By Vijay Phanshikar :
TODAY, one stands at a terrible cross-roads of shattered beliefs about what symbolises excellence in world journalism. And this bewilderment, this discomfiture is growing every passing day as information pours in about how some of the so-called iconic, globally-acclaimed journals are engaging themselves in a deliberate, totally lop-sided, anti-India and anti-Narendra Modi journalism -- obviously fuelled by some commercial considerations and conspiratorial politics. What once formed an important philosophical furniture of professional mental space now stands shattered, leaving in the wake a vacuum of a troubling kind. The reference is to a recruitment advertisement published by ‘The New York Times’ (NYT) in its July 1, 2021 issue seeking Asia-based correspondent with an ability to promote an anti-India pitch with an obvious view to maligning Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The very name of NYT once inspired much admiration in the mind -- thanks to its creed of journalistic excellence and quality of newspapering. As a pursuer of the craft of journalism, one often looked to the NYT with awe and respect. There were other newspapers, too, like the ‘Washington Post’, ‘The Wall Street Journal’, Chicago’s ‘Daily Tribune’, the ‘Los Angeles Times’ or St. Louis’s ‘Post Despatch’ (founded by none other than the legendary Joseph Pulitzer), or ‘The Times’ of London, or ‘The Guardian’ of England or ‘Christian Science Monitor’ ...! Magazines such as ‘The Economist’ or ‘Time’ or ‘Newsweek’ also attracted one’s attention during those days of intense studies of journalism’s precepts and practices. In those young and formative years, the coverage of the Watergate scandal that saw the end of President Richard Nixon’s illustrious career became a hallmark of good journalism. Most journalism books, too, portrayed the excellence of Western journalism as an ideal, and generations of aspiring journalists felt charged with optimism and promise by reading all that absolutely wonderful stuff.
Of course, equally charged they used to read and study how men of eminence like Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Lala Lajpat Rai, used journalism as a tool in their fight against the mighty British empire and left behind personal virtues and values of rare kind -- like courage and courtesy or non-partisan approach to public discourse. These persons and their newspapers served a great public cause. Those who earned their spurs in journalism learning from all these journals and journalists certainly banked heavily on the Western media as well as a good example to emulate in modern times. All that impression now stands shattered. For, in the past some time, many established journals in the West have followed an anti-India agenda, possibly fuelled by some vested interests in India and also elsewhere. Reports are doing the rounds that the NYT recruitment advertisement has perhaps been funded by some such elements for millions of dollars. Though such allegations cannot be either confirmed or condemned for paucity of evidence, there is little doubt that the kind of journalism now available in many of so-called great journals across the world only shatters the belief-system of people who honed their skills with those examples in front of them.
One is stunned to see the shattered journalistic masterpieces that represent a civilisation -- ready to be bought, ready to be sold, all willing to bend in all directions to promote absolute lies. These journals have felt happy publishing pictures of burning pyres in an attempt to create an impression that Indian society is burning its dead by the roadside -- since there is no space in cemeteries! Funded and supported by vested interests in India and elsewhere, some such journals even go to the extent of calling Narendra Modi a Hindu Taliban. The NYT advertisement represents all that. What a temerity this that a newspaper seeks to appoint scribes with strange job-description! It is difficult to put up with this blot on journalism.