Rise of the Indian media watchdogs…

Last Updated: Wed, Oct 01, 2014 11:42 hrs

For decades, the Indian media lived in a bubble. The club of editors was a separate entity above scrutiny. Media barons regularly wined and dined with the high and mighty. They were the untouchables.

Top honchos of the journalism industry dictated the debate and the anonymous powers behind the throne became superstars in the TV era. Nothing much changed for the newspaper industry with the advent of first magazines and then TV. The exclusive club continued to call the shots.

The sole watchdog Press Council of India was terribly ineffective because even this was made up of the same media barons and editors that had a stranglehold over truth. However with the advent of the Internet and social media, things have changed drastically.



The mainstream media still doesn't know what has hit them. A look at some who are working as the new media watchdogs…

MediaCrooks: He is the biggest and baddest of them all and almost all senior journalists read him and most hate him. As the cliche goes, love him or hate him, you simply can't ignore him. Extremely active, he takes on the high and mighty of journalism through his blog and Twitter handle (@mediacrooks).

There's hardly a top editor he hasn't taken on and you can most commonly find him in a Twitter war with any of them. He gives as good as he gets. He maybe over the top at times, but is generally spot on.

He caught the Modi wave early and is generally good at making predictions. His nicknames for most top journalists are not so flattering. He also conducted a poll: India's Worst Journalists in 2012 and 2014.


With posts like 'The Ugly Face Of Jihadi Sickularists', 'Pak's Useful Idiots' and 'Sonia Gandhi's Fake Victimhood', you can get a general idea of his hard-hitting comments.

Newslaundry: Madhu Trehan (@madhutrehan) started India Today magazine way back in 1975 so she has the authority and experience to call the bluff of all journalists. And she does that when she literally spanks media wrongdoers on her video programme Clothesline at the Newslaundry.

The website also has an interesting section called 'Who owns your media' where you can find out all the politicians and businessmen who have stakes in media companies and judge for yourself what conflicts of interests there are.

'Can you take it' is an interesting interview section where senior journalists get a taste of their own medicine and the one featuring Karan Thapar is priceless. The website is a mix of articles, videos and infographics and a bird's eye view of the Indian media.

The Hoot: If Mediacrooks is a teekha chilli chicken and Newslaundry a food platter, then The Hoot is a plain dal chawal presentation in terms of media critique. It has been the longest around and has been a big critic of the phenomenon of paid news.

It is headed by Sevanti Ninan, who also writes regularly about media topics.

Twitterati: Of course Twitter is the ultimate watchdog. Misrepresent a story. Ignore an important issue. Play up something with vested interests. Try to push your own agenda… …and Twitterati will come down on you like a tonne of bricks.

There is a perpetual war between MSM and SM and it is usually the latter which comes out on tops. While the media will point to endless trolls, you also have respected figures like writer-journalist Sadanand Dhume (@dhume) ticking off senior journalists for their delusions.

Chitra Subramanian of the Bofors fame is also back with the The News Minute. It does not shy from covering other media houses. Chitra created the term G37, which refers to the same 37 TV panellists who appear on all the channels no matter what the topic.

Another big critic of 'corporate media' is the legendary P Sainath.

The times they are a changing…

There was a time when absolutely no news used to filter out of media houses. Of course, the corridors of the same were filled with endless gossip. One of the first blogs that tried to out that gossip was Mediaah! which shut down in 2005 after it took on the Times group.

Other gossip sites like Don't trust the Indian Media! also didn't make it to 2014.

There were rare media correspondents like Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, but the shackles were probably broken with the launch of the financial newspaper Mint in 2007. Mint became the first regular media entity which started covering other media houses on a regular basis.

A combination of all the above factors has meant that there isn't a taboo anymore and every media house will now cover every other media house. Things are becoming more transparent.

Add the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keeping journalists at an arm’s length and forcing them to work hard and come out with original stores and Indian journalism will only get better from here on.

And that is a good thing.

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.