The business of journalism

Posted: April 1, 2009 in journalism

My previous boss once asked me why I left journalism. My question to him was: Have you tried sleepwalking?
That’s what I was doing around the time I decided to leave. Not because the newspaper or the people in my team were bad, (no complaints on either of those fronts), but because after a while I found I was bored and just going through the motions. Quite often, I just wished I was someplace else! And then there was the politics…But more of that later. I’ll admit that less then six months later, I tried to scramble back, because I thought I had erred in quiting my job, and a newspaper office was the only place I ever wanted to be in. I did have serious withdrawal symptoms for over a year after that. But there were other more compelling reasons that made me quit. One of them was the stifling restrictions vis-à-vis reporting on stories that were inimical to the interests of the owners, various individuals or groups. Time and again, stories would be killed or watered down for one reason or another. One couldn’t do a story about the corrupt practices of politicians…One couldn’t report on a fraudulent scheme run by a big business house… There were so many such instances.
A former editor who I had worked with for a short while, lost his job because he wrote something against a chief minister. The chief minister wasn’t satisfied with the fact that the editor in question had been removed from his post, and wanted him out of the organisation.
Look at what’s happening today. A senior editor of a well known newspaper recently told me that many of the senior staff who were being laid off had, in fact, been hired on fat salaries to ensure they would not write stories that harmed the group’s business interests. Now that keeping these people on board was proving costly they were being shown the door!
While I agree that running a newspaper is big business and not social service anymore, someone in the higher echelons of power had to take a stand. That is something a lot of newspaper establishments never did. And that is where journalism and journalists suffered.

  1. Joe Pinto says:

    The control of corporate power over the media is getting only stronger. We may get some respite because of the recession. But greed has become respectable; MBAs are paid fat packages for gambling on the stock exchange with fancy-sounding derivatives.But that is what is bound to happen when you put profits before people. I can see no way out but to raise fundamental ideological questions.But as insiders, Mohan, even stating that the newspaper industry compromises on values is a step forward.

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