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Why Bollywood journalism is endangered

In the last post, I wrote about how a handful of Bollywood publicists are remote-controlling all the entertainment news today.

What reaches you as ‘news’, more often than not, is manufactured in a star’s office. Most journalists never interact with the stars privately and most of the star interactions are carefully monitored by their PRs.

Yet, I had told you that in the entertainment section, corruption is a rare occurrence or not as rampant as it might be in some other areas of journalism. So, how does the PR hold such enormous clout over journalists if there are no incentives?

Here are reasons why some journalists are too ready — in some cases even aggressively so — to gratify a PR …

Bollywood stars don’t need journalists any more

The primary reason, why stars were in constant touch with a journalist during the 1990s, was because they were a medium for publicity. The stars needed journalists to portray a particular image to the public, especially at the time of the release of their new film.

About 20 years back, there was absolutely no way stars could do that without keeping journalists close to their heart. Today, a star doesn’t need a journalist for that purpose.

The star can go directly to any media house and buy advertisements or advertorials to talk about anything that they want to, with their fans. They can talk about themselves, their films, their charity and even their dog.

The stars also have their own twitter accounts or blogs to connect with their fans online.

These new media practices are slowly and surely making the entertainment journalist obscure. I don’t know whether you will agree with me or not, but entertainment journalism as we knew it, is on the verge of extinction.

Forget about the stars, their PRs are becoming so powerful in the media space that they are frequently counted among the ‘most powerful’ in the lists that are brought out by reputed magazines from time to time. The PRs have become aggressively protective about their stars and sometimes won’t think twice before butting into an ongoing interview if they feel that their client is being asked uncomfortable questions.

Here is one such example even though the video is quite old. In this video, you will see that Aishwarya Rai’s media manager starts screaming from the background when he realises that the anchor is being nasty to her. You will hear him screaming “stop it”, “it’s over” and “thank you, thank you” towards the end as the TV anchor scurries to save his face.

Some of my friends say that there is some hope left for tabloid journalism which is a little different from mainstream journalism. A tabloid reporter usually aims for such news that a star doesn’t want his fans to hear. However, with an army around the stars and their own information dissemination outlets, tabloid journalism is fraught with various risks.

The chances of errors are high because of unavailability of reliable ‘sources’ and on top of that, a star is always there to refute what a tabloid journalist writes. The public at large will always hear what the star is saying, and not the journalist.

So, it is evident that without the aid that a star PRs has to offer, entertainment journalism has become a very difficult place to survive.

Here is a great incisive article on Bollywood PRs that I chanced upon while researching on my article. It is a great insight on the work profile of PRs in Bollywood today. I have uploaded the entire article on a separate page. Click on this link after you finish reading the article.

https://bollywoodjournalist.com/articles-i-like/article-behind-the-stars/

So, what are the doors that a star PR can open or close for you? Well, here they are…

(a) Star interviews: Most of the stars won’t talk to you unless they get a nod from their PR. With stars being the main attraction for those keeping tabs on entertainment news, getting access to them have become very important for most journalists. If you are friendly to a PR, a star will talk to you. If the PR doesn’t like you, the star is out of your reach. It’s that simple.

(b) Exclusive news bytes: These news-bytes are generally information of what a star is up to. The information can range from a star’s charitable activities to his latest hair-cut. The PR collects all the information from the star and rations them among journalists, piece-by-piece. If you don’t have good access to the PR, then these ‘pieces’ won’t reach you.

(c) Invites to parties and exclusive events: You will be regarded as persona non-grata like Edward Snowden if the PR doesn’t like you. So, if the PR is suspicious of you or takes you as a threat, you can forget of getting inside to parties and events where the star is in attendance.

(d) Personal attention: This is a very interesting thing. A star will give you personal attention if the PR thinks that you are important to the star. So, you can be invited for an exclusive party at a star’s home and the star will happily pose for your Facebook profile picture, if the PR considers you as a ‘friend’. Some journalists race with each other to get into this ‘friend’ list.

(e) Personal requests: If you are on the ‘important’ list of the star PR, then the stars will do a few small favours to you. It may range from dropping by at your house to signing a photograph for your kid sister.

So, as you can see, the PR doesn’t need to pay a bribe or indulge in unfair practices because they have exclusive access to the stars. The journalists have to go along with them or face eviction from the beat.

Before I end, I want to present a video about how PRs can sometimes become threats to the stars — a ‘position’ that was once proudly occupied by journalists.

Here is a TV report that I found about how a star is worried that a certain PR lady is spreading rumours about her. It is an interesting video. Have a look.

Earlier post on the same topic -> Why Bollywood journalism is endangered

Short-link of the article -> http://wp.me/p3x1zT-hU
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6 replies »

  1. A very true and interesting article Soumya. But can’t help but share a personal experience with you. Once I called a very famous and veteran actress on her private number. She was very busy shooting in Delhi but despite that she respected my deadline and sat late in the night to answer my emailed questions in every detail and sent it to me the next morn. She had asked me to get in touch with her PR for her latest snaps. Despite the repeated calls and my telling the PR that I already had the interview the snaps never came. I managed with archived snaps and published the interview. Now what do you say to that?

    Like

  2. Interesting article – I work for the marketing department of a company that has quite a bit to do with a few PR agents and could not agree more.

    I think somewhere, the romance around a star has eroded – today’s stars are more salesmen than anything else. Which is why all their personalities (especially the women) seem the same – bland and uninteresting – always respectful, sweet, etc – just too good (and boring) to be true. The really interesting people today seem to be the directors (like Anurag, Dibakar, etc) who genuinely seem to have a personality and something interesting to say.

    PS: Just stumbled across your blog this weekend, already a regular reader, keep writing 🙂

    Like

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