Halan's damning mail on Vinod Mehta's outfitBy Kishore Budha • Jan 16th, 2009 • Category: Commercialisation, Corporate Communications, Media Freedom, Media Industry, Media Policy, Media Practice, Must Read
According to an internal memo posted on the media watchdog site The Hoot, Monika Halan, the editor of Outlook Money has quit over what she called “conflict of interest between edit and management”:
But there is an increasing conflict of interest between edit and management and my work ethics do not allow me to be a party to this. As always, transparency is the key word and I want to share why I am taking this step.
Halan argued in her memo that there was management interference in the editorial of the magazine. Business Standard reported Vinod Mehta, Editor-in-Chief of Outlook, denying this charge (link). It is ironic this should come about because in September, Mehta wrote this piece in his Delhi Diary column of Outlook.
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.”
Was Outlook-Money giving its readers what they did not want — Corporate manipulation of the public perception in the guise of journalism? Read Halan’s email here
For more on Media and Commercial Interests, read: Advertising, newspapers, and ethics, Poor copywriting or advertising-news nexus?, The candid Prabhu Chawla on news as commodity, Vinod Mehta on news as commodity
Kishore Budha is one of the co-founders of Subaltern Media and the founder-editor of the peer-reviewed Open Access journal Wide Screen. He holds a PhD in media and communications studies from the University of Leeds, UK and has professional experience in print journalism, internet news, and public relations industries. His interests include Critical Theories of Media and Communication, Semiotics, Transnational Communication, Film industry & production, Film theory, Film and history, Communications Policy, Visual Culture, Communication Technologies, Web media and Communication
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