Truth, exclusives & the survival game
In these times of celebrity journalism, exclusive stories and the need to give more than the competitors, the job of a reporter is not to be envied, writes Pradeep Magazine.india Updated: Jan 09, 2008 11:46 IST
In these times of celebrity journalism, exclusive stories and the need to give more than the competitors, the job of a reporter is not to be envied. He has to dig out rare nuggets which make for compelling reading; dish out inside information which startles the world and also take care that those very important people he may be exposing, should not get so displeased with him that they refuse to talk or share information with him.
Take for instance HT's report on how Dilip Vengsarkar's job as chairman of the national selectors is in conflict with his writing a syndicated column in newspapers for agents of the players. In that report we also mentioned in passing that the practice of former players, who are in a position of shaping public opinion because what they say matters, writing columns for agents of the players is widespread.
Vengsarkar's reaction was swift and predictable. He threatened not to talk to HT any more. So, there goes a source. The same expose may have ruffled many other feathers and in retaliation there are many other important "sources" who may now refuse to talk to the concerned reporter or even the paper.
Life out there is not easy. The primary job of a news-gatherer is to report the 'truth' as he gathers on the basis of the 'evidence' and 'documents' he has access to or is 'given' access to. In reporting non-sports news, I guess this job is much more difficult and people who manage to churn out exclusive after exclusive which expose the "wrong" doings of the "right" people, should be admired for their "survival" skills.
In sports there was a time in the pre-television era when all that mattered was the skill of the writer in describing the match to his reader in vivid detail. Now, when the reader has become the watcher as well, newspaper reporting demands a more exclusive view of the sport and that means more "inside" information and more stories of nepotism and financial bungling of our administrators as well as detailing the "inside" life of the players. Sports writers now have to act as "peeping toms" to give that extra bit that makes their paper stand out from the others.
In doing all this, the possibility of a reporter having to "compromise" on his integrity for the sake of a "titillating" story cannot be ruled out. If you displease your "source" why would he "feed" you information. And if in a system the most important people themselves are compromised, it is difficult to shield them. In this entire balancing act, isn't there a danger of the very "truth" one is seeking being sacrificed so that the much-needed "access" is not denied to the reporter. So, what does a reporter do?
I guess in the end if he has to survive, he has to find a middle path, that is if there is one.