Who are we?

The tapes were out. The conversations in them raised questions on some of the biggest icons of contemporary Indian journalism. Many were left wondering: is this the kind of journalism that’s idealised. They were surprised – how had their icons become brokers and messengers; editors had become media tycoons; watchdogs of society become lap dogs of establishment; journalists had become stenographers; the lofty fourth estate has turned into a money-minded real estate.

And guess what? There were no answers to these questions. Most big media houses had clamped down on the biggest breaking news of Indian journalism. The journalists – in both electronic and print media – were shying away from their basic job – of ‘telling the truth’.

However, this silence itself became a glorious example of how silences are broken, how people find their own way to information. Netizens rose to the occasion and reiterated the fact that people are supreme in this game too.

It does not matter if some journalists refused to document ‘the first draft of the history’ of the most important chapter of Indian journalism, or if the big media houses tried to ignore it as if it never happened. But history has already been written. However, the one question that the coming generations will certainly ask is if we the journalists were really ‘telling it like it is’ or not.

There is reason to believe the Radia tapes are just a small part of a larger game, quite possibly a game of quid pro quo. Expensive gifts to journalists, paid news, the ad-based model dictating the news – there are so many issues that need to be addressed.

That is what has brought together ‘Journalists for Society’, and this compilation, When Media Becomes the Message, is an effort in that direction.

Journalists for Society
Dec 6, 2010