After Eight edicts
He was immediately miffed that an Executive Editor of a paper had trumped him, the Chairman of the Press Council, with so unique a code of ethics.
AJITH PILLAI accesses the Ten Commandments that Justice Katju wrote in his sleep.
Thursday, Jul 05 17:20:44, 2012
Dipped in Witriol
It was all thanks to an overzealous IB operative that Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), laid his hands on a copy of a circular e-mailed by the Executive Editor of The Indian Express to all staffers. It detailed the code of ethics that forms part of the “new contract” applicable to journalists. The sleuth who procured a copy of this crucial note works for the media watch division and is known in intelligence circles for his ability to tail senior journalists by hiding in the boot of their cars. Two years of training in the Sahara desert, where he spent eight hours in the scorching sun inside an asbestos shed minus air conditioning, had prepared him to weather extreme conditions. In fact, so comfortable is he in the rear end of a vehicle (even in Delhi’s tortuous summer) that he manages to discuss crude prices and editorials of the day with the stepney!
Popularly known as `Boot n’ Scoot’ (BS), our man from the IB is not the kind to do things the easy way. So he hacked into the computer of a principal correspondent of The Indian Express and accessed the circular (he could have read all about it on The Hoot though!) and left a cryptic message which read: “Captain Cookie was here. Remember, behind every great hack is a hacker.”
Anyway, that apart, Justice Katju was so thrilled with the two page print out of the ethics code that he gave BS a box of After Eight Crème de menthe chocolates and even agreed to help him with the trilogy he was writing titled “The Subaltern View of the Goings On in the Delhi Press Club –an account based on interviews with ex-waiters and barmen.” BS was naturally thrilled. “Judge saab, you are very thoughtful,” he said “and these chocolates seem fresh out of the mint.” The PCI chairman was perhaps a little upset with the last pun (on the After Eights) and asked BS to take his leave since he had some urgent work to complete.
After the IB operative left, Justice Katju read the circular carefully while tucking into some mint chocolate himself. He was immediately miffed that an Executive Editor of a paper had trumped him, the Chairman of the Press Council, with so unique a code of ethics. “Why didn’t I think of this?” he wondered aloud trembling with anger. Almost instinctively he reached for a copy of Shelly’s Prometheus Unbound, a reading of which had helped him in the past with bouts of rage.
Once he calmed down, the Judge took stock (options) of the situation and decided to invest his time in framing his own code which would largely focus on reporting and presenting news. As Justice Katju let his mind wander he felt better. “Anything you imagine is real,” he said quoting Picasso. He could already visualize his edicts cast in marble before every newspaper and magazine office. Soon, lost in his thoughts, he slipped into slumber and woke up an hour later to find he had written two full pages on foolscap. Did he write this or had that imbecile BS (also an artful forger) penned it? Even worse, was this a case of sleep-writing?
The PCI Chairman wasn’t sure. But, there it was —Ten Commandments for the media written in his own hand. Here is what Justice Katju read:
- Honour thy editor-in-chief, publisher, ad manager and the Press Council so thou may last long in the Kinkdom of the media.
- Do not complain or cry blue murder if thy copy is mauled/changed/ rearranged or killed. Thy job is to report not react.
- Thou shalt not use the PM or the PCI’s name in vain. Unless in lighter vein.
- Do not covet thy neighbour’s story, headline, or quotes and call it thy own. If thou must then call it the machinations of a special correspondent.
- Commeth thee to Page 3 reporting forget not to give an info twist. Describe an actor’s limpid eyes then let thy reader know what the mind’s camera is. The retina, the eye lids, short sight, long sight, hind sight…Thy reader, bored will he be, but that much more wiser. Also, limbs call out for tantalizing descriptions of bone, muscle and joints.
- Remember thee this: Thy sole may belong to Bata, Reebok, Puma and Jimmy Choo. But thy soul, and thy family’s soul, belongs to the Press Commission (PC). Like the all powerful EC, which monitors elections, the PC is where thou shalt report the shares thou possesses, the jokes thou cracked, what thou read, how many lies thou telleth, what found its way to thine glass and plate and how many marbles thy kid owns and how many of them he hath lost. Remember thee this: failure to disclose all will lead thee to one year’s confinement in A Raja’s prism (Spectrum) or having the first and last para of thy copy deleted.
- Know thee thy roots? Go to the neighbourhood trees and indulge in conversation. Enquire of them on what causeth the economic downturn. Spend thee time with the grassroots in the park near thy home. Or transport thyself to the lawn of a well heeled citizen in Jimmy Choo. Discover why mankind perforce must preserve water to facilitate those divine games—golf, swimming and lawn tennis.
- Render at least one Page 1 story with the classical flourish. For example: “The Opposition came down like a wolf on the fold/ And its cohorts were gleaming in saffron and gold/And the sheen of their spears were like stars about to scream/ When the blue waves roll brightly on the Arabian Sea (adapted from Byron’s The Destruction of Sennacherib). Doth that not soundeth more lyrical than “the Opposition launched a frontal attack on the UPA?”
- Thou can oppose paid news but thou shalt defend to death the management’s right to carry it.
· Keep thee away from those rock song inspired headlines-- Slow Ride, Nights in White Satin, Instant Karma, Good Day Sunshine, Knocking on Heaven’s Door, The Times They’re a-Changin’, Stayin’ Alive, When I’m 64…Bestow thee thy headlines with originality. My friend, the venerable Dr Karan Singh, who doth subject his ears to music of much sound and fury observeth that his eyes did once espy a Hindi translation of Smoke on The Water/A Fire in The Sky in a headline —Paani par Dhua/ Aasman mein Aaag. Let us pledge to rise above such acts of imitation.
P.S. Justice Katju, according to sources, has kept away the commandments for further perusal. Meanwhile, the irrepressible BS has been circulating copies of it to anybody who buys him After Eights…