The first lesson taught in journalism school is invariably the five Ws and one H – what, who, when, where, why and how. Now a recently launched news channel (a sister concern of a leading Hindi newspaper) directs it employees to adhere to the three Cs and one S – crime, cinema, cricket and sex. This, according to them is what constitutes news, this is what that sells.

Once, not very long ago, we had a term for such stuff – yellow journalism. Now the jaundiced tinge is omnipresent. Such journalism used to be on the periphery of the mainstream and now, it is the mainstream. Everything else is marginal. Sting operations are the item numbers. We should no longer masquerade as the watchdogs of democracy and freedom, when all that we are interested in is dogs and bitches on the heat.

Titillation, sensationalism, exaggeration are the rallying cries. Last weekend there was a minor fire in a building opposite my office; OB vans with logos of news channels proudly emblazoned on the sides eat up the road space (otherwise a no parking zone), the first right over which belong to the fire tenders responding to the emergency. As I narrate this irresponsibility to my flatmate, he quips, “All new constructions will not only have to be disabled friendly, but also OB van friendly.”

Journalism used to be a respectable profession. Now whenever I accompany my journalist friends on a house hunting endeavour, the expressions of the property dealers and the landlords, on learning about the trade says it all.

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