Having strayed into the mundane world of business journalism, the misfit gets a high from politics, cinema, theatre and street food, especially in the bylanes of Old Delhi.

Aditi Nigam

Of corporates and newsrooms​

| Updated on January 24, 2018 Published on February 23, 2015

paid media

​Working on the news desk of a business newspaper was always staid before ​the ​economic reforms kicked in during the early nineties. The daily routine before that used to be to ​edit copies, some with boring details, such as government sanction for oil pipelines to be laid from once place to the other, specifying the width and length of the pipes and so on. Among the daily chores was also making news reports out of the daily offering of ‘official’ press releases delivered in ‘On India Government Service” white envelopes from various Ministries. Of course, the occasional ‘news breaks’ then did turn heads.

After economic liberalisation in the early nineties, stories started getting juicier in the newsroom. The reporting section underwent a change, milling with PR (public relations) persons, some of whom loitered for hours doing what is now respectfully called ‘relationship building’ with reporters, and editors, too.

As competition grew fierce, the race for ‘exclusive’ stories began full clip, and so did hobnobbing with PR persons. That’s when ‘lowly deskies’ like me started hearing all kinds of stories of growing corporate foothold in the lives of journalists. Here are some.

A senior journalist, who had shifted from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi with his family for more job opportunities, was visiting his area MP to seek help with school admissions for his children. The MP asked him to come later. As he came out and stood at the bus stop, a person who was present in the MP’s house, approached him and asked him if he could offer some help with school admissions. As it turned out, this person was working in a leading business house and was scouting around to make ‘long-term’ contacts in the media and politics.

Another colleague’s mother had been advised emergency heart surgery, but no bed was available in the hospital concerned. Dejected, he mentioned this to a few colleagues. Soon, he got a call from a PR person, offering to book a room for his mother in the said hospital. Yet another colleague got transferred to Bombay (now Mumbai). The moment he landed, he got a call from a top corporate house: “We can arrange for rented accommodation within your budget. Let us know.”

Fixing jobs, to appointments with specialist doctors, to arranging for visas, school admissions, holidays in company guest houses for family vacations for journalists… the list is long.

It remains to be seen if the can of worms that opened with the busting of the suspected corporate spying case in the Oil Ministry serves as a mere ‘signal’ to the corrupt or actually lead to a clean-up. For, with growing corporate control over media, the rot has gone deeper.

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Published on February 23, 2015
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