I didn’t coin the word Servantile but it best describes the kind of interviews NDTV conducts with some select people and some of its practices. I don’t find the need to explain what servantile means but here are some examples:
January 2010, in his interview with Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Prannoy Roy pays him a compliment: “Your credibility is impeccable…” This particular compliment is all over the internet now given the personality he had interviewed. This is Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC scandal, .Glaciergate, Climategate, TERI funding based on inaccurate glacier-melting threats, TERI gaining a contract while he was on the board of ONGC, and his own personal wealth under scanner. This is the Pachauri of the “Voodoo Science” insult to an Indian glaciologist. Given all this, Prannoy Roy still believes his credibility is really impeccable. Servantility at its best!
NDTV is famous for such servantile interviews. Barkha Dutt routinely does it. Remember her interviews with Priyanka Gandhi, P Chidambaram and recently Shahrukh Khan, the list can go on. Servantile journalism is not only despicable but also harmful for the public. I have chosen NDTV as an example given the recent interviews of Rajendra Pachauri and Shahrukh Khan with them. Let’s examine what is so seriously wrong with it
Every year NDTV gives out some awards called “NDTV Person Of The Year” in various categories. The awardees are mostly politicians, ministers, businessmen, celebrities and so on. (Mind you other news channels are equally guilty of such a practice.) I am not questioning the right of people to receive awards. I am questioning if it’s the business of a supposed news channel to be giving out such awards?
Let me touch on something else. In March 2009 in his now famous smack-down of CNBC (the American financial channel) Jon Stewart of The Daily Show showed how the journalists at CNBC asked all stupid and servantile questions to CEOs of companies like Bear Sterns, AIG, GM, Merryl Lynch, one even went far enough to ask Allen Stanford “how does it feel to be a billionaire?” (Prannoy’s compliment to Pachauri falls into this category of journalism) In weeks after the interviews each company collapsed and Stanford was actually running a Ponzi-scheme. Yes, the very same Allen Stanford who sponsored a cricket event in the WI. The point here is, the journalists sucked up to the CEOs of these companies and never asked real hard questions that would indicate the health of their companies. The end result was the economic collapse in the US. How can you be giving awards to the very same people to whom you should be asking really hard questions. NDTV calls itself a news channel, if it called itself an Entertainment channel I wouldn’t care if they gave out a “Call-girl of the year” award.
In a TIME magazine poll last year, after Walter Cronkite’s death, Jon Stewart was voted the most trusted newsman in the US. The irony is, Stewart’s Daily Show is a Comedy Channel program and Stewart is a comedian who calls himself a “snake-oil salesman”.
So much for servantile journalism.