When a media-person gets a story that no one else has got, he is ecstatic. What he gets is called a scoop in journalese. The person having got it has scored romance and glamour about it. It brings him credit and reward too.
Some scoops are innocuous, others could have serious repercussions. In early 1949, India and Pakistan had nearly agreed to treat the cease-fire line (LoC) as the international boundary. The news was leaked by British sources to the Delhi correspondent of the Civil and military gazette of Lahore. When published, there was a hue and cry in the Pakistan press. Sixteen papers in Pakistan, in an event unparalleled in the history of the press in any country, carried the same editorial entitled treason gazette. Even though it started again after six months of closure, the paper was sealed and the building, a landmark on the Mall, gave way to a shopping plaza. What is more, Indo-Pak relations worsened, and have never been what they could have been, leaving aside the substance of aforesaid agreement.
In the wake of recent unrest in valley, many of the journos in India displayed mocking belligerence. Analyzing, abusing, gloating, groaning, distorting and dissecting repeatedly the developments, exposed the shallowness of their media organizations. Instead of aiding to simplify and disembroil the state of affairs, the media as usual over-played the game of score-setting, just for the sake of remaining in line. A TV-war was unleashed to establish a "discourse" that is biased and lopsided, and scripted behind the stage.
Perhaps that's why journalism is not only exciting but a versatile profession too. It is, of course, 'creative'. It you begin as a sub-editor, you become creative in grammar and spellings—a trait that gets so rooted that not all textbooks and style-books can curb the instinct. If you start as a reporter, you start by reporting facts.
Just as science moves from discovery to invention, so does a journalist. From discovering facts, you move to inventing them. That's when you get by-lines by the column-fulls, even if what you invent is completely gaga. With experience, luck and designation you move to the higher stage where you venture into 'news analyses'—a sort of comment on the run. At the apogee of this process of 'creative progress', is the front-page editorial: the conversion of ill-conceived judgment into purvey-able editorial wisdom. So proclaims V N Narayanan, the former editor of Hindustun Times, who is ran in the hot water some years back.
Anyway, this is how it all happens till you become one among the numerous eggheads scattered around. Then your 'opinion' is solicited, you are quoted, and mikes and flash-guns eventually make you 'telegenic'. You become the vital cogwheel of Think Tank, which marches blindly ahead, crushing thousands of truths beneath, in the gory war of ideas. You earn everything – fame, name, and favors besides easy bucks.
After all, what else and what more does make someone tick in today's world!
Era of Gamal Rahman
Fatima's Scarf; a novel by celebrated author David Caute, is loosely based on the freedom-of-speech furor over the Satanic Verses. The story is built around someone called Gamal Rahman, whom Caute calls a character 'parallel to Salman Rushdie', and around several Muslims in 'Bruddesford' (misnomer of Bradford) in England, whose lives are touched in all sorts of ways by the publication of a novel, by Gamal. It's a scathing satire on Gamal's so-called literary tantrums, which become the cause of his 'haloed' stature.
David Caute's vivisection stops there. But the story of Gamal Rahman and scores of his ilk continues unabated. The world of latter-day literature is, in fact, littered with numerous Gamal Rahmans. It's the favourite hunting ground for those who shoot up to the stars simply by vandalizing the moral sensibilities of any society or any religion. They can be spotted in every comer of the world although they owe mental allegiance to their western counterparts who set the salacious trend for them to follow. These people only speak up their filthy brains under the garb of over-fond creativity. They abuse Khuswant et al only to follow his foot prints immaculately. They talk of 'invisible modesty' while putting up the worst immodesty in their language. Ridiculous doublespeak!
Great writers do not grow like a mushroom on a dung-hill; these have to be cultivated. They ought to have a substantial outlook on life and its various aspects. To quote V S Naipaul, "you can't be a bad man or a crooked man and be a good writer. Good writing requires a moral view of the world, and if your own view is not a moral one, I don't see how you and your work can hang together." This is perhaps the best sermon for all 'creative' megalomaniacs, local or international.
(The author teaches at Media Education Research Centre, MERC, Kashmir University.)