Technology news from India?

Nikhil Pahwa, formerly editor of ContentSutra (or more like the one-man-army who ran CS in India) and a good friend of mine, has launched MediaNama today. He writes about the digital media business in India including new businesses, M&A, VC activity and other business related news.

His launch story deserves more than just a mention here. It is an interview with S Sivakumar, the CEO designate of Times Private Treaties and is titled “There Are Two Currencies For Advertising – Cash And Treaties; We’re Not Buying To Sell”.

Read on to make up your own mind about the core issue. But here is why I am interested in Nikhil’s launch story.

It may be old hat to those living in India and following the launch of Times Private Treaties. But to those who seek reliable sources of news from outside India, it confirms their impressions.

A few days ago, at a seminar in London, the MD of a glossy, newly launched in India, spoke of how difficult it was to find good quality journalism in India. The reasons, he said, were two-fold: a lack of classically trained journalists and an unsated appetite for gossip over analysis, which leads to any research or confirmation only post facto, if that.

The former, in my view, is an inevitability of a booming economy. There never can be enough of good resources to go around; and recalling the dot-com boom, this is how I really put it: “in boom times, even morons have jobs.*” The latter is plainly evident in any print or digital medium one accesses as I experienced in my most recent visit.

That is not to say that all journalism in India is of poor quality. I did find some good articles, admittedly heavier on data than on analysis, which I duly cut and brought back. But integrity in the press is less than universal what with open plagiarism, stories without attributions or bylines, and blatant cut-and-paste of editorials a common practice. All this also bugs some journalists.

The Times Private Treaties business is just another step along the downward slope where journalism is indistinguishable from advertising.

Good for a booming consumer market? Yes. Good for keeping a nation engaged in the job of nation-building? Not sure.

Which is why journalists like Nikhil Pahwa should be applauded and supported. For being fearless, keeping their integrity (you have to see his disclosures) and doing an honest job of reportage.

* Please keep your PC batons at home. I am aware of what the word ‘moron’ means. I happen to think it is more insulting when applied to people with mental difficulties, and more apt as a sarcasm when applied to those who seem to believe they have all faculties intact, when their actions cast a shadow of doubt over that belief every moment.

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