Down with Barkha Dutt’s School of Journalism

A few hours ago, Barkha Dutt wrote a Facebook post, criticising Arnab Goswami, for attacking her in his The Newshour monologue[1]. The post has once again made her hatred for Mr. Goswami and his brand of journalism, public. Here is a fact-by-fact exposé of Ms. Dutt’s journalism, which is far worse than the likes of Mr. Goswami. The attack is not personal, but on the journalism that she stands for.

The want of a hidden alliance with the Establishment.

The government in Delhi has changed. By effect, the faces in the famed parties of Lutyens’ Delhi, have changed too. As the new boys who are ruling the town, are beginning to make sense of the Lutyens’ zone, there are a few, who are trying to do everything they can, to keep their familiar faces relevant. These are faces from the power zone of Delhi, who have made their careers out of building, and maintaining friendships, with people who matter. One of them is the self-proclaimed ‘Yaaron ka Yaar’ Barkha Dutt. While she may get away because of the inconclusive presence of criminal intent in the Radia Tapes, her complicit understanding with the then-ruling Indian National Congress is apparent from some of these remarks, published in the Open magazine[2]:

In another telecon, Barkha Dutt offers Niira Radia the assurance that she is on the job as a reliable go-between. “That’s not a problem, I’ll talk to Azad. I’ll talk to Azad right after I get out of RCR”

In yet another telecon, Barkha Dutt explains her situation to Niira Radia. “Everybody I know in the Congress was at the swearing-in, so I haven’t been able to speak with the top guys, and now I just finished and I am going to make my set of calls”

These were times when Barkha had many friends in the power corridors of Delhi. They were all so powerful, that by her own admission, all of them made it to the swering-in. Problem is that now she is failing to make friends. Barkha, who describes her journalistic might as ‘Barkha Rani Jam Ke Barasti Hai’ on Twitter, had an outburst during a recent interview that she gave to Madhu Trehan after the launch of her new book. Barkha remarked:

He (Modi) says ‘hello’ to me (when we meet), and that’s all he says. That’s pretty much all he says, except for one other brief conversation we have had. I think, he believes, and I don’t know for sure because I don’t know him particularly well, and this is my analysis- He believes he doesn’t need any Mainstream Media. He feels that he has bypassed the media and can talk to his citizens directly. [3]

Can there be anything more empowering for the citizens than the fact that their leader talks to them directly? What can be more re-assuring to the citizens, than the fact that their leader is himself the messenger? But clearly, this is not a fact that makes Barkha Dutt happy. Perhaps because her trips to 7, Race Course Road have been cut short.

‘Yaaron ka yaar’ is desperate for new ‘yaars’

Her ‘revealing’ talk with Madhu Trehan continues-

Madhu Trehan- Well he said that in his first week or so, when he became the Prime Minister. He said the media is not going to write the agenda. We are.

Barkha Dutt: But is that what’s happening? To paint sections of media as personal enemies of the BJP,wherein, others in the government, then, who are much more accessible individually, become fearful that the ‘top man’ will disapprove of even them being open. This is a…this is a…new phenomena. [4]

Who these ‘others’ in the government are, is not hidden from anyone who follows the deeds of Indian media regularly. No matter how much her ‘clout’ has reduced, people like her still matter to a small, but powerful audience- which is probably why these ‘others’ in the government continue to engage with her.

In conclusion, the yaaron ka yaar is desperate for new ‘yaars’. The old ones do not matter anymore. Although her new business partner Shekhar Gupta will disagree[5]. Mr. Gupta, in his book, Anticipating India: The Best of National Interest fondly recalled, how being with politicians when they were out of power, was the most sensible thing he did; for it made him learn about politics directly from them, when they had more time. Ms. Dutt, however, is from the electronic media. And so, a little more impatient. She wants to be friends with those who make up the establishment, and then control them, like she did when she helped United Progressive Alliance (UPA) decide Government of India’s Council of Ministers.

Her sensationalism-driven journalism harms National Interest.

Barkha Dutt, and the rest of her tribe, has repeatedly lamented on Twitter, how Mr. Goswami has sensationalised journalism. There can be no greater travesty of truth. Facts prove that she is the first master of the school of sensationalism that she accuses Mr. Goswami of promoting.

Barkha Rani’s ‘cloudburst’ (another bit from her Twitter description) to Madhu Trehan, continues.

While the Gandhis were inaccessible.  Madhu…even when you are on India’s side, and you travel, and we are all on India’s side, we travel abroad….I have been on two trips that the Prime Minister has made abroad. Other than the Joint Secretary for External Publicity in Ministry of External Affairs, almost nobody talks to you on and off the record. I don’t just mean me, nobody talks to the media. Generally, the media contingent who now travel on their own, and I think that’s a fine thing that you pay for the ticket and don’t take an Air India freebie, but if there is an India-Pakistan meeting happening, okay so the Gandhis never spke to anybody either, but the National Security Advisor would. Or there will be a Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. There were people who sat you down, and gave you the information. Okay forget other kinds of stories, atleast when it involves other countries, talk to us. It’s become so frustrating to cover Prime Minister’s trip because nobody talks to you. So you are basically dependent upon Press Conferences. And that’s NOT JOURNALISM.[6]

The responsibility of communicating with the press is that of the Joint Secretary for External Publicity, Ministry of External Affairs. It is sensationalism, and sensationalism alone that makes her want to talk to those who are not the designated authorities for the kind of talk she is interested in.

She is ‘one of them’, not ‘the one’.

Watch her reporting during the 2008 26/11 Mumbai Attacks:

Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKwixVIMorI

Notice, how, she is, again and again, lamenting over the fact that the security agencies are not ‘confirming’. What is it that makes her live telecast a counter-terror response, and help those inside, inflict more casualties? No wonder Hafiz Saeed likes this ‘cloudburst’ specialist.[7]

During the Attacks, she kept on sharing operational details, in the name of ‘breaking’ the news that hand grenades had been used, and explosions had started. The security personnel refused to share details, and asked her to move away. But she kept reporting, for she wanted to ‘break’ the story, at all costs. If this is not sensationalism, what is? Point is that she doesn’t just want to know, she wants to be the first one to know. That, my friends, is the very definition of sensationalism.

To be fair to her, she was not the only one who did this. The collective wisdom of Indian media was rightly put to shame by the Supreme Court when it reprimanded them for the live-telecast. [8]And so, it is important to see her as ‘one of them’, and not as ‘the one’ that she has started being, post her ‘cloudburst’ in Calcutta, against Anupam Kher.

There can be no better example of how the ‘off-the record’ conversations that she yearns for, harm national interest, than the one that Nawaz Sharif had with Hamid Mir and herself. An apparent allegorical tale was distorted into a ‘dehati aurat’ (village woman) reference towards the then Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh. What actually transpired is something only the three individuals, party to the meeting, can know, but the slip led to an embarrassment for both the countries.

She is not the ‘messiah’, that Indian journalism needs. 

While Arnab Goswami says it, as he sees it, and in doing so- criticises both the grassroot BJP associate worker for his reckless statement, and the pseudo-journalist that the likes of Barkha Dutt have become; Barkha is only interested in making people in power, ‘open’ up to her- to be using her own words. While Mr. Goswami’s style of broadcast journalism is different, and thus questionable to some, he is at least a man of some integrity. And so, I will take the liberty of using my freedom of speech and expression, to infer that while Arnab’s journalism harms the ethos of journalism, hers harms the integrity of the country. As for sensationalism, both are the guilty by-products of an utterly competitive Indian sensationalistic mind.

NDTV is running in losses. On top of it, she (and, the others) are now being made to pay for their own flight, as the Air India freebies have stopped, by her own admission. More such posts will follow. Which is why it is important that we understand what she stands for, and not present her as the messiah that Indian journalism so badly needs.

Down with Barkha Dutt. Down with Barkha’s school of journalism.

_____________________________________________________

 

[1] https://twitter.com/TimesNow/status/757962836714721280?s=07

[2] http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/india/tell-me-what-should-i-tell-them#all

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIwCiDxB-tg

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIwCiDxB-tg

[5] http://www.afaqs.com/news/story/46797_Shekhar-Gupta-and-Barkha-Dutt-launch-The-Print

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIwCiDxB-tg

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3tx5j4Vwx0

[8]  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Live-reporting-of-26/11-was-totally-wrong-unacceptable-Supreme-Court/articleshow/15954138.cms

 

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