9 pm Wars: In search of moral high ground in the Arnab Goswami, Barkha Dutt tussle

Who controls the media? Whose voice is the loudest? Who does the nation want to know? Or want to hear? Prime time anchors Arnab Goswami and Barkha Dutt have clashed on fundamental sticking points like freedom of expression, freedom to report freely, patriotism but not without a big dose of personal opinions, egos, tweets and some angst apparently from their earlier days at a common channel.

While the media has had a field day reporting, interpreting and scrutinizing this, three women journalists raise some serious questions that should bare the facade of 9 pm journalism.

“There seems to be a battle, less between ideologies and ideological positions (because i don’t believe there is one),” says journalist and film maker Harini Calamur. “More about who will control the sanctimonious preachy moral high ground, on what defines “being Indian”.” While there is no doubt about the popularity of channels, audience interest and key debates, this public dispute reeks of assumptions about self importance, who rules the TRP roost and therefore who is more followed by public, politicians and personalities. The buck should stop at journalism not the NewsHour.

“I am not sure anyone appointed either Arnab or Barkha as arbitrators or decision makers of “what makes us uniquely Indian”. They both are one out of 1.3 billion voices. And, I respect their right to spout whatever they want, to the same extent that I respect the right of my other 1.3 billion co-citizens.”

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Chitra SD founder of The News Minute writes we might be missing the point of being journalists. “In the final analysis, what power do we have or do we? Can it be that the egos of a few people including in the media is being foisted on a nation as national interest or do journalists believe they are the doorkeepers of Indian journalism because of a certain political hue? Nothing can be more laughable,” she writes in her column on The News Minute .

Do journalists denounce their colleagues by name or is that the state’s duty. States will always snoop around for information

What’s driving this frenzied behavior then? Too much stardom or a sense of being self-declared moral compasses of public opinion? Has there also been a polarization of Indian media with those with a right slant and those without? ANI’s Smita Prakash says “it has always been there. Its just that thanks to social media, everybody gets to know what top journalists actually think and feel. They are not judged just by their reportage anymore. Their facebook posts, their tweets are under intense scrutiny. And well, everybody has a voice now, thanks to social media. So those slants which might have been camouflaged are not there for all to see.”

Barkha Dutt Arnab Goswami“Somewhere in this melee and personal egos, two issues are fighting for survival,” Chitra points out in her piece. “One is good journalism itself and the other is trickier. The latter asks if it is okay for good journalists to be anti-national and if so, who decides, for whom and with what effect? Do journalists denounce their colleagues by name or is that the state’s duty. States will always snoop around for information.”

Former media advisor to Dr Manmohan Singh Pankaj Pachauri says in an interview with SheThePeople “ugly spats among leading news anchors will give negative signals to investors and viewers of the television industry which is already going through rough times.”

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But according to Calamur we ought to remind ourselves of a more basic reality. “Seriously, this is a storm in a tea cup. Arnab’s channel, as per BARC, has sub- 3 lakh impressions a week, Barkha’s channel half that. Most blogs I know have similar traction. We, the people, are making this to be bigger than it is. It is not.”

Feature image credit: newsmobile.in