Crank’s News: Why were you not contacted by Niira Radia?

News organisations send stinging internal memos to journos

New Delhi: Stung by the Niira Radia tapes, many beleaguered newspaper and TV houses are said to have sent scathing internal circulars to several of their frontline news persons as to why they didn’t feature in any of those tapes.

According to informed sources, the circulars, written by their respective CEOs, have taken to task several top journalists and media personnel for not being important enough to be part of the Radia tapes.

‘This is one of the lowest moments for many of us in journalism,’ begins one of the circulars. ‘As more skeletons stumble out of many journalists’ cupboard, we, the rest of us in the media, must conscientiously introspect, and ask ourselves the most obvious question: Why don’t we feature in those tapes? Have we become so irrelevant?’

In another circular, another head honcho of a news organisation tells his news team: ‘journalism is a hoary institution where credibility is the non-negotiable cornerstone. If you are not going to seem credible to somebody like Niira Radia, then it’s time to take a deep, hard look at the kind of journalism you are doing’.

Even a low-key editor-in-chief of a mass circulated daily is said to have written to his team, ‘at this hour of crisis for the entire news media, it’s a matter of shame that many amongst us are not at all part of the crisis. The fact of the matter is power brokers and pushy PR personnel, who generally try to engage in conversation even toilet doors, are not taking us seriously. This is the biggest slap in the face of our journalism. We have let our readers down. How will our readers feel when they realise that so far they have been following journalists who don’t have the gumption and grit for being scam-tainted? This is a serious blot in our track-record. Our team of journalists has a lot to answer’.

If you are not with Radia, your market value is raddi, the erudite Editor with a penchant for bon mots added.

It’s also learnt that media organisations, especially in New Delhi, have sounded out their respective HR departments to prepare an internal brochure on who all were on tap as far as Radia was concerned. ‘The next round of appraisal and promotions will be based on that’, it is said. ‘Those who don’t figure in the all-important tapes may better ready be for the pink slips. No organisation can afford such non-performers,’ was the succinct summary of one HR head. ‘PR personnel decide the pecking order in a news organisation. This is the thumb rule in journalism,’ he said and added ‘if journalism and journalists have to survive the need of the hour is more Radias’.

Much of the indignation seen in news organisations seems to have been triggered by Barkha Dutt’s high-profile conversations with Radia and the fact that the subsequent events have brought the floundering NDTV so many viewers that it seemed incapable of attracting till yesterday..

‘It is well known in market circles that NDTV had very little viewers, And that is why they were fed up with humanity and launched the Save Tigers campaign. Their hope was these saved tigers would one day ravage all those who didn’t watch the channel,’ said a media expert (no, not Suhel Seth. He is just an expert in media appearances).

‘But now thanks to Barkha’s scandal, and her nuanced journalistic skills in keeping the scam pot boiling, the viewership of the channel has gone up dramatically,’ the media expert added. ‘I think the time has come now for the tigers to save themselves’.

‘Barkha, being a seasoned professional on the field, can spot a good news opportunity when she sees one. She came out openly and defended herself courageously when nobody was even asking for her head. This was brilliant strategy. She was also smart in elaborately replying to all the charges that were never levelled against her. The channel is reaping rich rewards because she was quick on the uptake.’

‘On the other hand, Vir Sanghvi’s edge seems to have been blunted by all those rude food and on-the-house wine. This was his chance to shift from being a nondescript byline to bold-typeface headline. By restraining himself to a vague denial, he has missed a golden opportunity,’ the media expert explained.

Meanwhile, the Editor’s Guild and the Press Council of India have condemned the selective airing of Radia tapes. ‘Such mischievous coverage amounts to slander, as it shows a section of the journalistic fraternity in a bad and harsh light.  By not airing the tapes, sections of the media are not allowing some journalists to enjoy their only chance under the spotlight. If not now, who will write about that journo from whatsitsname financial daily?’.

(Disclaimer: We were also on Radia’s call list. Alas, that was when she dialled a wrong number)