Read Breaking the Big Story: Great Moments in Indian Journalism by B.G. Verghese Online


As a watchdog of public interest and the voice of the small man, it is the duty of the media to uphold democracy by exposing what those in authority may prefer to gloss over or hide. But in this age of instant communication and twenty-four-hour television, the focus is on breaking the story as it happens, with little attempt to interpret and analyse. In this context, whenAs a watchdog of public interest and the voice of the small man, it is the duty of the media to uphold democracy by exposing what those in authority may prefer to gloss over or hide. But in this age of instant communication and twenty-four-hour television, the focus is on breaking the story as it happens, with little attempt to interpret and analyse. In this context, when everything appears ‘big’ and yet superficial, has the ‘big story’ become defunct or is it more important than ever before?Breaking the Big Story showcases great moments of Indian journalism, when journalists chose to lead rather than follow the mob, to investigate and forewarn, to expose corruption at the highest level, to intervene as ghastly events unfolded in a bid to pre-empt them, to cover ethnic strife in foreign lands, to tear away the blinkers from the eyes of a gullible nation that sought refuge in its sporting icons, to pose as arms dealers and investigate dubious aspects of defence purchases, to cover communal clashes and point to a new direction. In short, to break a big story.This volume brings together nine essays on major stories or exposés by their authors in the Indian print or electronic media. Raajkumar Keswani writes about his attempts to warn people of the looming dangers posed by Union Carbide in Bhopal and the death three years later of thousands of people following the gas leak. Sampad Mahapatra questions the 100-year-old definition of death by starvation and discovers that people will eat anything to keep death at bay. Sanjoy Hazarika, Teesta Setalvad and Muzamil Jaleel relive the horrors perpetuated in the name of ethnicity and identity in Assam, Gujarat and Kashmir. Anita Pratap recollects similar problems across the waters in Sri Lanka. Chitra Subramaniam retraces the trail of kickbacks in the Bofors-India howitzer deal to high offices in the country. Tarun Tejpal goes a step further to show that corruption cuts across party hues. And Pradeep Magazine writes about his meeting with a bookie and how the subsequent exposure of cricket match-fixing did not really come as a surprise.The nine essays in this collection, written long after the big stories were first published, evoke a range of emotions: compassion, shame, horror, outrage, disgust. They raise issues of media and governmental responsibility and document how democracy and the fourth estate have matured in India....

Title : Breaking the Big Story: Great Moments in Indian Journalism
Author :
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ISBN : 9780670049738
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 208 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Breaking the Big Story: Great Moments in Indian Journalism Reviews

  • Aravind P
    2019-05-07 01:11

    The prominence of media in the pseudo-democratic society like India is not under-rated, being a country with most number of newspapers and news channels in several languages frantic on a pursuit to let the people know of the latest hot news. Media, being the fourth estate of a nation, has played its part for keeping up that little bit of democracy it could.One of the great things that happened in the recent years must be the Rights to Information act rolled out by UPA I. Though now they are realizing the sting of its bite, and is working towards restricting its range, it brought the public closer to the wynds of journalism. Interestingly Journalism is getting crony, while the new age whistleblowers and RTE activists try to fill that gap, often leading into their persecution and even assassination, as we witnessed in last few years.Breaking the big story: Great moments in Indian Journalism tells the story behind nine journalists and their moments of adventure, fear, joy and despair while bringing some of the news that shook the pillars of this country. Many of them have been forgotten by the public even when the aftershocks of the buried lies continue to the rock the belligerents’ bases. Ever after the advent of 24x7 channels, the public have been mislead to believe that it is those loud mouth TV presenters, scurrying over the already reported news with their verbal circus, that constitute the fraternity of Journalists. And the public seldom delve beyond those smokescreens to get to know the actual reporters and the effort and pain they have put to bring the scams, scandals, truths and lies through grass root level reporting. This book doesn't simply stagnate at the stories as such, but also reveals the adventurous and dangerous culture of journalism.The book is edited by the eminent media analyst and statesman B.G.Verghese. He gives the introduction to the book passing through the prominance of media in the democratic society like India and how the democracy itself got strengthened and at the same time challenged by the secret war between the true journalism and politics. As he emphasised the need to report a news from all the sides as opposed to the one-sided reporting which he believes is caused by the 24 hour news broadcast trend that is depriving the journalists the liberty to report the right news. Although he was pointing out the relevence of Rights to Information act, ironically though, he was emphasizing on certain restrictions in RTE. He treats it diplomatically by appreciating the impact of RTE and at the same time mildly raising the apprehensions of information leak. I couldn't agree with that part though, as any legislation brought towards restrictions in RTE would end up eating the whole thing up, unless judiciary intervenes, which will be an unnecessarily laborious task in India.The stories covered are - Bhopal MIC tragedy by Raajkumar Keswani, The starvation deaths of Kashipur by Sampad Mahapatra, the Nelli massacre by Sanjoy Hazarika, Tamil genocide in SL by Anita Pratap, the post militant political Kashmir by Muzamil Jaleel, match-fixing scandal in Cricket by Pradeep Magazine, Bofors scandal by Chitra Subramaniam, Tehelka sting operation by Tarun Tejpal and finally on the Gujarat communal violence by Teesta Setalvad. The authors of each chapters tells it from the beginning of their involvement, how they got the tip, ravelled each piece of jigsaw, brought the story into public, were accepted by public, hunted and harassed down by the wielders of power and their lives impacted by these work.Book starts with the account of Raajkumar keswani, a small time reporter from Bhopal who had been reporting about the potential danger of the union carbide plant in the village ever since it was installed. Even before the final disaster, he accounts, there had been small leakages and minor industrial disasters that had claimed the lives of many workers. Despite of the safety and standards audit showing dismal performance by the company, the government never bothered to investigate the news reports he published. Until the disaster struck, none of the news papers, except Indian express in a single occasion, bothered to throw some light on it. I wonder how many such news reports are getting overlooked or purposefully downplayed in this country, waiting for the tragedy to happen. Jaitapur Nuclear plant, Mullaperiyar dam, how many more? The massacre at Nelli was no different. The illegal immigration from Bangladesh, and gross social unrest that were perpetually downplayed by the government and equally ignored by national media ultimately culminated in a gruesome massacre of Bangladeshi immigrants in Nelli village in Assam.Chitra Subramaniam's and Anita Pratap's accounts had many similarities; they are the 2 women who brought much trouble to Rajiv Gandhi. One in the form of Bofors scandal whiles the other on the Tamil massacre and about subsequent involvements of IPKF into this trouble. She being one of the few journalists who had been into the war front news correspondence early in the times of print and radio journalism, tells about her rub-off with the defence and intelligence officials despite whose hurdles she was able to bring eye-witness accounts of civil war in Srilanka, which in fact boosted the morale of the Army. When the passion of journalism creeps into the blood it eclipses everything, even the family, says Chitra subramanian. But as all the fights against a powerful system are destined, both of them had to finally quit although she pursued it even after The Hindu took the story off its shelf following political pressure. And after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, to their dismay, the investigation went into total oblivion.In a civil society which is not transparent yet, I personally believe that, the people in power should never be given any benefit of doubt. Looking the balance of power, there is hardly any place in this country where we can say that, here people are in power and not politicians. In such a place, a good journalist would be the one who is a thorn in the velvet cushion of the powerful. The big news is big only because it shakes the establishments of power. Such a government having sold itself off to the private parties tries to play off a mean game against a village that is reluctant to give way to a mine in Orissa. When several villagers in Kashipur died, the village officials decided to write it off as food poisoning, which was in fact a food poisoning induced by un-availability of food. Sampad Mahapatra got involved in the investigations that told a simple fact that, in the time of dire situations humans try to find something to hang on. And these villagers, having been denied their rightful share of ration, had been pushed to a state where they had to consume contaminated dried mango kernels and wild mushroom. The government still stands by their claim that it was a mere food poisoning, and consuming mango kernels was their tradition.The thin line between an investigator and reporter, between activist and reporter is tested in many such cases. There is someone scheming about some crime of wide social consequences, at this moment, somewhere in the upper circles. Plenty of things are happening around, often under our noses or about something which is outright guessable, like the illegal mining, encroachments, land mafias, defence lobbying. Any high profile parties happening in various cities, corporate conferences, friendly visitors all can lead to some ulterior motive. A true investigative reporter should be able smell those trouble, says Chitra, which was what she had been looking out in the multimillion deal that was being signed between the Swedish arms giant Bofors and GOI. It is the same sixth senses that lead Tarun Tejpal to initiate his Operation west-end that trapped money hungry politicians and army officers in sting operation. Pradeep Magazine's scoop came out through a casual talk with a bookie in West Indies which prompted him to disguise himself as someone close to the cricketers. His adventure ended up in exposing one of the biggest match fixing scandals that rocked the trust of millions on the game of cricket. How many journalist would really want to run behind all that risk?Jaleel's account on Kashmir talks about how, as a journalist, his credibility was tested in Kashmir as caught between devil and deep sea. If a journalist writes about atrocities of Kashmiri militancy he would be declared as pro-GOI and would end up becoming a target for separatists, whereas if he writes about army atrocities the GOI would declare him as pro-separatist and could end up in censoring his articles. Being a territory of where a sane journalist would never want to stay, he managed to survive and had been successful in gaining access to the areas which had been barred for other journalists. He accounts for how many journalists have been targeted in Kashmir, as he says Army takes it away in day time and militants takes it away at night. He isn't sure how long he can survive in a place of least press freedom and high volatility without losing the trust of either side.Beyond the stories, it also tells how these impacted them personally. Anita pratap talks about how RAW agents were advised to threaten her by kidnapping her son, if she did not reveal the names of her sources of leaked news. Chitra Subramaniam speaks of how terrified her husband and in-laws was when she was making calls to the sting agents in sweden, on Bofors issue, two days after the delivery of her first child, from the hospital bed! And Tarun Tejpal recounts the tense moments of Samuel Mathews and Anirudh Bahl and their laborious editing phase and the period of dark clouds when Tehelka was destroyed from the arena. Teesta Setlevad's account on post-godhra riot had the flavour of human rights activism more than journalism. Her’s were the account of how a state deliberately tried all it could to let the rioters have a carnage for days. The reluctant hospitals, who denied treatment to wounded, unbothered police force and the ordeals in bringing the guilty in front of justice, are accounted in the final chapters.Often the journalism has come under the scanner of being biased, this stigma still holds true in all the major media houses. They often end up as mere mouthpieces of either the political parties or corporate. Hence the biggest challenge a journalist face would be to get the facts sorted out from all the parties. Taking the case of the Maoists insurgency or the Kashmir issue, only a few media did cover the news from all perspectives. The new age of 24x7 news channels have failed in bringing the complete news. Mainly because of the competition to report something before the rival channel, they invariably end up with the most easily accessible sources, like the police or army or political spokespersons. Editors then sensationalize it and present them as breaking news. Their impatience to get the complete picture, leading to bias in the report, is then hidden skilfully with their diplomatic statements. Another problem with the 24x7 channels is that the shelf-life of a news item is very less. News of importance loses its temper after few days or until another breaking news surfaces. Ultimately this TRP hunter ends up more as a bane rather than becoming a boon! So, while the TRP hunters are on their spree, all we can do is to trust those unknown faces that are on prowl at the backyards of the society to unveil the veiled.