Is the Indian media losing touch with reality?

Attacking the messenger—also known as blaming the media—is fast becoming if it has not already become the default mode of Indian politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, film actors, sports stars and virtually everybody else who is at the media’s receiving end.

But when somebody within the media itself turns the telescope on his fraternity, it is news. And Vinod Mehta, editor-in-chief of Outlook, does exactly that in his Delhi Diary. The reason for Mehta’s ire: the media’s reaction to Prime Minister’s speech advocating austerity last week.

“The prime minister’s rather mild and unsurprising address to the CII, pleading with the captains of our flourishing economy to think, worry and sacrifice a bit of their wealth to assist the massively underprivileged, has produced a whopping uproar. Those who earn upwards of Rs 10 crore a year are outraged—and so is the media.

“I can understand the position taken by the pink papers, but even centrist mainstream dailies have poured nothing but ridicule and scorn on the benign Manmohan Singh for having the temerity to ask our overworked tycoons to help curb conspicuous consumption and implement some of the high-minded talk of corporate social responsibility.

“I hope I don’t sound like Comrade Prakash Karat when I say that the reaction to the PM’s speech shows the class character of our media. Since almost all the advertising in the English media comes from big business houses, I can understand, but not endorse, the stand taken. We (and that includes Outlook) know which side our bread is buttered.

“Meanwhile, what I find most distressing is the unrelenting hostility of the media to all poverty alleviation programmes, which are invariably described as “profligate”, “wasteful” and “outdated”. None of this should surprise anyone, but it reinforces my conviction that for the poor of this country to expect that “the conscience of the rich” can be pricked remains a pipedream.”

The choice of words is interesting. Are the wrong class of people, who have no feel for the common man and woman, becoming journalists? Are the wrong class of people in charge? Are our journalism schools too expensive for ordinary Indians? Have huge salaries quelled the fire in the bellies of Indian journalists?

Or is this just a problem with the English media?

Cross-posted on sans serif