By Sushil Kutty
Donald Trump is the key to the treasury for the US media. Circulation and viewership. TRP. Advertisement revenue. Zoom. Vroom. The remote is never far from a hand. New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC. All rolling in hay! No guesses on ‘why?’
CNN’s Jim Acosta will pin it down in a millisecond. But he won’t. Jim is aiming for a Pulitzer. He is in on the Ponzi: Jim asks White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders a question. She points a finger at a less prickly mesquite. Acosta loses his cool. Enter Wolf Blitzer. CNN erupts in blisters.
But Huckabee is not without her own Twain! Trump sees and hears all. He calls the media “enemy of the people.” Acosta goes acoustic, again. He demands Sanders retract Trump’s “enemy of the people” comment. Huckabee counterattacks. “Why should I? Because you’ll call me all sorts of names at the Correspondents’ Dinner?”
Next thing you know, Trump calls journalists “horrible, horrendous people.” Trump is to the media Fort Knox and name-trove. Funny, nobody in left-liberal American media likes him. Their fat paychecks are courtesy Trump labels – “fake”; “fake news Washington Post”; “failing New York Times” etcetra, etcetra.
Para-drop to New Delhi. CNN here is NDTV not CNN-News18. The ‘Jim Acosta’ of the ‘Nation’s Capital’ has two faces: Nidhi Razdan and Ravish Kumar. Time was when Barkha Dutt ruled NDTV. Now she is jewel in the crown – the Amazon Indian of Washington Post.
Jeff Bezos will testify. In five out of five articles, Barkha wrote for Wapo in recent weeks, Modi is in the crosshairs. Sample headline: ‘Rahul Gandhi hugged Narendra Modi – and it hurt.’ So like the cute Chinese girl will say, ‘Modi sem-sem Trump!’
But Modi doesn’t call media names. He leaves that to his rhapsodic ministers – Rajyavardhan Rathore and Nirmala Sitharaman. Rhapsodia for them is to scramble the jets every time a media-missile is hurled at Modi.
Like ABP News did – a Chhattisgarh Sitaphal (custard apple) transformed into “paddy” under the benign gaze of prime-time anchor Punya Prasun Bajpai, whose unique way of hand-wringing is his TRP! The missile boomeranged. Bajpai quit. Bajpai’s boss Milind Khandekar quit. Third umpire and chocolate face anchor Abhisar Sharma went on a fortnight’s leave. In between darkness split ABP screens countrywide – eclipse and Blood Moon! The blame is squarely on Modi. So goes the allegation.
But the real war is between media. ‘Godi Media’ and ‘Lutyen’s Media’. Ravish Kumar coined the phrase ‘Godi Media’ for Arnab & Co. ‘Godi’ is Hindi for ‘lapdog’. The lap that of Modi, and the lapdogs Zee News, Times Now and Republic TV. Nidhi Razdan asks why media except NDTV haven’t the guts to take Modi on? Her eyebrows knit and The Wire journalist Swati Chaturvedi gets it. So does senior journalist Nalini Singh. Scroll.in dips pen in acid. Newslaundry washes Arnab’s underwear on the Internet!
Ravish Kumar, who has a fan following like the water in Niagara, has turned on fellow countrymen. “How can you folks continue to live in this country of cowards?” he asks (writes). “In this country of Godi media, everybody is impotent.” And the anger trolls like the thunder of the Niagara Falls, a torrent of tweets under the hashtag #FreeMediaDiedInIndia.
Punya Prasun Bajpai’s exit from ABP News was the last straw. The camel is dead. Long live the Camel! ‘Godi’ media’s riposte to the slur: “Lutyen’s media’ is dead as duck, sold out to moneybags, serfs of the Gandhi family. Can’t see beyond their nose. Never gets the news right but now the noose is tightening for all the fake news-mongers.”
A mouthful! But coming from Arnab Goswami it’s like “water off a duck’s back”, his favourite hit-back phrase to NDTV’s Arnab obsession. Barkha Dutt’s nemesis and Rajdeep Sardesai’s conscience gone wrong gives it as good as he gets it. Arnab Goswami fires salvos at the “Lutyen’s media” four out of five nights he addresses the nation!
So, a media war is on. But nobody is to blame except the media themselves. The day media took sides that was the war’s ‘aagaaz’. Those with Rahul versus those with Modi. ‘Lutyen’s Delhi’ and ‘Godi Media’. Ravish Kumar versus Sudhir Chaudhary. Arnab Goswami versus Rajdeep Sardesai. Nidhi Razdan versus Rahul Shivshankar.
Battle-lines are drawn. After Punya Prasun’s exit from ABP, the lances are out. Sleeves rolled, the troll armies are tweeting like mad. #FreeMediaDiedInIndia versus #UnfortunateJournalism Nobody wants to step out of his/her bias. Bias and badger. Left and right. And the ‘centre’, caught in the middle, are the marginalized “working journalist”.
The Ravish Kumars, the Rajdeep Sardesais, the Razdans, the Arnab Goswamis and the Punya Prasuns have hijacked the media and split it into two – right down the middle. They stopped being journalists and are now mouthpieces and pen-pushers for this or that side. It’s media war. Dirty. No-holds barred. No quarters given. None sought.
Have media lost their investigative edge? Can’t they step back and introspect? Ask themselves, are journalists behaving like they ought to? With no bias – impartial. There is so much to answer for. So much to get done.
What is stopping Nidhi Razdan from asking an NDTV reporter to talk to ‘Sitaphal’ Chandra Mani? What’s keeping Sreenivasan ‘Vasu’ Jain to do a “Reality Check” on the Punya Prasun-Khandekar exit? Why does the Times Group swing both ways – Times Now unabashedly pro-Modi; Mirror Now hell-bent on taking him to task?
Why hasn’t Arnab ‘Nationalist’ Goswami sent a Republic TV reporter to Chandra Mani’s Chhattisgarh village? Why haven’t any media gotten a byte/bite out of ABP/Anand Bazar Patrika to justify the Prasun and Khandekar’s exits? Why cannot Rajdeep ‘Anti-National’ Sardesai catch Abhisar Sharma at lunch to break silence and bread?
What is this “free dish” Rajyavardhan Rathore’s talking about? And Nirmala Sitharaman Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai? It can’t be because of Rafale? Or, is there another secret there to unrafale? Finally, why not picket all broken national highways? Of course, we can all wait for Punya Prasun Bajpai to write a book on his exit. That is what US journalists will do, Jim Acosta will do! (IPA Service)