impingement of any person?s privacy or individual seclusion is not allowed unless there is direct evidence of the fact that his actions are closely related to his public position of power in the matter under consideration and that they negatively impact the public good. And who is to decide what affects public good? It is not clear. But there are many features in this book that would immensely benefit not only new entrants to the profession but old-timers as well.

Mehta draws special attention to the behaviour ?sometimes? of ?senior and so-called ideologue editors and correspondents lobbying with politicians, government officials and business magnates on behalf of their newspaper?s owner?. Mehta rightly points out that this ?harms the credibility of media?. As he puts it, ?the reputation of a journalist or a publication builds up over the years but just a slip or two can destroy it for ever?, a point that needs to be stressed again and again.

In more ways then one, this is an excellent text book for aspiring journalists who should know their rights and responsibilities, especially the latter. There are problems, however, that cannot be expected to be resolved overnight. The days of proprietors setting up newspapers to fight for a worthy cause or an ideal are long over. Mehta says that in the circumstances, ? the problems, concerns and interests of the vast non-elite section of the society are not only ignored but side-tracked and suppressed?. Too bad but what else does the author expect of proprietors?

But is Mehta himself fair? He devotes seventeen pages to the findings of a Editors Guild Fact-Finding Mission in the matter of the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat. In all fairness he should have included another seventeen pages to the findings of another Mission in the matter of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. If Mehta wants journalism to be fair, the example he has set is not a good one. But that said, note must be taken of the range of subjects covered by Mehta that include crime reporting, uncultured journalism, choice of news, press conference coverage, election reporting, Hindi in print and Right to Information, among other issues, not all of them extensively discussed, but remain relevant, for the journalism student, as for the reader of newspapers at large. Hopefully, it will attain its object of cleansing the media.

(Rupa & Co., 7/16, Ansari Road, Darya Ganj, New Delhi-110 002.)

Previous Page Previous Page (17/33) - Next Page (19/33) Next Page

copyright© 2004 Bharat Prakashan(Delhi) Ltd. All Rights Reserved
Designed and Hosted by KSHEERAJA Web Solutions Pvt Ltd