I distinctly remember the early days of Medianet while I was working with The Times of India in 2002.
If my memory serves me right, Medianet in Times of India was led by two Bengalis, Sumanta Paul and Pradeep Guha and both were part of the top management. Of course, the whole business model was approved and chiselled by the managing director, Vineet Jain, but it was Sumanta Paul who went from branch to branch across the country, implementing it.
It was, by no means, an easy task.
The business model of Medianet was much scoffed at by senior journalists, specially the reporters. They raised a hue and cry about why it was against ethics of journalism.
Later on, Sumanta and Mr Guha explained it to us in employee meetings that they are only looking at the entertainment supplements for implementing it and the main paper will never ever come under Medianet ever.
It was the year 2001-2002, when I was in Calcutta and I too, like other journalists thought that this is the curtain call for journalism in Times of India.
I was included in the implementation team by my editor Abhijit Dasgupta and I didn’t like it one bit. I remember walking upto Sumanta Paul in an office party and asking him if we can change the way Medianet is applied in Calcutta.
“We, Bengalis, think that we are different from the rest of the country when it comes to Arts and Cinema. We aren’t. We are no less or no better from the rest of the country. Give this time and you will know what we are doing, is the correct thing to do. This will revolutionise the whole system,” Sumanta had said.
He later left Times and I never had the chance to meet him again. But what he said that day became evident 15 years later.
Medianet didn’t affect journalism in any way. But at the same time, Medianet stopped all the malpractices that were spreading like cancer in Bollywood Journalism.
It is because of Medianet, entertainment journalists stopped getting expensive gifts, bribes, holidays, junkets and special treatment from film actors, producers and public relations (PR) officers. The advent of Medianet meant that producers and PRs started directly negotiating for editorial space in the entertainment supplements just like advertisements. The journalists merely became implementation officers and were only meant to carry out orders.
The producers started paying money to the publication directly and the publication would then instruct a writer (specially recruited for the purpose) to write and article on behalf of the client.
Many leading film-stars too regularly take this route to get complimentary articles published about them without any intervention from journalists. Today, entertainment journalists have no access to celebrities and have no option to even source the most insignificant of information about a celebrity without the PR or the manager approving it.
No quid-pro-quo, no cash — a legitimate but controversial business deal. However, the journalist who was centre of attraction earlier was thrown out of the pedestal.
Today Medianet is an accepted industry standard across mainstream media (Newspapers and Online Media mostly) while online entertainment journalism has been reduced to spooning out page-views.
Fifteen years down the line (from 2002), as the newspaper is being relegated to history, a new form of online journalism has emerged to beat the trend. This is an atrocious form of ‘journalism’ where the writer has no clue what he or she is writing about, they just look at something and write down what they feel.
This piece might not have any significance or is factually correct, but it does the most important job for the website — generate page views.
I have created a flow-chart (or a cheat-sheet, if you want to call it) on how these articles are written and trust me, this is what is followed in most leading websites that dole out these articles on a regular basis.
- Find out what’s trending: Usually a trailer, song, news, gossip or ‘anything Bollywood’ that is trending on Twitter or Google.
- Look at the trailer/song/news and form an opinion.
- Now change your opinion into biased opinion because that only sells. A biased opinion will mean that people will either agree or disagree with you. A balanced opinion means that people won’t react.
- Then write the article in an aggressive or polarised language. This means the writer will vigorously criticise or will be extremely critical or supportive of it. The language has to be either VERY critical or really complimentary.
- Throw in a few slangs (like OMFG, Jelly, ROFL) and gaalis like Fuck, Shit etc
- Then publish it quickly tagging the relevant celebrity (or film) to make sure that it appears in the mentions. People who are searching for the actor or the film’s content will also come across this content as well.
- Share it on social media and promote it.
This is what entertainment journalism has come to.
This is a new form of Cancer that is more evolved and resistant.
Hopefully, we will develop a radiation someday, to kill it before it becomes an epidemic.