Can the media cover only what it wants to?

Can news organisations decide unilaterally to boycott events and individuals and yet call themselves news organisations?

Back in the innocent 1980s, The Hindu decided to ban coverage of horse racing for a while in protest against the fixing that was going on. (The fact that the paper’s then publisher, the recently deceased S. Rangarajan, had an interest in horse-racing swung the debate.)

When Praveen Togadia was barking like a cracked canine in the aftermath of Godhra and spewing hatred on television, there were many who advocated starving the heart surgeon of the oxygen of publicity. And every now and then, some minor press union or the other announces a boycott in protest against something or the other.

But the Associated Press has gone the whole hog. The news agency announced that it will no longer run stories about Paris Hilton, the 26-year-old socialite, actress, singer, hotel-fortune heiress and “celebutante”, who runs into trouble and storms into the headlines every day with her sexual, financial, alcoholic and other escapades.

The boycott has since been called off, but a precedent has been set. Good move? Bad move? If Hilton can be banned from its wires, what is to prevent AP from, say, announcing a boycott of North Korea or Kashmir or Abu Ghraib? Or Rakhi Sawant and Rahul Mahajan?

What’s the whole idea? That AP has had enough? That it wants others to also follow suit? That it thinks that Hilton does whatever she does every day only to grab some column centimetres? That the moment the papers and channels stop covering her antics, she will stop those antics?

In other words, does a tree that falls when nobody is around, not make a noise?

Read the full story here: We’ll always have Paris?

Cross-posted on sans serif