Idiot Sheets?


Idiot Sheets?

Does the media still offer a moral principle —the sense of a society talking to itself — or has it completed the descent to pure commerce? The captains of Fleet Street introspect on the consecration of trivia.

Truth poses a problem. “Can you switch off the recorder for a moment?” The off-the-record moment has arrived. Even top editors, publishers, channel heads and proprietors of media organisations have something to say off the record. “Don’t quote me on this one, but…”

It’s a difficult time to be a journalist in India. The “hit-and-run media”, as the PM recently said, is tripping on its own speed. Some stories are reported even when they don’t happen while others must never be told. News must be both event and spectacle. True but not necessarily honest. Fearless but funny. Cutting edge but glamorous. Equalising but leaning towards the privileged. Nationwide is Delhi and Mumbai. Be balanced, don’t get ideologically involved.Even if that means being neutral between the arsonist and the firefighter.

As journalists and proprietors search for what lies betwixt good news is news and bad news is no news, casualties have begun mounting in Indian newsrooms. Truth, as the cliche asserts, is the first. But the list of injuries is long:

  • Subjectivity, inaccuracy, misquote
  • Marketing men as editorial heads
  • Sexing it up, dumbing it down, sting operations with methods and morals mixed up
  • ‘Breaking news’ dozen times a day on TV and the kaisa lag raha hai(how does it feel?) journalism
  • Convenient fearlessness, textual politics, pseudo-secularism
  • TV studios as courtrooms, SMS voting on serious human rights issues
  • The PR industry as source, selling of editorial space
  • Pride and prejudice of editors clashing with that of those in power.



Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu“Sections of the media known for serious journalism have begun to dumb down. This is a disturbing trend. In the West, there is a line between tabloid and non-tabloid journalism. Here, newspapers offer both on one plate.”


Aroon Purie, Editor-in-Chief, India Today Group “To a large extent, news has become a commodity. But the advertising market should not start dictating to a point where editorial is led by it. The key thing in our business is the sanctity of the editorial.”


M.J. Akbar, Editor-in-Chief, The Asian Age “I believe the market is the biggest leveller. Now the concepts of entertainment have changed. A publication is a buffet, not a one-course meal. A problem arises when editors mistake the pickle for the main meal.”


“Total circulation of all language newspapers: 13,30,87,588.
Today, India has about 8,141 English dailies.”


“Sections of the media earlier known for serious journalism have begun to dumb down. This is a disturbing trend,” says N. Ram, editor-in-chief, The Hindu. “Investigative journalism’s been given a bad name by the invasive spy camera. This keyhole journalism is rubbish.”