mid-day editorial: The elephant in the newsroom

It is time for every journalist, whether with print or television or digital to look deep and hard into why allegations of paid news have come up, and think that this is not the first time the media has been accused of being ‘managed.’ Its reputation stands besmirched and there is a loss of credibility when this comes up.

The recent allegations began on Thursday, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raised the AgustaWestland chopper deal issue in Lok Sabha, expressing concern over misuse of media by the Italian company, which had earmarked Rs 50 crore to clinch the VVIP chopper deal.

BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi suggested that middleman Christian Michel had been given the amount to ‘manage’ the media. While bringing up the deal again yesterday, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy asked for a discussion in Rajya Sabha over reports, which said money was allegedly paid to middlemen for managing the Indian media to produce favourable news on the deal with the Italian company.

Reports quote Swamy as saying that paid news has acquired the character of a ‘cancer’ in our democracy and in the AgustaWestland deal, too. Swamy requested discussion in the House, asserting that this is an important matter that should be discussed.

Paid news is frankly, the elephant in the newsroom, something that nobody wants to talk about. It is not only the journalists who need to introspect, but media managements too. They need to look this elephant in the eye, and see what shame it has brought to the fourth estate.

It is not just the House that needs to discuss paid news. It is every journalism house in the country that needs to do it. One would also like to hear names of media persons being beneficiaries in the chopper deal, if any. If you do know who exactly these beneficiaries are and to what tune they benefited, it is time to speak out loud and clear. Vague and obtuse allegations smear journalists for a while, it is better to be specific and name them and shame them.

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