Whenever a political turn or event happens who do our reporters run to most? You guessed it – Digvijaya Singh. And what does he offer them? Nothing but filthy utterances against others and mindless statements that aren’t even fact-checked. His own party is on record stating that his statements are not “authorised”. Yet, DS with no political position or responsibility and clearly over-the-hill, is the Guru for most TV editors. The reporters seek his comments like Stenographers and faithfully relay it. By evening, on many occasions, based on his silly utterances, you will find DS doing a full-fledged interview with Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai or Rahul Kanwal. It’s a well-planned and organised routine. Did I just say ‘stenographers’? My apologies, someone else has a different take about stenographers. We will get to that.
Let’s call this paragraph Chapter- C for reference: Can you figure out who this guy is? “He was overjoyed… He did his mandatory piece to the camera and rushed to office. Once his script was done, he waited for a call from his Editor. No call came. For hours, video editors sat with the material. He was not allowed inside the editing bay. "I sat in a corner of the office like an outcast though I was the key person in the investigation," he recalls. And then, all hell broke loose. All he could hear was two words as an explanation for the volte-face: ‘inconclusive evidence’. The editor, who had not talked to him so far, asked if he needed police protection. For what, he asked? "I felt like a stray dog," he says and then resigned from the channel and took a bus home”. Sounds like an errand boy, doesn’t he? But he’s a reporter. His channel made him feel like a stray dog as he says. The man could well hold the key to one of the most infamous episodes in India’s political and media history but his story was shut out because his channel and his boss wanted to suppress the story.
Meet Amber Lyon, she has a similar story. She’s not a journalist covering India and the story may not have a direct relevance but her channel, CNN, does have a stake in India. Let me just quote the story (edited excerpts) from LibertyBlitzkrieg:
The Amber Lyon story is just the latest in a series of articles that expose the total Joseph Goebbels like censorship rampant in mainstream media today… This is precisely why alternative media sites are taking off. They provide the only outlets left for genuine journalism… Back in March 2011, CNN sent a four person team to Bahrain to cover the Arab Spring. Once there, the crew was the subject of extreme intimidation amongst other things, but they were able to record some fantastic footage. As Glenn Greenwald of the UK’s Guardian writes in his blockbuster:
In the segment, Lyon interviewed activists as they explicitly described their torture at the hands of government forces, while family members recounted their relatives’ abrupt disappearances…She spoke with government officials justifying the imprisonment of activists. And the segment featured harrowing video footage of regime forces shooting unarmed demonstrators, along with the mass arrests of peaceful protesters.… Despite these accolades, and despite the dangers their own journalists and their sources endured to produce it, CNN International (CNNi) never broadcast the documentary. Even in the face of numerous inquiries and complaints from their own employees inside CNN, it continued to refuse to broadcast the program or even provide any explanation for the decision. To date, this documentary has never aired on CNNi…. In March 2012, Lyon was laid off from CNN as part of an unrelated move by the network to outsource its investigative documentaries. “At this point,” Lyon said, “I look at those payments as dirty money to stay silent. I got into journalism to expose, not help conceal, wrongdoing, and I’m not willing to keep quiet about this any longer, even if it means I’ll lose those payments.”
The ‘dirty money’ Lyon is referring to is the ‘severance package’ she got from CNN for getting rid of her. And just like the reporter in Chapter-C she too must have felt like a stray dog. Naturally, most editors have turned their ground reporters into stenographers who take a dictation and transmit the sound-bites. Reporting that is fine but there is no follow up from the studio staff or anchors to “verify the correctness and accuracy” of those sound-bites. Anything that is sympathetic to the ruling party passes without any challenge. But hey, that’s an insult to even stenographers as Glenn Greenwald brilliantly explains in his article "Inept Stenographers":
Journalists' excuses for their bad behavior -- it's necessary to get quotes -- are both fictitious and irrelevant…. A common criticism of establishment journalists entails comparing them to stenographers, on the ground that most of them do little more than mindlessly write down and uncritically repeat what government officials say. But stenography is a noble and important profession: they’re the court-licensed officers who, with astonishing speed and accuracy, transcribe the statements of all witnesses, lawyers and judges in judicial proceedings. If establishment journalists were to replicate actual stenography, it would be an improvement on most of the work they produce…. “And that explains why establishment journalists provide this service to these political officials: because they serve them as spokespeople, not report on them adversarially”.
Think of the journalists who are embedded with a political party. You can easily identify them on TV. They even interpret body language of ministers or even Sonia Gandhi for you. You can also easily replace any party spokesperson with these journalists. They have become the spokespeople. I agree with Greenwald, Stenographers are far nobler. Crony media bosses treat some of their own as stray dogs as the reporter in Chapter-C feels. Then there are stray dogs elsewhere too. You will suddenly find them spinning strange theories. Sometimes it will be in support of the ‘cronies’ who can’t tolerate any criticism. Sometimes they will suddenly unleash a campaign for Priyanka Vadra as PM candidate. Oh do remember, at times like these they will refer to her as ‘Priyanka Gandhi’ for effects. NYTimes itself admitted that MSM news is nothing but censored propaganda. If that can happen in a true ‘free speech’ society, imagine what it would be in India.
Gallup, the respected research company, published a poll on reliability of TV and newspapers in July 2012. They carried out a survey to find out confidence of Americans in the media. Not surprisingly, the confidence in TV news has fallen from 46% in the early 1990s to a low of 21% in 2012. Newspapers didn’t fare any better. From a peak of 51% around 1978 the confidence has fallen to 25% in 2012. This kind of decline would be true for India too except that there is no one measuring it. There is no one acting as watchdog over our MSM either. This gives them the license to run their propaganda and lies unhindered. Now that’s where opportunity lies for people to open up alternatives. Nope, not for more news but for the Truth.
So what about the guy in Chapter-C? One has to wonder how much he was Censored. That "feel like a stray dog” is Sidhartha Gautam of CNN-IBN who quit immediately after the Cash4Votes sting that he was ordered to conduct. That Editor is none other than Rajdeep Sardesai. Why did Gautam quit? Was there a severance package like with Amber Lyon of CNN, IBN’s partner? Gautam, according to his new employers, gave a “rehearsed” testimony to the parliamentary committee on C4V. (IndiaToday August 5, 2011). The 2nd para that I called Chapter-C is also about Gautam from an India Today article of April 6, 2011. Stenographers are noble. Treating ground level reporters as stray dogs is the tactic for some editors to run their well-oiled propaganda machinery. With the ruling party in trouble again, another C4V is not too farfetched.