Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Once upon a time journalists reported news

That was many years ago. Decades ago. Or perhaps even earlier than that. Then, both sides discovered that journalists, media by virtue of putting out stuff in print - the very scarcity of it can create, sway and even modify opinions.

And it is true. Much of our opinions come from the media we watch. Very little of our opinion is truly independent - unless you have read about it, inquired about it and created your own line of opinion. Which is why we all think secular. We all believed in the Doordarshan news and the news that our papers printed. Which really explains a lot of our 'thought' positions. Unless you truly read beyond that, you will believe in what the herd writes.

Be that as it may, people realized that one could pay to put news in print. And thus it happened - beyond advertisements. We began to see agencies put our news slanted in one way to influence opinions in one way and so on.

Just before a movie released, a news item would talk about an 'affair' between the cast. That raises curiosity and people often went and watched the movie.

Just before a major brand of soft drink was launched in India, there was a lot of badmouthing of sugarcane juice - who they perhaps considered as their major competition.

These are just examples, but there are many such examples. Because of the scarcity, print media and electronic media held sway, because once you had access to that inner circle, you could print anything and get the public to believe anything - including fake revolutions, fake honesty and what not.

Now this has been taken further ahead by newspapers - which are happy to take paid news. They will carry news - because it is paid for or (hold your breath) because they have a stake in your venture which they will pay through 'planted news'. And then lobbyists discovered it - which is why often one finds laudatory articles on companies, missile systems, even cricketers - hoping it will sway opinions of people.

Enron famously declared that it had spent a few crores 'educating' Indians - most of the money went into hands of politicians and perhaps media as well.

The latest scam here is all about the Agusta helicopters where some 16m Euro was spent creating a favorable impression of the helicopters in the India media. Now while we wait for the list to come out - it is to be noted that this is nothing new.

Covers with notes were distributed before elections, in party offices - all so that coverage could be bought.

Along the way journalists also discovered that with their access, they could lobby, they could sway opinion and they became opinion maker instead of reporting the news. We have had famous examples like the Radia scam.

Since then media has proliferated, social media has boomed and the opinion of old media has waned like no other. And media hates it.

Now when the Agusta scam broke out, hardly has a journalist come out in the open that this is a unethical practice.

Accepting money, favors, trips - and then writing about it is unethical. But some think otherwise...
And the last word from Chitra SD - the one who broke the Bofors scam decades ago

1 comment:

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