Revealed: What goes on in many newsrooms

22assault‘One editor at the time of hiring journalists told a female journalist, “Forget this job interview, I would like to give you a great massage on the beach in Goa”.’  Neeta Kolhatkar unveils the sordid world of many newsrooms in the country.

The Tarun Tejpal controversy has only made people realise the scandals that exist in mainstream media. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that most newsrooms have sordid tales hidden in their corridors.

The fact is we are and will be for many generations a patriarchal society and it is then but obvious that such incidents pervade across the systems in our country. Moreover today, where ideology has been obliterated in a systematic manner in an absolute corporate environment, to expect newsrooms to have morals and ethics is a tall ask.

Editors are known to have coteries and young girls hanging around them, which does boost their ego, also perpetuates the very patriarchy that we live in.

‘If one takes patriarchal government to be the institution whereby that half of the populace which is female is controlled by that half which is male, the principles of patriarchy appear to be two-fold: The male shall dominate the female, the elder male shall dominate the younger,’ Kate Millet 1969, in her paper Theory of Sexual Politics.

The various experiences I recount here which are mine, those of friends and colleagues, tell us the kind of crimes that have existed in news organisations. Forget the guidelines as per the new law, that is another story altogether.

When I joined the media way back in 1990, the environment in a leading daily made me realise how unprepared I was as a girl stepping into a wild media world. I felt like being thrown to the wolves. With every passing year on the job, I became more and more feminist.

Although in the 1990s there was a strong sense of duty and beliefs among journalists and editors, the corporate environments made it more politically volatile. If the editors and journalists really speak out, the sordid tales may just shock people of the kind of scandals that have been brushed under the carpets and kind of cover ups that have been undertaken.

It is no hidden fact that many male journalists and editors enjoy watching porn in offices. Women’s bodies, their sizes, their sexual lives are always of immense curiosity. In a television news channel at every editorial meeting, editors and senior male journalists would make references to sex and women.

In fact, an editor of a television channel is known to encourage young, good-looking girls to send their photographs in bikinis and no wonder they are preferred over others. In fact, some are known to have elaborate closed-door meetings in their cabins, when other staff were disallowed from approaching and able secretaries who would in cryptic sentences ensure that the ‘meeting’ was urgent!

One editor at the time of hiring journalists for a tabloid to be launched actually told a female journalist, ‘Forget this job interview, I would like to give you a great massage on the beach in Goa.’ The shocked journalist shared this with seniors who told her she should have slapped the editor. He was known to have a keen eye, always.

One senior editor of a newspaper was known to have warmed up to several young attractive women journalists. Telling them after close encounters to keep it between them. In the same newspaper, a rather dude editor would share gossip during pillow talk with his girlfriends and they would spread the gossip in the newsroom.

One needs no rocket science to know who is favoured in newspapers, magazines or channels. Suddenly the favoured are promoted, get more powers and they get exclusive visibility on front pages or top news. These girls get prominent positions and are included in core groups.

Other subtle forms of sexual encounters are seen and heard when we see mentoring of young girls, a word that has always scared me. I do not believe in this and always suspected that this mentoring in our field always crossed that blur line of crossing over to sexual encounters. Many a marriage in news organisations have broken up due to such mentoring.

These, of course, are rubbished as office rumours and flushed out from memories. The other ways of being favoured is to do work for the editors, like doing their children’s homework, getting dropped at home, hanging around at parties, eating the food the editor likes and reading books that he discusses, or even shopping for the boss’s spouses. None of these examples are a figment of my imagination. Every female journalist has faced one of these experiences.

The fact is women are left with little choice in journalism. Either one needs a godfather because mentors make or break you, or become a member of a coterie or get close to an editor or the only other option is to battle it at every level and live the label of being aggressive.

It is not to hold against those who choose not to battle. Journalism is a die-hard cut-throat field, where survival isn’t easy at all. For any lady journalist who resists or opposes such advances aren’t wanted in news organisations.

Author- Neeta Kolhatkar – as published at rediff.

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