Of Press and Presstitutes


As a young boy of four, I picked up the newspaper from the doorstep and happily trundled to my father. As I handed over the day’s paper to him my subconscious mind registered something in broad, black writing. It was my first ever copy of the Times of India. The headlines, as I got to know later, were the news of Sardar Patel’s untimely death. That was “NEWS”!

And thus began my long association with the Times of India, which has lasted over 60 years. A long time indeed during which the newspaper has seen many glorious triumphs and, of late, some damaging lows. In the early days of my newspaper reading, it would be the ‘rarest of the rare’ occasion to find a spelling mistake in the paper. Today mistakes, not only of the spellings but sentence construction too, are the norm rather than an exception. Wonder whatever happened to the editor’s sharp eye and command of the English language?

In the olden, golden days the news was either communicated over the ‘All India Radio’ with the mercurial voices of Chakrapani and Melville D’Mello, or the newspapers like Times of India. Talyarkhan’s “did you get me, Steve?” sports column was my favorite. And, wonder of wonders, the newspapers carried “News”! Sometimes, as I reflect upon the years gone by, I do wonder what happened to the good old system of reporting news.

Today, the newspapers are full of advertisements and whatever space is left is dedicated to rapes, murders, road accidents and the like. Some information of national political leaders is inserted, edgewise, to give a semblance of ‘news”. The TV news channels are a class apart. Main discussions are with a few pliant panelists. Those who have a mind of their own are not allowed to speak by the anchors. The anchors try to shove their personal (or is it their boss’) opinion down everyone’s throat. The result: shouting match between the anchor and the panelists. The loser in this all is the viewer who, in disgust, switches off the channel. TV anchors like Arnab and Rajdeep would do well to start a roadside fish or vegetable shop, yelling away the qualities of their product. Maybe Barkha could join them along with Rahul and Sawant. What is really annoying is that every channel has “Breaking News” flashing throughout. Even an innocuous thing like a celebrity’s sandals becomes “Breaking News”.

The journalist of yesteryear’s would spend hours researching the news to be printed or aired to ensure its authenticity. Today, in an attempt to be the first to “break” news, half baked information is touted as “News”. During the J & K floods footage/pictures of a similar calamity in South America were being shown. Newspapers and Channels reportedly get paid to twist, turn and murder the news as per the requirement of the payer. The TV channels, and to some extent the newspapers, have assumed that they have the right to make or break an individual through the power of their reach. Many a times, unfortunately, the truth is the victim. Ask the MoS, MEA who has been at the receiving end of the electronic media’s ire recently. Because of the very inconsistencies of the media, the General was constrained to fire the “Presstitute” shot. And it hit where it hurts the most…..the very heart of the electronic media’s convoluted thinking.

It would do them well to comprehend this……On a signboard, outside a complex, was written “Due to rising cost of ammunition, NO warning shot will be fired. Thank you for your understanding.” The public is getting truly cheesed off by the antics of the Newspaper and TV Barons.

To echo the sentiments of sensible people, I would just like to say “Koi lauta de mere beete huey din………” when truth in reporting was paramount!!!

By Air Cmde Ashok Chhibbar(Retd)

Ashok Chhibbar



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