Outlook SpeakOut 2018: 'It's Time To Undertake Swacch Media Campaign'

Outlook Editor Ruben Banerjee's welcome speech at SpeakOut 2018.

Outlook SpeakOut 2018: 'It's Time To Undertake Swacch Media Campaign'

Setting the tone for Outlook Speakout 2018, Editor Ruben Banerjee says it is about time we also undertake our own Swacch Media campaign, something like the Swacch Bharat initiative.  We need to clean ourselves up. Otherwise, it will be more like a pot calling the kettle black.

Below is the full text of his speech:

Hello and Namaskar.

It’s a great honour and privilege to be welcoming you all to such a great occasion.

Outlook Speakout is the single biggest event on Outlook’s calendar. Even before I joined Outlook, I knew very well how important anything related to Outlook was. As journalists, we looked up to the magazine and idolised it for the journalism it practised. The brand has always enjoyed great respect and trust -- and who can ignore the legacy that has been left behind by its legendary founder-editor Vinod Mehta.

In the few months I have been the editor of Outlook, my faith in Outlook has been strengthened. It now runs a lot deeper. Wherever I go and whoever I meet, I see nothing but respect and huge goodwill for us.

The credit entirely goes to our past editors and the wonderful team who have been working tirelessly to make Outlook what it is today.

I am extremely proud of Outlook. And among everything that we do, Outlook SpeakOut enjoys a pride of place.

It’s an occasion where we pay our respect to Mr Vinod Mehta by organising a memorial lecture in his honour. I have never worked with Mr Mehta. I have only once or twice seen him from a distance. But as a working journalist, I had always been in awe of him, his journalistic skills, his writings, his lucidity, his simplicity, his determination, his doggedness.

Mr Mehta is not around but he remains our guiding light. As I occupied the editor’s room, which originally belonged to Mr Mehta’s, there was only one thing that I asked for: A photograph of Mr Mehta to be put up on the wall. Since then, I have been constantly under his watch.

He is constantly looking over my shoulders. It helps me in many ways. It helps me stay rooted. I strive to stay modest and possibly irreverent, the two qualities that Mr Mehta himself was known and respected for.

It helps in great many ways. Particularly when the media in India faces a lot of challenges.

A lot has been said of the media, particularly in the past few years. But for me, the biggest challenge we face is from within. They include our propensity to fall for hubris and our diminishing integrity. Many of us take our jobs too seriously and tend to become too self-important. They grow a sense of self-entitlement. “I” often takes precedence over “us” and consequently, journalism gets disconnected from reality. We cease to be the voice of the voiceless. We end up speaking for ourselves. It is no better than dumbing down. We lose respect of our readers and invite ridicule.

Integrity, or the lack of it, is also something that we should be concerned about, more than anything else. I understand that we are faced with pulls and pressures. But it appears, as though, that some of us are even willing to crawl when asked to bend. But how will we stand up to these pressures if we are not honest? Unless our own house is in order, we are not going to win any battles. So it is about time we also undertake our own Swacch Media campaign, something like the Swacch Bharat initiative.  We need to clean ourselves up. Otherwise, it will be more like a pot calling the kettle black.

On our part, we at Outlook promise to live up to the high benchmarks – the gold standards of journalism – set by editors such as Mr Mehta.  However difficult it might be - I believe -- there is still enough room for honest journalism. Nothing but the truth will be our touchstone. We will report the stories that are relevant and never shy away from our responsibilities as journalists.

Tonight’s SpeakOut is in line with one of our goals as journalists: to give voice to women – some 48% of our population. And who best to give voice to them than Dr Renu Khator, the chancellor of the University of Houston System, who will deliver the Vinod Mehta Memorial Lecture. Rarely do you come across an inspiring life story as hers: Till the age of 19, she couldn’t speak English. Then she took up the challenge and the rest is history. I am sure she can be the best ambassador for the government’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padao initiative. Her life’s journey is worth emulating.

Setting aside politics, there is a lot to learn from Hon’ble minister Smriti Irani as well. Her courage, grit, determination – they are traits that we should strive for. Our other guests – Sushmita Sen, Ekta Kapur, Atishi, Divya Spandana, Jhulan Goswami…..there are so many of them here ….who have excelled in their respective fields. They are all inspiring stories…

I hope to be inspired too as we listen to all of them.

So, welcome ladies and gentlemen once again. Let the inspirational Outlook SpeakOut event begin. This editor will be happy to take the back seat now.

Thank you.