It’s over two and a half years since this blog started. It is with a sense of happiness and satisfaction that I note this blog crossed One Million views on October 16.2012. For a small blog in some corner of the world I consider it a decent accomplishment. I would consider it an even greater accomplishment if it manages to push many more to write. I have, of course, been inspired by many wonderful writers on the net; writers whose names would make a very long list. They aren’t from the regular media. All of them had something in common which I learned: They weren’t just bold, but in writing, they were never afraid of being wrong, they took the opportunity to say what they believed or assessed to be right. In this post I will share a few personal notes.
Like many, I have observed news media for a long time, national and some international. It was a thrill to see TV news channels adopt a strong adversarial role with the govt in the late 90s. It was only in 1999 during the Kandahar episode that I felt something wasn’t really right. Then, it was in 2002 during and after the Gujarat riots that I sensed the channels had gone far beyond reporting. They were actually concocting lies and fake stories. Naturally, most of it was quite shocking and disturbing. Program after program reported over 2000 deaths, 3000 deaths, mass rapes, foetuses ripped apart with no authentic evidence for anything. By 2004 it was pretty much clear that these news channels were not in the news business but in politics. Some NGOs joined hands with the media too. People we thought were social activists were actually “paid political hacktivists”.
I had a TV in a small office from where my partner and I operated an online business. I was mostly alone in the office and hardly watched but had the sound on to catch any sensible news. Then we got to watch the Cash4Votes in 2008 and that too brought outrage but passed. That year the US presidential election was also interesting with the possibility of a black man becoming a president for the first time. So that got a lot of attention. It was soon after that election, on November 26, that late at night I caught some report on terrorist attacks in Mumbai. This went on and on and I watched till 4am next morning before quitting. At home next morning I thought it would all be over but when I got back to office I saw things had gotten worse. On the evening of November 27 I tried calling a TV channel at least 3 times to complain about their terrible coverage of the attacks but couldn’t get through. In the following months I watched the Chetanya Kunte–Barkha Dutt episode over “shoddy journalism” on the net and that was disgusting to say the least. It was evident that media celebs had a clear contempt for social media and bloggers.
In March 2009 I registered the website MediaCrooks.Com but still didn’t write for a long time. At first we wanted to focus on the ‘financial’ channels but then the stock markets had already crashed since October 2008 and there wasn’t much to write. There were many blogs and sites that wrote about politics, religion, history, ideology etc; most of them great ones. Thus the thought of writing about news channels and only about news channels, be it print or electronic. I had no idea what to write other than what would read like complaint letters to a newspaper. The other idea was to write “reviews” of programs but that would have sounded like movie critics. The first post was made on February 2010 and for about 9 months there was hardly any readership for the site. I recall the readership count till November 2010 was around 400 or thereabouts.
It was then on November 18, 2010 that Radiagate broke and when Open magazine crashed, this site carried all the tapes in a single file without interruption. Since then there has been steady increase in readership. MediaCrooks is intended to be a critique of media without meaning to be merely a serious academic exercise. Without sacrificing accuracy and facts it was always and still is meant to be fun-reading.
Among many stories that inspire, one is definitely the story of Bob Woodward (Of Watergate). People may or may not know but Woodward was sent to cover the hearing of the Watergate burglary not because he was a great journalist but because he was an average journalist. His supervising editor even referred to him as a “Schmuck” who could have been fired. Even his newspaper, Washington Post, had initially considered Watergate just an ordinary burglary which is why they sent a ‘schmuck’. The rest is history. Their meticulous research and inquiries should have inspired many of our real journalists. They didn’t use call-girls, prostitutes and spy-cameras for “sting” operations or entrapment. Does it sound a lot like our very own J. Gopikrishnan of 2G fame? I also rely on the P&G principle: “Facts count, Opinions don’t. What is right is more important than who is”. Even in medical situations an opinion is usually a ‘considered assessment’.
In the current context the media will have us believe that corruption fighters like Anna Hazare or Arvind Kejriwal have come up because politicians have become unaccountable or have decimated our institutions. Only partly true. This is an outrageous half-truth that is being spread. Their spurious argument is that these activists have taken the place of the Opposition in a democracy. This is as far from the truth as Russian is from Tamil. These activists have come up because our media has failed. Our media has stopped being a watchdog. Whatever IndiaToday unearthed about Khurshid may have been possible with all other scams too. Our media failed. Whatever other scams were unearthed by CAG could have been done by the media too. How many times have media used RTI to expose govt misdeeds? Why should a country even need specialist “RTI activists” as they call them? If a small journal like The Pioneer and J. Gopikrishnan could expose the 2G scam what does it say about other news media with greater muscle and influence?
Far from exposing, many in the news media have, in fact, been operating as defence lawyers for the criminals in the govt and politics. With most media celebs swarming around NCR like insects attracted to the honeypot, they fail to acknowledge most crimes have happened right under their own noses. Much of the news media is also now a “political party” that is part of the crime. The anti-corruption activists have replaced not politicians or Oppositions but the news media which is too busy with Bollywood, Saas-Bahu stories, silly Cricketainment and Tamasha in general. At a time like this investigative journalism should have peaked but in India it’s practically dead. That is why I consider a corrupt media the first and biggest threat to our democracy more than politicians.
Many posts on MediaCrooks have been based on readers’ comments. Many have come through emails that I receive. Where possible they have been acknowledged. There are many individuals who have recommended the blog through Twitter, Facebook, SocialMedia forum and even in private circles. Many SM sites have reproduced posts from here. There are professional online news sites that have used content from here. Even IAC has prominently featured some posts on their site. I would love to thank every individual and entity that helped to spread the blog and its message. Naming each of them would make a very long list and run into many posts long.
I would just like to thank all of you for reading and for supporting this site. It is more than I ever expected. I also hope many more such sites come up and many more write about issues that concern all of us in general.