Anita Joshua

Perceptions on what is important for the nation differ: N. Ram

Journalist of the Year award in broadcast sector for Sardesai

NEW DELHI: ‘Is Excellent Journalism Bad Business?’ was the question leading editors and media barons sought to answer as the gaze was turned inwards during the first Ramnath Goenka Memorial Debate here on Monday. And, after nearly an hour-long free-wheeling discussion, in which even President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam intervened, there was no one answer as everyone held on to their views on what journalism should be.

Still, there was broad consensus on the need for the media to be responsible and responsive while remaining abreast of the changes brought on by technology. Though the audience – particularly from the political class – was invited to throw questions at the media, journalists had the maximum say. This was because the issues that came up related to the packaging of news, television setting the agenda, and trivia and titillation making it to the front pages at the cost of “hard news.”

Straying from schedule, the President accepted the organisers’ invitation to join the debate. Intervening, the President said he was keen to see the media become a partner in nation-building. While there was some agreement on his point, editors sought to point out the limitations in such a mandate with Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu N. Ram stating that perceptions on what is important for the nation differ. As a case in point, he said building the Ram temple at Ayodhya would be seen as of great importance to the nation by a leader like L.K. Advani of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Also, according to Mr. Ram, the Indian media should learn from the international experience where audience for all forms of media was dwindling. “We are in a different situation because we are in a growth mode, and we have a chance not to repeat the mistakes made elsewhere.” Ravi Dhariwal of Times of India said people would always want news, but it should be packaged well. And, Shekhar Gupta of The Indian Express found no fault in popular journalism provided it was fit to print/show and credible.

Lamenting the state of affairs, Pankaj Pachauri of NDTV said cricket and television journalism were two areas where quality was on the decline despite increased investments. Referring to the criticism about ‘Page 3 stuff’ getting on to ‘Page 1’, Shobhana Bhartia of Hindustan Times said newspapers had to address all sections of the readership to stay in the business. From the political class, Mr. Advani questioned the manner in which the print media was allowing the agenda to be set by television. Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) stressed on the need to get people’s agenda back on the front page. Ravi Shankar Prasad of the BJP wanted to know how long television would allow Television Rating Points to determine its programming.

Earlier, the President gave away the second Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards to 24 journalists from the print and electronic media.

While Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN was adjudged the Journalist of the Year in the broadcast sector, Ritu Sarin walked away with this title in print. Both awards have a cash component of Rs. 2.5 lakh.

Also among the awardees were Dionne Bunsha of Frontline (Journalism Award for Books, and Environmental Reporting), Amelia Gentleman of International Herald Tribune (Foreign Correspondent Co ering India), Nilanjana Bose of CNN-IBN and Vivek Madhao Deshpande of The Indian Express (Uncovering India Invisible), Manini Chatterjee of The Indian Express (Political Reporting), and M.V. Nikesh Kumar of Indiavision, Reji Joseph of Rashtra Deepika, and Kishalay Bhattacharjee and Ravish Kumar of NDTV (all Regional Awards). While the English language awards carry a cash component of Rs. 1 lakh, the Indian language awardees received Rs. 50,000.

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