Bottomline focus will kill journalism: Shourie

Kolkata, May 29 | Updated: May 30 2007, 05:38am hrs
Arun Shourie, member of Parliament and former Union disinvestment minister, set out the bottomline for the media as he asked journalists to think of 'what we can do' not 'what should be done', while cautioning media houses against the pursuit of balancesheet goals.

The former editor of The Indian Express said the 'modicum of momentary accountability' in India is largely due to two institutions--- the judiciary and the media. The media, Shourie said, contributed to the accountability of the political and administrative system through its occasional exposes.

Setting the benchmarks for journalism today and the challenges ahead, at a seminar organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Shourie remembered the late Ramnath Goenka, the legendary founder of the Indian Express, on a number of occasions.

Talking about exposes in the media, Shourie said: "It is spit and run for today's journalists. They swallow, they spit and run." But, he insisted, if one finds that someone has done something wrong, he should not only expose it, but persevere.

"There are two media houses in Delhi that preferred to carry stories on the opening hours of liquor shops in the capital on the front page while Manipur was cut off from rest of the nation," Shourie said while pointing to the need for a sense of proportion in journalism.

Remembering the his days with Ramnath Goenka, Shourie said: "While The Indian Express stood against Indira Gandhi, our circulation tripled, but the profits went down as we were not getting advertisements. But Ramnath Goenka did not bother."

"The bottomline business will kill journalism," he said.

While the audio-visual media is suffering from the problem of being like each other, the print media is facing the trouble of having to be different from whatever was aired last night.

The answer, according to him, lies in providing analysis of the last day's events.

According to Shourie, the foremost challenge in journalism in the country is that government is evaporating in large parts of India, and media is not free.

With the rapid change in technology and multiplicity of the media, news is available instantly. The reach has gone so deep that a national channel is becoming a competitor of a local channel.

"We have the task as educators and moulders of opinion," and that needs much greater application of mind, Shourie said.