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Sunday, July 5

The Pen, the ink & the colours PART III

Disclaimer: This post is not aimed at spreading detestation, nor is this an attempt to differentiate the good, the bad and the ugly. I'm aiming to evaluate in a small detail how one of our leading vernacular dailies has been doing their business around with regard to the ethical principles in journalism. The views expressed here are personal and the links to the blogs provided in this article is for the purpose of a broader description, but I do not claim responsibility for all the statements in those posts. Read the full disclaimer before proceeding to read this article.
Concluding, from Part I and Part II

The claim is pretty vociferous and veracious... Malayala Manorama is the most circulated newspaper in Kerala. It is ahead of its nearest opponent by over 5lakh copies (ABC 2008)

And the lead still keep climbing...

Manorama has a few points to their credit. It appears the most glitzy of all mallu dailies; it has an attractive makeup, is colourful and catchy, leads by miles in the quality of print and paper and sits pretty on a strong advertising cushion. Good for ém, sure!

Manorama is second to none in reporting business and development news, is forward-thinking when it comes to showcasing the state as an investment destination and is one of the well known Superbrands of Kerala. I like their Sports page, hosts a superlative 'Opportunities' supplement and dishes out a trendy 'Metro' pull-out in the bigger city editions. Not surprising at all, Manorama hosts the best online edition among all contemporary regional papers.

But wait a minute. Are we talking about a newspaper or a waxpaper here? Manorama is surely an 'intellectual product' and certainly not a 'material' one. And you take out the mundane features like colour and texture and look at MM in the right way, then you'd see why its no better than toilet-paper.

Have a look below to see how Manorama gets people to 'see' things. Below is the Manorama report of Pinarayi Vijayan's 'crowning' after the Navakerala march. The MM photographer's focus was on V.S. Achutanandan and his apparent disinterest with the proceedings. MM makes sure the point gets across by the tagline below the picture.

And see how Kerala Kaumudi has reported the same news. And hey, Achumama is all glued up into the action!

Images: Courtesy Sajith Vijayan, Rajith Mohan

I'm the last person to support our current CM Achuthanandan or his commie Govt, nor am I closing my eyes to the open war between the two senior comrades, but what kind of reporting is this? May be you could argue that it was the Kaumudi reporter who waited for the right time for his click, but given MMs track record this is another instance where it has created an avenue for sticking the hot rod onto the reds' ass.

Not the least surprising, given the history that the late godfather of this paper had vowed that he would commit suicide if a Communist Govt ever got elected in Kerala. Period.

The tradition is still kept alive by the new generation MM journos by news like "CPM activist's wife commits suicide" , "CPM supporter kicked his wife" (hyperbole) and so on...It isn't an exaggeration to say that Manorama and Deshabhimani will balance each other when it comes to biased reporting, you know what I'm talking about. Wonder if Congress will ever need another "Veekshanam" ?

The newspaper's wicked and shady deeds need just one undignified example: the ISRO Espionage Scandal that rocked the nation in the 90s. Who else could be behind such outrageous dreamwork rivaling the Hollywood fiction writers other than Manorama? The fairy tale cooked up by Manorama was taken over by other media and turned into a full-blown scandal. Spare a thought for the innocent souls, including the foreigners and the scientists, caught in the trap.

Recently, when the whole country was unanimous in condemning President George Bush and the United States for triggering another unnecessary and monstrous war in Iraq, Manorama shocked the entire state by exhibiting in the front page an emotional photograph of an American wife bidding a tearful farewell to her Marine hubby departing to destroy Iraq in a US warship!!! Disgraceful is a mild word to use here...What was MM thinking???

The accusations against the Manorama House doesn't end there. In the modern democratic era the word "lobbying" is as essential as it may sound obscene. Newspapers have their own regional preferences but Manorama is being constantly accused of playing the dirty regionalism card by torpedoing the developmental projects outside their turf.

When Infosys Technologies announced their interest on Kerala, MM jumped in with a clinical assessment of the locations Infosys considered and shortlisted their choice: Cochin. They even went on record with this one bit, totally exclusive which none of the other newspapers heard. When Minister Rajagopal proposed the Habitat Centre in Kowdiar, Manorama cited someone in the Finance Dept proposing to move the project to Cochin to help the project break-even early! Ditto with the Central University where what GoI wanted was 500 acres within 50km of an Int'l Airport. Manorama couldn't see beyond Malayattoor even when the Trichur location met the same criteria. When KCA announced the Cricket Stadium, MM came up with a report that 'officials' in BCCI had quoted that ''If not in Ernakulam, then nowhere in Kerala" WOW! The curious thing is that none of the other newspapers reported these 'demands', even though they were all present at the respective locales and conferences. So its logical to conclude that MM see and hear things which noone else does...

And lately,the finger has been pointed at the Manorama House for attempting to scuttle the Vizhinjam Port project for the favour of the business interests of their own backyard. Speak about the larger interests of the state!

This is what pisses me off to the maximum. Every newspaper has the right to be the patrons for their own niche, but could it only be done by annihilating the other locales? All these years I was reluctant to believe this one accusation against Manorama, but the Vizhinjam episode gave me first hand proof to see the truth. The personal account from one of my friends about the indifferent attitude of Manorama to report an awareness-campaign in favour of the port project put the newspaper in the right light, for me.

And Manorama, as shrewd as they are, pitches in with some seminars on Capital Development, Malabar Development and Coconut Development once a while, just for the namesake of it! Lets keep everybody happy, eh MM? and pull the plug from behind...

Even weird is some of the social issues and moral policing taken up by Manorama and its team. True, there have been some instances where the media house has to be given credit for reports like "How Kerala behaves towards the fairer sex".But there is ample proof that Manorama pays some of the inept journos in Kerala who haven't the faintest idea what they're writing about. First a stir-up in Vanitha about how mobile phones are perpetrating social morality, then comes a teething attack on Bluetooth technology which created a wave of laughter among the techies. And now Manorama has jumped upon the major medium of communication, the email!!

What does Manorama want us to do? Lock our telephones, throw away the mobiles, discard laptops and computers and go back to the Damayanthi- Hamsam era?

To crown it all, have a peep as to how careful and technically impeccable MM dudes are with their reporting. C'mon, have a look and enjoy! The report is of Planning Commission Deputy Chairman M.S.Ahluwalia speaking about the Budget, and look whose pic is there instead of the man...Nithari serial murderer Mohinder Singh Panther! Oops!

How very Manorama-istic... :()

So Manorama, behind all those glitz and colour, is not a dependable organization. It faults at its basic function: taking the truth to the public. You can argue that truth depends on which angle you look at it from, but view it upside down or in 3D, Manorama still stinks. It is a glorified example of the most-sold not necessarily being the best.

There is little hope that Manorama will change for their own good. They have a force behind them which keeps them going, not talking about the poor subscribers here. And at times I feel that as Keralaites we deserve something better than this load of crap.

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