There used to be time not so long ago when the media was the watchdog for the public and stood by its own tribe. Now, it is dog eat dog. I remember (if memory doesn’t fail me) Inder Malhotra, former Editor of The Times, asking Morarji Desai a question about India’s nuclear policy at a press conference and he was given a rather brusque ‘who are you and if you are the editor don’t ask such silly questions’ dismissive answer.
I think there was a kind of silent cue and we all marched out. Most of us did. Even then you had the front row ‘apparatchiks’ doing their sniggering but by and large we stuck by each other despite the inevitable ‘bought and paid for’ plants.
Compare that to the MS Dhoni response to a pretty tame question from the press after the India-Bangladesh match in Bengaluru. It wasn’t so offensive and the Dhoni response seemed out of line.
Whatever his reasons for losing it and snapping back about the reporter not being happy with the Indian win, the sad part is that none of his colleagues backed him.
In fact, they threw him under the bus and that is the difference. Yes, of course, there are reporters who grandstand, who ask a five-minute question to which the answer is a single word ‘yes’ and there are some who belabour the obvious but if the celebrity is putting a member of the press down there should a certain amount of togetherness.
That is just not there.
Now, it is more like "ha ha egg on your face, mate," which is so pathetic.
Sure, Dhoni is on the cutting edge of popularity today and cannot be critiqued, which is fair enough and any comment will provoke a howl of protest, but it isn’t about Dhoni at all. Celebs can lose their tempers, huff off, be rude, even downright offensive, it is about the media maintaining its collective dignity.
How do you report the truth or, at least an approximation of it if you are not allowed to ask aggressive questions.
Yes, things have changed, the press is a heap sight hurtful to itself and that is unfortunate. Somebody should have picked up the ball and said, sorry skipper, fair question, we would all like an answer.
Even during the Emergency, the day it was declared on the fourth floor of The Times of India in Mumbai, Khushwant Singh called us in and said, we will not attend any conference, cover any official story and we all made a sort of semi-heroic hoo-wa pledge.
That we let each other down awesomely after that day is another story. The rot set in and never went away.
If we don't respect our own why would anybody respect us?