It’s like a gladiator game: Smita Prakash of ANI on the Barkha v/s Arnab spat

Barkha takes on Arnab

You can’t have missed the latest battle to rock the media. Prime time anchors Arnab Goswami and Barkha Dutt have clashed on what seems to be fundamental sticking points – freedom of expression, freedom to report freely… And apparently, patriotism. From the television studio to the twitter sphere, we have heard from both anchors and now there are reams of commentary from peers within the industry, with reactions from leading editors like Rajdeep Sardesai, Chitra Subramaniam and columnist Mihir Sharma.

SheThePeople.TV spoke to Smita Prakash of ANI news (who also entered the fray, tweeting Barkha Dutt about a show she had taken exception to on this issue on another channel).

Do you believe a spat between two journalists is really symptomatic of a larger issue in journalism today?

There are many factors at play. It isn’t just about one being hunter and the other a prey, as it would appear from the TV broadcast by one anchor and the tweet storm by the other. One, personal rivalry. Two, polar opposites in their political leanings and hence they sound like pro and anti establishment voices. Three the dogmatism of views and refusal to accept the ‘other’ in any argument that doesn’t suit them. And to clarify, this kind of divide is present in newsrooms across the city today, not just among TV anchors.

Has there been a polarization of Indian media with those with a right slant and those without- how and why?

Yes there is a polarization but 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.

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Let me tell you media houses are not exactly upset about such fights. Controversy is eyeballs.

Why should discussion on news get personal? Journalism rivalry playing out? What’s wrong with that?

It is ugly, I grant you that. Spats are out there in the open like gladiatorial games. So much blood being spilt. But have you not noticed how everybody in the stands is clapping and cheering? But the gladiators themselves think that the fight is necessary because the ‘other’ is dangerous to society and polity. And let me tell you media houses are not exactly upset about such fights. Controversy is eyeballs.

Also read: What’s it like being a journalist? A reflection into newsrooms by India’s top editors

The issue that Arnab has raised – that those in media who hold pro-Pak views need to be punished  or gagged ? Is that fair ?

He thinks it is fair. And a huge, very huge segment of population thinks that Indian media is irresponsible in its reporting. As a member of the press, I believe that we must constantly introspect BUT I do not think gagging or punishing is the way to go about it.

What can something like this do to journalism?

What annoys me is this: media budgets are shrinking worldwide, especially of foreign media outlets. Their budgets for India are now bare minimum compared to earlier decades. And those reporters get their cues from tweet-storms and bizarre rants on TV news, rather than reports from on ground reporters. Notice that post 6pm there is no news as TV channels….its just gladiator games.

Feature Image Credit: newsmobile.in