Saturday, June 25, 2011

PAID NEWS: paid lie

I was reading about paid news and how bad it is for host of reasons.

The paid news is old news, and not as recent as it is made out to be. at best there could be a new version of the old practice of influencing editorial on consideration that is not the merit of the matter.

There are ways possible, if there are adequate means to support, to get things published, in media houses that have a reputation of clarity, rigour and truthfulness, stories that send wrong message, create misleading pictures.

Ideological affinity for a news magazine is nothing new, but it is still objectionable, because it clouds objectivity.

But now there is something much sinister happening. You can influence editorial in a manner that reveals half-truth, or selective truth, if done craftily, give a wrong picture convincingly.

The editor’s guild in India condemned this paid news business, as if they were taken by surprise, and that things like this exist came to them like a rude shock. Well that cannot be true. It has not happened overnight. It now seems to be the popular culture.

There are many reporter and editors who are strongly identified with a corporate entity or a political party or ideology, to the extent that they cease to be journalist, they write and talk like activists.

There are basically two ways to influence content coming out from a publication. One: buy the stakes/shares and become an owner. Two: if that is not possible, get few senior and some junior staffers on the payroll, they will spy for you, forewarn if something is happening editorially that has the potential of making material difference on their masters.

I am not surprised that this happening. Publications reflect the society; they cannot remain isolated to the pulls and pressure of the society. The concept of ‘non-satiation’ (it is an economic jargon which presumes that rational beings, referring to humans, can always benefit from having additional spending power) applies best on the hard cash. There is never enough cash. And journalism is still not a very paying profession.

Apart from the greed factor, it is a smart thing to do. Lets look at the success curves of editors who have done well in short time, without naming them, or even doubting there journalistic skills, tells that collaboration helps, even if these collaborations weigh heave on judgement and objectivity. It is better to be successful editor who is identified and to that extent compromised, than an upright reporter who is stifled and his objective interface with the world, reportage, is edited, and manipulated, in the name of giving it the right perspective.

The fact that you write well and can dig beneath the surface to embarrass government and corporate are the basic qualities that is not difficult to acquire. There are some people who have mastered these qualities but are stagnating in the wings, frustrated and bitter.

But then there are smart cookies. They have deployed their talent to befriend with the powerful lobbies within and outside the government, instead of antagonising them. They are the ones who become editors; host fat parties where high and mighty congregate to celebrate. They have acquired this great skill of presenting skewed picture objectively.

They are never caught. Who will catch them?
Those who are like lakir ke fakir (go about the same old beaten path) suffer, stagnate, frustrate.

There is no doubt that there is a business angle to all social enterprise, and journalism is no exception, and there is no bravery in perishing, so all the publication would do kind of life sustaining shit, that would allow them to breathe and operate, and find occasions to do sporadic good journalism, that is about being upfront, and not confusing issues by layering it with the irrelevant.

So there is no moral judgement here. But the paid news is in thing. There will be public outcry about it, but behind doors written reality will be manipulated for considerations that are extraneous.

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