99 confessions of a journalist who feels the noble profession is facing flak for no fault of its own:
1. I had never heard of drugs except for the medicines my doctor would prescribe for my sore throat and sluggish liver. Then, a couple of months ago, I heard for the first time ever that Bollywood stars take substances that send them to space. They were on their own ‘trip’, and we were on our ‘TRP’.
2. I must confess that in the course of our team’s in-depth investigation, I did see a WhatsApp message from a superstar asking her secretary if she had got any ‘maal’. Using my superior intelligence, I deduced it was a misspelling for ‘mail’ (you know how terrible AutoCorrect can be).
3. We are dissed for being sensational, but it is hard work. Almost anyone can report on what is actually happening, eg. the kharif crop has been good, but the prospects for the rabi seem bleak. But, that would put you to sleep by the second paragraph. To keep you engaged, you need a secret sauce that is imagination. We add large dollops of it to tell you things not as they are but as they could well have been. Be honest. Would you rather see a Doordarshan documentary or a Karan Johar spectacular? The fact is, the nation wants to know, not snore.
4. We journalists are perfectionists, if nothing else. Even when we are in hot pursuit of the biggest stories, we don’t miss the details. Just the other day, when one of my ace reporters followed a film star’s car, he noted every detail vital to the case, viz., how many times the driver honked, which gear the vehicle was in most of the time, the number of speed breakers crossed…. Do I hear you say these are trifles? Well, go tell that to Michelangelo who taught the world that ‘trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle’.
5. People take pot shots and poke fun at us for not getting our priorities right. Often, the people doing the pot shooting and the poking are renegade members of our own tribe. Et tu Manas Chakravarty! We are also being blamed for everything that is wrong with country and society. That’s unfair. Would you blame the weather bureau reporter for the searing heat?
6. I am after the truth, and nothing but. It is a different matter that I spell truth as TRP. Now don’t ask me how I spell ‘facts’.
7. People keep saying that journalists should be talking ‘real issues’. Let me give you the back story to that. If I talk about China, I don’t think my article would have a single word that is printable. If I tell you about the underworld, I would have to renew my lapsed life insurance policy. And if I were to talk all about the local neta, my next of kin would benefit from that policy.
8. There is a lot of ‘Breaking News’ on some TV channels. Since what is being said is practically the same things that you had heard the previous evening, you will be wondering what’s being broken. It is actually the sound barrier, as we rush to get you the story ahead of the pack.
9. It is not only in the present times that journalists are facing the heat. Voltaire has said that history is nothing but a fable that has been agreed upon. What is news but the first draft of history?
10. Enough is enough. I am going to make a career switch from mainstream reporting to reviewing of books. Nobody kicks up a fuss about what one says about books, probably because nobody reads them anyway.
As you would have noticed, all of the above don’t add up to 99 but then the media has a reputation for sensationalism. And yes, I also exaggerate when I describe myself as a journalist.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the author are personal and do not purport to reflect those of THE WEEK