The media in India has many masters. It is the corporate, the owners; it is the politician that owns the owners; it is the advertiser that pays the bills. Sometimes all of this is couched under loaded terms like ideology, a convenient shorthand to mask the media’s own compromises. Epithets like “left” and “right”, which at best signal editorial stances, have now come to shroud journalistic incompetence. The shallowness of reporting, to leave huge parts of the country untouched with journalistic inquiry, to feed on political gossip and leaks that serve the cause of politicians more than the public has nothing to do with ideology. All this in a time when the government at the Centre has asked its favourite sniffer dog, the Intelligence Bureau, to make a list of “national” and “anti-national” journalists. That the government confuses news with propaganda is perhaps understandable; that journalists now do the same is unforgivable.
The recent round of layoffs in the traditional media (digital has investors, charity funding, and no revenues) prompted by falling advertisement revenues in print and television uncovers a bigger problem: the marginalisation of the journalist and the editor. They are almost incidental to the process these days. This month’s cover (“Media tailspin”) by Arpit Parashar and Govind Krishnan V. tell this story.
Cock fighting in Andhra Pradesh has been banned by the Supreme Court, as it is considered a cruel practice. In essence, the same reasoning prompted the ban on jallikattu, a bull taming sport popular in two southern districts of Tamil Nadu. While in Andhra the ban exists only on paper, in Tamil Nadu it resulted in massive protests across the state, mingling—as everything in Tamil Nadu does—into issues of Tamil pride, culture, and north Indian hegemony. The political parties supported the move, the Centre acquiesced, and even the Supreme Court surrendered to a groundswell, delaying its own verdict in a related matter.
G B S N P Varma reports on the cock fighting (“The pit of death”) in Andhra where bets worth hundreds of crores were placed in a general defiance of the law. The photo story this month (“The bull run”) is made of archival pictures of jallikuttu taken by Tamil writer C. S. Chellappa in 1954 at events around Madurai district.