Vinod Mehta on news as commodity

From Delhi Diary in Outlook magazine:

At the annual Indian Magazine Congress in Mumbai, I returned to my favourite subject: editorial content. I paid tribute to India Today’s boss, Aroon Purie, for being the first proprietor to invest in hiring the best journos. I was delighted by the response from the audience who seemed to agree with me that the reader is a “nice hypocrite”. One Outlook subscriber came up to me and asked, “Do I look like a hypocrite?” I told him he was the honourable exception!

At the risk of boring you, I reproduce part of my speech: “Content is more, much more, than what readers want. It also has a social dimension. Thus, content is a mix of what the reader wants and what he does not want. The trick is to marry the two and make money. Accompanying this diktat is much loose talk that the old journalism is dead and a new journalism has been born. This new journalism is entirely based on reader or viewer demands. So, we are told the reader is king and it is the job of a responsible media organisation to provide cent per cent satisfaction.

“This proposition is now so widely accepted that to argue against it is like whistling in the dark. Those who believe otherwise are seen as cranks, out of touch with the contemporary market-in other words, the reader. If journalism is a consumption item like butter chicken, then why not give the customer the flavour and taste he wants? That, after all, is the first rule of free market capitalism. In my nearly 30 years as editor, I have heard a lot of nonsense talked about journalism and its role in India, but this piece of nonsense is outrageously and self-evidently absurd and dangerous. To demolish it is urgent. To let it become the benchmark of our profession is to put in peril everything we have worked for in 60 years.” (here)

Also read: Political economy of a televisual society

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