The objectivity of today’s journalist

Padmaja Shaw, whose writing I’ve linked to in the past, has written another terrific piece titled Manufacturing Hindutva?, which dissects a story that appeared in a major national magazine.

Excerpt:

When I read the cover ‘story’: Inside the Mind of The Bombers, carried by India Today, 13 October 2008, as an average reader I expected some minimum credibility in the story. I read the story with increasing disbelief and dismay. It signifies a new and unfortunate phase in Indian journalism. Mr Mihir Srivastava, the Principal Correspondent of India Today, claims to have met the ‘culprits’ twice. They were apparently not allowed to meet with their own families or lawyers but for some reason have been allowed to meet with the journalist and pour their hearts out to this sympathetic listener.

One does not see such crass profiling of the ‘other’ at least in major publications that are concerned about objectivity. I am awaiting similar advisories about Christians, Sikhs, Parsees and (after they are sufficiently tamed), dalits, people of ‘other’ regions, ‘other’ castes who settle in any ‘other’ state of India, people who speak a language ‘other’ than the one you prefer to speak, Hindus who worship ‘any other’ gods and not Rama, youth who have fun on valentines day, women with short hair, women who work, women who do not perform kadva chauth …..

The ‘other’ or ‘they’, it’s an us verus them argument that was used by a certain US president.

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2 thoughts on “The objectivity of today’s journalist

  1. “The objectivity of today’s journalist”. That titles fits Padmaja Shaw’s work very well, assuming she is a working journalist. Assume for argument’s sake that India Today’s story is not rigorous journalism. But how does that amount to “manufacturing Hindutva”? As one analyst remarked, is Hindutva the leftwing activist’s “the other”?

    Let’s flip the question. A nun was alleged to have been gang-raped in Kandhamal, Orissa. CNNIBN played up this story endlessly, and even aired an alleged interview with none other than the alleged victim herself. Here’s the interesting part: she is accessible to nobody to this day– not to the cops, apparently not even to the church — but is available to give interviews to CNNIBN!

    Is Padmaja Shaw going to ask if CNNIBN is manufacturing “Christian Fanaticism”? I’m willing to bet my life on it that she won’t.

    This phenomenon of media airing self-incriminating statements by people is not new. The staple photo of a Bjarang Dal activist in any magazine or newspaper is with a Trishul, supposedly showing how dangerously armed he is. If he is a killer or is intent on killing, the common-sensical question to ask is: why would he so gladly pose for the media’s cameras? Or is the media “Manufacturing Islamism”? I bet that’s not a question that Shaw is going to ask either.

  2. Mohan: The reason that I read The Hoot is that their coverage of the media in India has been pretty fair. By that I mean that they’re usually pretty good about pointing out stuff regardless of the channel or newspaper. I can recall that CNN IBN, NDTV, The Hindu, The Telegraph, The Pioneer, The Hindustan Times, etc. being critiqued.

    Regarding the original article, maybe the title isn’t accurate but that wasn’t the title I used for my post.

    Regarding the CNN IBN coverage, I am afraid that I have not been watching TV news lately, so I don’t know much about it. I also don’t really know if Ms. Shaw is going to write about the coverage. But, since you seem to be so sure of it, we’ll have to take your word for it that she won’t.

    About the photos of Bajrang Dal activists, if you’re implying that a stock photo is being used, I have no way of proving that it is or isn’t. About why someone would pose with a trishul, I wonder why he’s carrying a trishul in the first place. And you’d have to ask that person why he “posed” for the camera, gladly like you imply. Then again, you’d also have to ask that question to the police who are caught on camera beating people during lathi-charges (incidental) or to terrorists who give interviews (strategic). Or, it could just be that the people are looking for their 15 minutes of fame. Hard to tell.

    The next time I meet a Bajrang Dal activist in person (unlikely) I’ll be sure to ask him.

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