December 03, 2010

life in journalism: a welcome torchlight on unhealthy aspects of Indian journalism

Every once in a while the ugly facets of Indian media editors come out in the open. Last week, Outlook magazine published the tapes between Nira Radia and a few media editors and journalists. Everything about the issue and the tapes can be on Outlook's website here, here, here, here, here and here.

Nira Radia and her firms including Vaishanvi handle the public relations of all the companies of the Tata Group (whose chairman is Rata Tata) and the Reliance Industries Group (whose chairman is Mukesh Ambani).

Its good that the Radia tapes have been published by Outlook magazine. Such a torchlight was necessary, and I am sure other dirty aspects of Indian journalism would also not remain un-hidden forever.

The editors who feature in these tapes are not the only ones who subtly plugged Radia's clients in their publications and television channels or to political parties using their influence. There are a few other media editors too who do the plugging in their publications/channels but do so in a very cunning manner. I have no doubt that over time these editors would receive payback for their un-ethical and dangerous liaisons with large companies and their PR representatives.

I have written about the unhealthy practises in journalism in my blog a few times. In one of my blog post (29 September 2008 one) I even mentioned Vaishnavi company (owned and run by Radia) by name. I share below the contents of that blog post:

There is a slyness with which India Inc and their pubic relations (PR) companies treat the media. Partly, of course, it is the media's self-imposed cowardliness but it also due to the sophistication that the public relations companies (or in some cased the companies do it directly without hiring a public relations firm) deploy to discourage/intimidate/fool the editors and journalists that dare to ask even basic tough questions about their client-companies.
As a journalist, I have seen how some PR companies directly deal with the Editor-in-chief (or other senior editors) of a publication or a news channel and try to manipulate them if they perceive a junior-level editor/reporter probing the affairs of their clients a little deeper (such a journalist, in my view, would only be carrying out his/her journalistic duties more diligently).
The PR companies that try to aggressively wield a lot of influence on the top media editors include Genesis Burson-Marsteller, Vaishnavi PR, Perfect Relations and 2-3 more.
The media dare not even write about their PR companies as a part of the regular coverage of the role of all kinds of business entities in the economy and industry. But in June this year Tehelka magazine dared and wrote a story on them (you can read it here). It was a welcome torchlight on an evasive bunch of people although I still felt the story was soft.
There is a lot more to say about the techniques used by the PR companies that would do a Goebbels proud. The readers/viewers of Indian media do not adequately know the kind of insights/news/analysis they are missing out on due to such Goebbels'.

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