Editor's Choice

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Exactly a year ago, in a conference, Indian Editors resolved to change a few practices that were hurting everyone. One of those they were loud about is 'paid news'. All of us know what it is. I did not notice any change though I noticed a few Editors were changed. I wonder some times that our children who have grown up in the era of paid news would know if there is any other form of news. The world however believes that media is a domain governed by Editor's Choice and I fear reality may be far from it.

The term however invokes old memories. Many years ago, in early 1990s, an interesting event happened. Some one up in ivory tower of 'the old lady of Boribunder' came up with an exotic brand of tea for the rich. He gave it a name 'Editor's Choice'. At some Rs.2000/- per pound of tea, it could only be consumed by rich. (Pound=450 grams or so; I welcome correction in the price stated above). The arrival of brand was announced through half page advertisements in Times of India and Economic Times and perhaps a few more publications of House of Times. The campaign ran for several weeks. Use of Elephant Crest of Times was another innovation in the advertising of that tea.

I found the campaign to be inappropriate. It appeared that some one had tried to use the persuasive power of an editor to sell an everyday household item- Tea at a fancy price. I made a written complaint to Advertising Standards Council of India. After a few weeks I received a curt reply. They said, as I did not enclose a copy of the offending advertisement, they were unable to act upon my complaint. I did not follow it up by sending a copy of the advertisement. Soon I learnt that a 'Limited Edition' type of an introduction. In retrospect, I think, it was around the same time Business began viewing media as a 'staple carrier' of paid news. And I am sure paid news gets carried by Editor's 'nod' if not by choice. By the way, Mention of word 'choice' brings in the recall of all the rhyming words like- spice, rice, dice and price. But that is another thing.

In reality I have observed, Editor's Choice seldom prevails in the allocated space for "Editorials". Further, I have even come across a leading daily has moved the space for "Editorials" from its conventional spot on the Edit Page to its Right. And I wonder if there is an element of 'news' in this.


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