By the time this newspaper hits stands, half of the temple-city population must have known how the so-called senior journalists accompanying West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee to her visit to United Kingdom were caught stealing silver spoons from the large table at an official dinner in a conference hall. The CCTV cameras kept streaming the guests partaking delicacies and some of the journalists laying hands on silverware and dumping the loot in bags in their laps.
This is the other side of the glamorous field of journalism, known and respected as the fourth pillar of democracy, which indeed it is but for some black sheep. The scenario is almost similar that of West Bengal across the country with varying degrees in different states. Jammu and Kashmir is not an exception. In a view it may be excelling in having unscrupulous elements in the field of journalism than any other State.
It may be a surprise for many to know that a record 372 daily, bi-weekly, weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly newspapers and periodicals are approved and non-approved with the designated authorities in the Jammu Division alone. Strangely, four to five periodicals are registered in a same family. Obviously, therefore, the division has equal numbers of ‘editors-in-chief’, editors, managing editors, executive editors, chief of bureaus, news editors, sub-editors and whole lot of reporters, photo and film journos, which is why every second vehicle and two-wheeler can be seen bedecked with signage of ‘press’ prominently. There is a tangent attributed to journalism that throw a stone and it will fall on a passing journalist. In every lane and by-lane, Jammuites are finding newspapers and media houses. At some premises luxury vehicles can be found parked with ‘honourable journalists’ sitting inside. But how many of the 372 newspapers and periodicals are actually hitting the stalls is not unknown.
It has been tragedy of Jammu media that non-professionals are ruling the roost. With malice to none, those who are even not well versed with vernacular languages are running English periodicals, not as printers and publishers but editors and chief-editors. Similarly, those publishing Hindi or Urdu periodicals are not remotely versant to the languages. The thumb rule in such publications is to ‘cut and paste’ the online portals to run their own enterprises. They can be found occupying front rows in every official and non-official function. Some of them remain most sought after for those at the helm. Some of them are so indispensable that their absence is felt like a huge vacuum at some special occasions. This is perhaps the crop in West Bengal that might have accompanied Mamata Banerjee and brought shame to the nation, not to speak of the Chief Minister herself or the Indian diaspora in the United Kingdom.
How would have the Indian contingent from West Bengal felt when the security staff decided to quietly inform the journalists that they had been watching them and knew what they were doing and requested them to put the stolen items back on the table. This is what happens when the pseudo journalists are handpicked by the authorities that be for attending important events.
The UK episode is a mute warning to the well meaning journalistic fraternity in Jammu, who has brought laurels for itself and the State by putting in its best in the field, to identify and isolate the so-called journalists. Those putting their hard toil in reporting and editing realise the dwindling standards of journalism in this city. Those in the field just with some vested interest may be satiating their personal agendas but the genuine scribes feel the pinch of their misadventure, as the people make little difference between a professional and self-styled journalist. The so-called journalists have been seen pestering officials for petty favours that generally cast shadow on well meaning entities in the profession. Those giving favours as charity weigh all those in the field in same scale.
To some extent, the bonafide journalists are themselves responsible for degradation of the profession. See for instance the membership of the Jammu Press Club, every Tom, Dick and Harry is registered with it. Essentially set up with the aim of serving as a meeting point for journalists, the Club has become any other restaurant, which remains full to its capacity by those who are not even remotely concerned with journalism, least to speak of pseudo-journalists.
Time has come when the journalistic fraternity must introspect and isolate those who have potential of bringing shame to the profession. Jammu can’t wait for the embarrassment, which Mamata Banerjee faced in the UK.
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