I get numerous feeds on the brand of journalism today’s editors are known for. Some even question the role of the editors from furthering public interest to serving private interest.
“Aren’t the business houses the real owners of the media? … … Haven’t some newspaper owners become Members of Parliament?” These questions are prominently put to me, which I find difficult to counter.
It is not a secret that there are businessmen who themselves have become editors? And having become such, they do not bother for anything. Why would they? They too have right to enjoy ‘freedom of expression’! And they are enjoying ‘freedom of expression’ very well, sometimes at the cost of hardcore journalists.
Commenting more on this would dishearten you and dispel all kinds of illusions regarding media. However, one thing is clear – today’s editors enjoy freedom only at the pleasure of their owners.
A typical case in example is M J Akbar, fondly known among his friends and colleagues as MJ.
MJ, a veteran journalist, editor, columnist and author was recently eased out of Deccan Chronicle / The Asian Age newspapers. There, he was Editor-in-Chief until he was overtaken by a flurry of messages on his Blackberry asking him to check his newspaper’s masthead: his name had gone missing overnight, replaced with that of T. Venkatt Ram Reddy, the publisher.
Indeed, things could not go well between MJ and his Chairman T Venkattram Reddy and his name went missing from the newspapers’ March 2, 2008 printline. But, MJ’s exit has a lot to do with the Congress party which wanted him out of The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle.
This is what MJ wrote in his farewell note to colleagues: “For reasons that need not detain us, I must say farewell. I was under the impression that I might have been able to do so with more grace; I did want to travel to all the offices and spend a convivial evening with everyone; and in Delhi I did want to call everyone over. But, judging from this morning’s edition ( March 2, 2008 ) of our paper, it seems I might have already overstayed my welcome. You have all been family. Many of you were young men and women when we began this long, difficult journey together, a journey during which we gave so much blood and sweat, during which we often faced hopelessness and never surrendered to despair. Now you are 10 and 15 years older….
“Take care, God bless and remember that what we achieved together made media history. I began working in the South when our circulation was perhaps 60,000 copies; and then we created a new template with the Asian Age. Today, we have a combined circulation of over a million copies, according to ABC. This is a triumph for our family of journalists. We may not have been the biggest, but we held our head high because there was one non-negotiable asset in our family: we could not be bought. We were independent. We were free. We held our head high. Never let your head stoop, not as long as you are a journalist. As ever, MJ”
Later, when Khaleej Times asked MJ if he now joins a list of illustrious editors shown the door rather unceremoniously, he quipped: “I have always wondered what a ‘ceremonious’ exit is like!”
The long list of fine editors who have been unceremoniously shown the door by publishers includes Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar and Vinod Mehta.
Now MJ is understood to have floated his own company MJP Media which is launching a political fortnightly ‘COVERT’.
Well, MJ always stood for investigative journalism. And I expect him to use his new venture as a weapon to expose the murky side of our media as well. Do it first MJ. And do it fast.
And remember. Do not get so close to any political party or a politician as you were to Rajiv Gandhi, who got you elected to Lok Sabha. Now, even as an owner of a publication, be a journalist first. Good Luck.
SOME MORE POINTS, PLEASE
PARMANAND PANDEY NAMED PRABHASH JOSHI AND COULD NOT MUSTER COURAGE TO NAME HIM IN HARD PRINT. PRABHASH JOSHI IS THE ONLY EDITOR WHO USED TO CALL LATE GOENKA–RNG AND SNUBBED HIM MANY TIMES FOR INTERFERING IN EDITORIAL MATTERS-ON RECORD. PANDEY WAS SACKED AND SO WAS I, BY PRABHASH JOSHI BUT THAT DOES NOT MAKE HIM A SYCOPHANT. HE IS ONE OF THE GREATEST EDITOR AROUND.
I WOULD LOVE A CANDID PROFILE OF K VIKRAM RAO BY PARMANAND JI. HOW HE USED TRADE UNION TO MAKE HIS MILLIONS AND A PRINTING PRESS.
I fully endorse the views of Mr. Parmanand Pandey. MJ played second fiddle to Congress and finally paid the price. He was kicked out at the behest of none other than Madam Sonia. It is sad that spineless editors hobnobbing with the powers that be have become the hallmark of Indian journalism.
I read your piece on MJ. I think there is no need to lament on the exit of individual editors.
My experience is that most of the editors behave like agents, jobbers and pimps for their own proprietors.Their role has been reduced to be the middlemen/women between the power that be and the owners on the one hand, and owners and rest of journalists/ employees on the other hand.
I am yet to see an editor who has taken the side of the employees vis-a-vis proprietors. Strangely, when they are are kicked out they cry hoarse in the name of freedom of speech and expression.
I don’t have any hesitation in telling that most of the editors work for self -aggrandisement. Most of them are unscrupulous and totally bereft of any ideology. You can see for your own that many of them are braggart and shamelessly flaunt their proximity with those who matter.
There is one magazine that has listed sixty great Indians and it has included the late Ram Nath Goenka of the Indian Express. What could be more shocking than this? It is as clear as day light that he was an enemy of the working class. Made money by all fair and foul means, mostly by foul means. He was in the habit of locking horns with those who did not help him in the expansion of his empire. He was using his paper with the help of subservient editors for his own purposes. Any body opposed to it was immediately branded as the adversary of the freedom of press.
I know one editor, who is still alive, whose only qualification was that no body could beat him in sycophancy of Ram Nath Goenka and yet he claims to be a great Gandhian. These are the people who brought disrepute to journalism and they need to be exposed.
There are many editors, whose single point goal is to make money and they are worst than corrupt officers and politicians. That is why, my dear friend, there is no need to shed tears on their exit.
I am of the considered opinion that journalism does not guide the society. It has always played second fiddle to the pioneering forces. Mahatma Gandhi, or for that matter any body, did not become great leader because he was a journalist but he, like others, adopted journalism to propagate his own view points.
Today market forces are playing the lead role and they will inexorably influence the shape and colour of journalism regardless of the fact whether we have the institution of editors or not.
Secretary General, Indian Federation of Working Journalists
There is an urgent need for “real” reporters/writers who can wake up the souls of the people. We need journalists who can present true pictures, whom we can trust, who don’t belong to a particular religion, who have proper understanding of human values…
India is not so lucky by that way. We have people who still appear to be slaves.
We need writers/reporters who can give India the right direction. Our leaders are dividing us and I see no one who can get cleanse the system.