It’s been like a layer cake the last few months. We’ve had one scandal after another and it shows no signs of slowing down. You’ve probably read about most of the scandals, but the icing on the cake (at least until another scandal breaks, at which point it will become just another layer) may have escaped your notice. That’s because this latest scandal involves the media themselves, and they’re doing everything they can to cover it up. Barkha Dutt, Vir Shanghvi, Rajdeep Sardesai and a bunch of other media bigwigs were found to be doing some power-broking between the Congress and its vassal parties. The story was leaked by outlook magazine here.
I don’t know why anyone should be surprised. It’s like being surprised that a baboo in an official position in government is taking bribes. Everybody does it, and everybody knowns that everybody does it, even if no evidence has actually emerged. I’d guess there are two paths you take to get exclusive interviews with prominent people.
The first path is to dedicate your life to quality journalism until your reputation is so well-established that people want to talk to you. I think Dan Rather fell into this category — his demise came about because he hadn’t checked the quality of his sources. His integrity was never in doubt. But this path takes a long time.
The second path is where you do people favours in return for interviews and inside scoops. I’m sure the majority of Indian journos don’t do this, but I’m equally sure a lot of them do. So when this big expose on Barkha and co. came around, I was surprised — not that they were doing it, but that something like this saw the light of day.
But it’s still not easy to find. The tapes themselves are available online for all to listen to, but the story isn’t getting much prominence. I hate to agree with anything Arundhati Roy says, but one thing she did get right:
Much of the mainstream media has been captured by a small clique of columnists, editors and TV anchors, an incestuous little coterie with shows on each others’ channels and interviews in each others’ newspapers.
The responses Barkha and her higher-ups have provided are pretty standard: they liberally tossed in phrases like “smear campaign”, “misrepresentation” and “caricature” into boilerplate denials.