Fair, frank and fearless? Mad or wot? The powers demand the opposite

Bachi Karkaria

Bachi Karkaria’s Erratica and its cheeky sign-off character, Alec Smart, have had a growing league of followers since 1994 when the column began in the Metropolis on Saturday.

Should we add another F word to what’s being done to media? ‘Breaking News’ was once our profession’s most coveted slug, but television anchors had set it totally adrift with such absurd overuse. Now please bow to its new, improved avatar. One in which ‘breaking’ has become a verb not the adjective of yore. The Omnipotentates are going after it with such a powerful wrecking ball that I sometimes think we are the shipbreaking yard at Alang.

News producers have become the product. Pursue a story and you are in clear and present danger of becoming the story. Journalists are making headlines in ways our J School professors and on-the-job mentors never taught us. If we succumb to the law of the bungle, the FIR is sure to fly.  To be fair to the current demolition squad, media itself had long ago betrayed the dictum of ‘facts are sacred, comment is free.’ But the amateur has bested the professional. Cops now decide which facts blaspheme against the God of All Things, and what comment must be roughed up in a free for all. It has reached a point where ‘the only news that’s fit to print’ is the authorised, sanitised version.

Actually, how considerate of our tormentors. Now we no longer need to brave heat, dust and trumped-up charges. We can simply pick up the hand-out, and go chill at the Press Club. Or turn into Sar-kar sevaks, dutifully polishing boots or cranking out fake truth and non-‘misleading information’. Or become sanitation engineers instead of churning out our usual ‘drain-inspector’s reports’. Which reminds me of the legendary RK Laxman. During the Emergency, he would poker-facedly say, ‘I was a cartoonist, now I’m a car mechanic.’ Or ‘cobbler’. Or whatever.

It’s true that in those times, LK Advani’s damning indictment was justified: ‘when asked only to beg, you crawled,’ but journalists did redeem themselves. There may have been some lapradors, but net-net, media fiercely guarded its role as watchdog of democracy. But now we are told that its Barkha is worse than its bite. That a Raj-deep lights the way only to dark rumour. And the reputed Mrinal Pande is a mutinous Mangal Pande. Facts be hanged.

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Alec Smart said: “Petrol prices are adding fuel to our ire.”  



This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.


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