Journalism: The second oldest profession in the world

By Swati Chaturvedi | Last Updated: Friday, December 10, 2010 - 15:08
Swati Chaturvedi

Simply put, the job of the media is to keep the government honest. As the memorable phrase goes ‘speak truth to power’. As the Radia tapes reveal we have collectively failed spectacularly.

We seem to have reduced ourselves to dancing elves and dwarfs on a demented ego trip.
Just being able to be within sniffing distance of power - a function of our job - access to politicians seems to have acted as a headier rush than the most powerful white powder distilled in Columbia.

The standards we apply to those we report on do not seem remotely applicable to us. It is this double distilled hypocrisy that the readers and viewers are revolted by.

And even now with nemesis staring us in the face, what has been the response? A feeble, let's sweep it under the carpet and pretend it never happened. A collective head in the sand approach. A determination for it to be business (and let's not pretend it is not business and a very big business) as usual.

Will it work? I doubt it. While the principals involved in the salacious Radia tapes seem determined to brazen it out, most of the collegial fraternity of the media is upset. And, the social network sites, which almost forced the main-stream media to cover the stinking scandal in the media, seem extremely determined to keep the media honest and accountable.

Was it a shock and surprise as some doyennes in the media are pretending! Well let me tell you little secret. It most certainly was not. It has been known to all professional journalists that the emperor had no clothes on. In the security of cosy power cliques, the name-dropping in utter pomposity and bombast was well known.

As someone told me, “What is the surprise that some media houses employed brokers? Who is surprised, it was always known.” The sadness though does not change. For someone who wanted to be a journalist as soon as one was able to read, the cynicism which is the armour that years in the profession give you does not make to proof to the level of complicity.

What can be done to keep the media honest? Very little I am afraid. The only reason to exist in this profession is credibility and that is always up to the individual conscious. It is almost like a bank. If a bank needs to tell its customers please trust us then it is pretty much end game.

Even the fig leaf that journalism was an extremely noble, but ill-paid profession no longer exists. Journalists are extremely well paid and the ones in the Radia-tapes are the outliers of the profession.

The media needs to change. We need to get rid of our bloated egos and start putting people at the heart of our stories. And, I mean stories not strategy. It cannot be about marketing sensationalism and that too manufactured sensationalism. News does not break every second and our viewers and readers are not idiots. We have to stop taking them for granted.

And, as for the rest of the current hand-wringing and sobs of declaration of assets, I have genuine breaking news for you, not for nothing is journalism called the second oldest profession in the world.

First Published: Friday, December 10, 2010 - 15:08

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