Media Ethics and the Eternal ‘Proximity Vs. Objectivity’ Debate

The article discusses the dual-edged nature of journalists' access to politicians. While close relationships can yield exclusive stories and social prestige, they often compromise journalistic objectivity and credibility. The author reflects on his career, emphasizing the value of maintaining professional distance for unbiased reporting.

Media Ethics and the Eternal ‘Proximity Vs. Objectivity’ Debate

Access to top politicians is an essential requirement for a journalist. It gives you information, inside dope and insight that helps you do your job better. If you are ‘close’ to the powers that be, it gives you a better chance of getting info that others are not privy to and thus helps you do an ‘exclusive’ that keeps you ahead of your rivals. The snob value that you get by flaunting your proximity to the rulers is an important fringe benefit. When the Chief Minister or a top minister lands at your marriage ceremony or that of your son/daughter, it raises your profile among those who know you!

But there is also a flip side to it. Turning the adage “Familiarity breeds contempt” upside down, ‘familiarity’ often breeds a cozy relationship with political leaders that clouds your judgment, colours your sense of fair play and evenhandedness and adversely affects your reportage - wittingly or unwittingly. Over time, such relationships inevitably turn into a ‘give and take’ arrangement that proves mutually beneficial for both sides. The politician gets the kind of coverage s/he wants. The journalist, in turn, gets what s/he wants – whether in terms of fringe benefits, bragging rights or something else. Before s/he realizes, the journalist gets branded as that particular leader’s stooge – the ultimate slur for any self-respecting scribe.