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#barkhagate: Protests in 140 characters leave no space for gray areas

Wednesday, 24 November 2010 - 2:57am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Barkha Dutt has spent the last few days replying to tweets expressing loss of faith in her and demanding answers for her involvement in the recent expose.

Barkha Dutt has spent the last few days replying to tweets
expressing loss of faith in her and demanding answers for her involvement in the recent  expose wherein she offered to facilitate a meeting between DMK’s Kanimozhi and Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on the behest of lobbyist Niira Radia.

Dutt’s active presence on Twitter has ensured that all ire is directed straight at her; she cannot dodge any of it. Search for #barkhagate, and you sense that Twitter users and bloggers are baying for her blood. But, her reply to each tweet is calm. Like this one, “Ethics should be measured by coverage of issues.

Diplomatic friendliness to get information from a source is very different. To get news one speaks to all kinds of people, dirty or clean, if they are a source of real time updates. That is not a crime.”

Shubho Sengupta, head of digital media at Rediffusion Y&R, says that #barkhagate is not going to affect her in the long-run. “I think Barkha is handling the issue very intelligently and she should continue the discussions. But most tweets are very impulsive rants or attacks against her; they aren’t asking the right questions.”

Veteran media critic V Gangadhar says, “For long, the Letters to the Editor was the only section where you could complain about an erroneous report, or give feedback. Social media has
ensured criticism happens on public fora.” Which is why, since the last few years, the growing adoption of new media — blogs, citizen journalism websites and Twitter — is a crucial phase in the history of journalism, when the media’s reputation of having the final word is being challenged.

“The blackout of reporting on the scandal by some newspapers and news channels was the biggest reason that angered social media users,” says Santosh Desai, CEO, Future Brands.

But there is also criticism of the kind of debate that new media is generating. Gangadhar describes it as ‘very right-wing, unbalanced and extreme’. Desai says that people must put every issue in context. “#barkhagate hasn’t grasped that or crafted it like a debate, rather it is more of a personalised attack.”


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