Tuesday, 30 June 2015

'No Boring Babu'; Outlook's Irresponsible Journalism


Exactly a day after the world witnessed the humongous response to #SelfieWithDaughter, seemingly joining hands to support daughters in particular and promote gender equality in general, I read this piece in Outlook India’s Deep Throat Column, by a female journalist. Read:



No Boring Babu

The portfolio of a junior bureaucrat, who is posted in the Telan­gana CM’s office, is a mystery. She used to be posted in a district earlier. But things changed all of a sudden after the elections. The lady is present at every meeting and seen in almost every official photograph sent out by the CMO. But what she does exa­ctly is a puzzle. She makes a fas­h­ion sta­tement with her lovely saris and serves as “eye candy” at meetings, admit leading party politicians. In fact, it’s this burea­ucrat who calls up other officials in the CMO and asks them to come for meetings. She knows exactly what time the CM will arrive and leave the office. The lovely lady, known for her ethnic style, recen­tly stunned all by appearing in a trendy trouser and frilly top at a fashion show. And for once, she wasn’t sitting in an official meeting. But this appearance too made for a great photo op.

It also carried a cartoon, which was later removed.



Do you too think this is troubling, sexist and full of insinuations? Made more shocking by the fact that it is Outlook India printing this? (Alas! Like fools we cling to the hope that some reputed media houses are free from the scum of sensationalism.) 

The young IAS officer under question, Smita Sabharwal, had qualified in the UPSC exams with an AIR 4 back in 2001. (Yes, that means she’s been in service for 14 long years, something that the journalist would not have called ‘junior’ if it was her own profession being talked about.) Presently she is Additional Secretary to the CM of Telangana, Hyderabad. Over 2.5 years the district she was collector of, before coming to the CMO’s office, saw visible changes for the better. Residents of Medak and Karimnagar swear by her honesty, her dedication and her work. They responded to this piece of irresponsible journalism by talking about programs and processes she initiated and executed. 

Thank god for that. Else, I may have lapped up Deep Throat’s journalistic innuendos verbatim over dinner tonight, creating my very own version of this soap-y "truth"!

Which, actually, is a habit we as people are coming to enjoy; that of swallowing-without-chewing news which at best is half-concocted and at its worst fully false and even defamatory. Three humour pieces, 30 status updates and 300 tweets on any issue of socio-political import are created and shared only by looking at the breaking headlines. Who has time to wait for the real news to come in, which, when it does after a few days of replayed tamasha on TV, is something no one is interested in? Of course we need the press. But it’s time we asked ourselves - Are we giving the media too much importance? Are we laying at their feet the thinking caps we were all born with? And, are we killing with it our ability to critically examine, argue and really draw out a thought-process instead of hammering on tables because apparently the ‘nation wants to know’ and it’s always comfortable to take a #tag’s side? 

The nation does want to know. It should. But from whom? Now that is a question. 

What is the nation if not the people who inhabit it? That’s another question. Look at the language contained in the few lines of this article. By a woman, for a woman, sans proof, sans responsibility but with an over-dose of sly insinuations. (If the journalist was playing Taboo and was not to use the word ‘slut’, she’d had won with flying colours!) It isn’t Smita making for a ‘great photo-op’. It’s the ignoble parade of most media houses which slut-shame even as they try to be pillars for exposing unfairness and injustice. It disturbs me that educated professionals from a sex we’re trying to uplift have no qualms deconstructing clothes and provoking lines of thought based on invented reasons. Would this have occupied news space if this Additional Secretary was a man? The journalist didn’t feel the need to do her ground work before talking about another woman. All she needed to do was ask politicians about this ‘not boring’ “eye candy” and create mystery around a woman who ‘knows exactly what time the CM will arrive and leave office’. And it gets published! 

What role is journalism playing here, really?

I do wonder why this surprises me and angers me still - this gall, this utter lack of respect towards public servants, for instance, and a fellow human being at large. If it isn’t already fashionable to misread, mock and malign them with each passing prime time, it will be. Just like it is already in vogue to find the easiest scapegoat, the government, to disown our responsibilities as citizens . Please tell me how we as a collective seeking services motivate the ones who are working up good in the yellow corridors? By playing with their dignity, with as much liberty as we use to make police uniforms dance to item numbers in movies? Does few-and-far-between mean naught when it comes to good officers? 

And if it’s their job to serve you, pray, what is yours?   

I don't know Smita and know not how this story will unfold, but at a larger level I do know that no matter how many like her, #DespiteBeingAWoman, work their years away in public service, popular journalism will read and look like exactly this above. Because as a nation what we don’t want to know is where we as people are responsible, or even where we are being irresponsibly spoon-fed tasteless food 24X7. 

Our taste-buds have been that dumbed down, and our antennae for Trending News always on alert. Not a good combination, don't you think? 

61 comments:

  1. Very well said, Sakshi. The media is now far more sensation-mongering than ever before. Quite revolting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some news channels are banned in my house, not matter how "VIP" the guests visiting.
      We need the press. Let's hope they revise their idea of what the public really needs to know.

      Delete
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  2. Your last line sums it up well. This mass dumbing down is really a big problem, for present and for future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no scope of calm, controlled and intelligent discussions anymore. Its tiring.
      Thanks for reading, Beloo.

      Delete
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  3. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading. Glad you agree, Ramachandran.

      Delete
  4. "Because as a nation what we don’t want to know is where we as people are responsible, or even where we are being irresponsibly spoon-fed tasteless food 24X7"

    It is a good read Madame. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  5. You have given a fitting reply. There should be bin called 'trash journalism' and news like this should be dumped there.

    I hope the journalists and editors read this and become a little responsible towards their profession.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. Yellow Journalism is what this is - presents no legitimate well-researched news, uses eye-catching headlines and sensationalism. Trash.
      Happy to know you agree, Ruchi.
      Thanks for reading.

      Delete
  6. A sad state of affairs indeed! There is barely any media house left worth its salt.
    Twitter is the best source for news as comments by 'Journalists' on the news is obnoxious to say the least!
    Shall share this post on twitter and facebook.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with everything you say.
      Thank you for sharing my voice.

      Delete
  7. Such absolute disrespect and why, 'cause you see the officer is a woman..
    Very aptly put sakshi...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And this is why I don't get too excited looking at people going berserk over #tags asking us to support women. All glossy noise.
      Thank you for reading.

      Delete
  8. Appalling news. Worse that it's a woman writing against a woman. If it was a man, this wouldn't be news. I am sure they must have been many who read the article, sniggered and passed derogatory remarks about women being mere "eye candies".
    Glad to have come across your post. Sharing it - more people need to read this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much, Sreesha, for dropping in your views. I am with you on them.
      Many thanks for spreading my word too. :)

      Delete
  9. I had been reading your tweets since morning, yes there is a star against your name. I was wondering who was at the receiving end. I am glad I read this, half baked news and vague assumptions pretty much complete our news reports. I pretty much avoid news till it gets too difficult to ignore.
    I hope some action is taken against this journalist. It is true, women are pulling us down :(

    http://inderpreetkaur.blogspot.in/2015/07/indiashining-for-indiasdaughter.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Too difficult to ignore' - I hear you. :D
      I'm hoping for some kadak action too. We all should know where to draw our lines. And to think Outlook is calling it satire!

      Delete
  10. Read about this yesterday morning and later came across some follow ups on twitter. The snippet read like one of those blinds a certain film journalist writes for Open magazine, and the first reaction was - Outlook too prints such stuff?

    While the snippet is crude and appalling, I found the 'Regret' they expressed more disgusting! The focus was more on protecting the journalist who contributed the piece. And the tone - '....(the piece) was meant to be received in a lighter vein' - but since it was not, here, we regret (if you say so)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get who/what you're talking about. I have also been appalled by the same magazine's book review section. They seem to get personal at the drop of a hat!

      The regret is indeed atrocious.

      Delete
  11. Simply disgusting ! We must learn to respect ladies and honest govt servants.This article being written by a lady makes it unbelievably crass.I cant even unfortunately call it a case of "Male Chauvinism".Iresponsible on the part of the journalist as well as Outlook to say the least..---Colonel R Srinivas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We must learn to respect another human being, and certainly not slander without knowledge.
      Can't blame the men here, though it does seem to a classic case of imbibed patriarchy.
      The apology of an apology that Outlook issued was worse in so many ways!

      Delete
  12. Take any media house, this it seems has become the easiest way to become popular. I am still thankful for those countable people who chose to respond with her ground work. And this coming from a woman makes it sound even more disgusting.

    ReplyDelete
  13. That's really gross... Journalism has gone to disgusting levels. Media houses have opened up like some kirana shop at every nook and corner. Anyone and everyone who has money can have their own news channel and show whatever they want.
    Yours is a fitting reply.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Everybody is out to sell, sell, sell...at any cost. Facts and ethics be damned!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Such a pity what is being passed around in the name of journalism these days. Though, I must say, it is still our last defence against total anarchy.
    Glad you chose to write about this lady. It made me go back to the news to know more about her.

    ReplyDelete
  16. It's sad and pathetic with such kind of yellow journalism that making people lose faith in the profession. My little experience in the field tells me that nowadays, it's more about business where wrong people are investing in journalism and dictate everything for sensation. That what happens I feel. It's courageous of you to write on such inherent sexism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was an honest overview, Vishal. Thanks for reading.

      Delete
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