Indian media and the credibility crisis

For the first time in weeks, I was offline for something like 4 hrs. And, what do I see when I come back? My Twitter timeline explode with comments on the The Hindu and one blogpost repeatedly retweeted on the Indian Express and its pro-establishment leanings. It felt like one fine day, the skies had opened up to rain fire on our mainstream media. Not that our newspapers haven’t already experienced this credibility crisis but these two happenings make us question the whole journalism business. Now…where do I start?

Earlier in the day, I was pointed to a letter by N. Ravi, Editor, The Hindu to all employees of the organization. In this hard-hitting letter, Ravi accuses N.  Ram, Editor-in-chief of not keeping up his word to retire in May 2010, and conspiring with some members of the Governing Board to remove him from his position of Editor. All this office politics notwithstanding, some accusations levelled by Ravi against Ram are distressing! In a damning indictment of something we always suspected, Ravi accuses Ram of forcing him to publish a defensive interview of A. Raja in 2010 against the promise of a full-page colour advertisement by the Telecom Ministry. Even more distressing is the Editor himself accusing the Editor-in-chief of being overtly pro-Chinese Communist Establishment.

In the light of these accusations by Ravi, The Hindu’s publishing of “Living our Values: Code of Editorial Values” doesn’t really make a mark. Indeed, taking a moral high ground and taking of editorial values and journalistic ethics in the backdrop of a general decline of editorial standards seems incongruous. Now, whether the Editor-in-Chief actually published pro-Raja articles and news for a direct  quid pro quo is another matter. Irrespective of whether every word in Ravi’s letter is true or not, and irrespective of whether Ravi himself benefited from an actively pro-establishment stand, these revelations make one doubt the credibility of the Hindu as a newspaper. Personally, I stopped reading The Hindu because of it’s increasingly pro-left leanings and in the light of these allegations, I really wonder how much credibility this newspaper, once the gold standard in Indian journalism, really has left.

On that note, I also came across this brilliant blogpost at Churumuri, on whether “anti-establishment” which was originally IE’s calling card has now changed beyond recognition. The analysis of whether the newspaper that chose to fight the establishment through Emergency and later, has actually changed its stripes to become pro-establishment. Do read it.

The timing is so perfect that it triggers off a range of thought about what credibility is really left for the Indian media. As I tweeted earlier in the day, The Hindu has just outed itself thanks to infighting. The Indian Express seems to be inexorably moving from being an objective and fearless newspaper to being an apologist of the powers that be. The Times of India lost its credibility the day it started degenerating from a mainline newspaper to a tabloid in broadsheet format. Hindustan Times, as I pointed out a few years back, is more interested in telling us that Michael Douglas uses Viagra than to give us any real news. What does that, as readers, leave us with? Small wonder then that we “pseudonymous bloggers” sitting in darkened rooms in our ivory towers actually prefer Twitter to newspapers as our primary source for news.

What now, of the mainstream media? Who is going to step in to fill the void that our mainstream media has created in being the watchdogs of our polity? Can we really expect these newspapers, who seem more interested in currying favour and making money, to perform the duty that is expected of them as Fourth Estate? Or will social media eventually take over that role? I have no answers at the moment. Only questions.

Living our Values: Code of Editorial Values

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