As the world of Indian journalism continues to grow, with print, television and electronic news constantly competing to outdo each other, veteran journalist Alok Mehta takes a close look at the lack of ethical journalism. Mehta makes a strong case for a journalistic code of conduct; similar to those in other countries such as the UK and USA, and outlines several recommendations Indian journalists must keep in mind to maintain their credibility and integrity in an increasingly corrupt environment. Not only must journalists expand the scope of their reporting, they must do so in a sensitive and aware manner, to maximize public awareness and to create and mould public opinion. Only then can their readers make informed choices and take strong stands on issues they believe in.
An incisive look at the volatile, demanding world that is Indian journalism today.
About the Author
Alok Mehta is editor, Outlook Saptahik, and currently president of the Editors Guild of India. He has been conferred the 20th Bhartendu Harishchandra Award for his book Patrakarita ki Lakshman Rekha and selected for the Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Award instituted by the Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and communication for his contribution to Hindi journalism.
There are not too many books in this country on the vital, highly influential and also seriously flawed sector of national life constituted by the print an electronic media. Some years ago, my friend and colleague, Alok Mehta, currently editor of Outlook Saptahik, tried to fill the gap by pblisheing Hindi Patrakarita Ki Lakshman Rekha, which tackled the issues and challenges confronting Indian journalism, and Hindi journalism in particular, with refreshing candour. I was present at the book's launch by Sushma Swaraj, then a Union Minister, who had obviously read the book from cover to cover and therefore made some pertinent points with characteristic vigour. The panel discussion that followed was equally forthright. While rejoicing over newpapers phenomenal growth, in numbers, circulation and revenue, most speakers seemed to agree that crass commercialization had eroded the print medium's social commitment and professional values more than considerably. Editors, it was said, were losing ground to market advisers, to the point that in some of the largest newspaper chains the institution of the editor was virtually extinct.
It had occurred to me then that the book deserved to be made available also to readers who did not know Hindi. It gives me great pleasure therefore that, heeding my advice, Alok has produced its English version. The strongest point of the present work is that it is not just a translation of Lakshman Rekha, but contains a lot more that is new. Besides including what Alok has been saying in professional organizations such as the Editors Guild, of which he is now President, he has updated, with commendable objectivity, the anguished debate on the strong and weak points of the Indian media, including the depressing trend towards trivialization and titillation. He has also been blunt enough to ask his coworkers in Hindi journalism to do some soul searching to determine why there is such an 'inferiority complex' within their ranks, while the performance of newspapers and journalists in other regional languages has been a striking success story.
Remarkably, Alok has acknowledged the validity of Prime Minister ManMohan Singh's verdict, in a speech at the Chandigarh Press Club, where he asserted that with the rapid growth of the media in recent times, 'qualitative development has not kept pace with quantitative growth. In the race for capturing markets, journalists have been encouraged to cut corners, to take chances, to hit and run. I believe the time has come for journalists to take stock of how competition has impacted on quality'. The author has done precisely this, and analysed at great length the remedy for the current state of affairs as prescribed by the prime minister-accountability. As observed by a former British prime minister, power without responsibility is but the privilege of the harlot.
Rather than going on summarizing what Alok has said on a host of issues, I leave the reader to discover it for him or herself. It will be a rewarding experience.
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