The story that is still trending on outlookindia.com as I write this piece is the fight between Republic TV editor-owner Arnab Goswami and India Today TV consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai. Our readers haven’t had enough of the tamasha that was played out on prime time TV and is still trending on Twitter. I don’t want to discuss the merits of this meritless, hilarious duel between two former colleagues. But the metaphor that comes to mind is that of a circus. If our national politics is a ring, with its lions, hippos, elephants and trapeze artists (there are such magnificent performers), journalists should be cautious not to fall into the role of providing comic interlude. We should wield the mic, not the slapstick. The moment we start slapping the bottoms of our fellow journalists for a few laughs, we become part of the circus, not as chroniclers signing off the first draft of history but as jesters on permanent patronage.
This is a new trend in national journalism. It all started with the fight between two corporate houses and the recording of telephone conversations of one lobbyist by another. Lobbyist A with the help of a top politician recorded the conversations of lobbyist B. When the one who was recording the conversation got into trouble, his only insurance against sure incarceration were these tapes. Then lobbyist A distributed digital recordings of lesser damage potential all over the city through his favourite private interest litigation lawyer. Only two magazines picked them up. Why? I haven’t asked. Well, instead of finishing off a lot of political or corporate careers, a few journalistic reputations were destroyed. Did they deserve to be destroyed? Now, in hindsight, all I can say is there were and still are far worse criminals in the crowd than on the cross. Some so-called investigative journalists involved in publishing these recordings now officially work for lobbyist A. So, where does the expose leave us? It still reminds us all of the thin line between lobbyists and journalists that is always blurred by grains of gold.