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When journalists become jokers

The media goes into convulsions over the Sensex touching the 10,000-mark mark. Enter theatrics, exit news value.


February 8, 2006

* Two anchors in a business channel sitting with T shirts and caps with 10000 written over them
* The Times of India headline: Climax at Tensex
* Hindustan Times, Sensex 10K headline: 10 things you should do now
* DNA headline: Sensex dances to 10k tune

Thank god for Indian Express’s ‘Sensex adds a digit.’ I would have gone mad otherwise. The few papers I read were absolute shockers on Tuesday. Journalists like to coin words, so let us call it Terrible Tuesday (a copy, of course) in the history of Indian journalism.

I may be from the old school of journalism where a byline really means that there is something different or exclusive in the copy. Otherwise, for routine copies, when the Sensex hits 10,000 points, editors who give bylines should be seriously whacked. And journos who demand it should be simply sacked.

Do I sound outraged? That is, because I am. I understand the media market in Mumbai is at a frenzy where even a person with two years' in the industry becomes an Assistant Editor. But please, for heaven’s sake, do not reduce journalism to a mockery.

The basic principle of the journalism is neutrality. And the way the CNBC journalists were sitting with caps and T-shirts, it almost (almost?) seemed that they had made crores out of the market. More importantly, journalists seem to be running out of people who give them quotes. For instance, both the Times of India and Hindustan Times quoted the same experts. Sad but true, and I can do nothing but rue.

Hindustan Times went further and advised people on what to do now. And the great advice was - INVEST IN MUTUAL FUNDS! Which one?? Please. DO NOT EXPECT ALL STOCKS TO PERFORM MIRACLES! Which sectors are looking good or bad?? Please. Interestingly, the headline to the HT report said - 10 things you should do now. And the first sub-head? Don’t rush into anything! I could go on and rip it down further, but I am simply bored.

Years back, while attending a press conference, one hack from a well-known business daily asked the RBI governor: Is the rupee (against the dollar) on a historic high? And the reply? “since the last one week, papers have been saying that the rupee is on a historic high - every day.” The hack at least had the good sense to shut up. These kinds of questions simply mean that the guy does not track the sector and more importantly, does not know that once you have crossed the earlier high, it is a historic high and every high after that is a new high. Like my present editor would have said, “you are giving too many history lessons to the reader”… or better… “ this is ****ing s***.”

Higher salaries, bigger head counts, and journalists with lots of contacts and bylines do not help newspapers. It is the ability to ask the right questions and get the right replies that matter. Journalists and more importantly, editors, need to take the call. It is time now for some serious quality control.

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