Deccan Chronicle

Boom Review | Editor's memoir uncovers large-scale media rot

Deccan Chronicle.| Sanjay Basak

Published on: June 12, 2022 | Updated on: June 12, 2022

Banerjee's Editor Missing manages to hold the mirror to Indian media

The cover page of 'Editor Missing: The Media in Today's India' by Ruben Banerjee. (By Arrangement)

The cover page of 'Editor Missing: The Media in Today's India' by Ruben Banerjee. (By Arrangement)

Anything that a section of Indian media does these days shouldn’t surprise us any more. Media trials are carried out by twisting facts and then facts are distorted for the benefit of the establishment.

At a time like this, Editor Missing: The Media in Today’s India — a book written by Ruben Banerjee, the sacked editor-in-chief of Outlook magazine, makes for a startling read. 

Published by HarperCollins, the book serves shock and awe in ample measure. 

In the book, Banerjee unravels in shocking details the rot that has set in across the media. Morals are missing and some editors as portrayed in the book, seemed to be largely compromised. The author tries make it amply clear that journalists find that the profession does not guarantee free speech any more.

Banerjee should know. As the editor of Outlook he last year during the height of the Covid second surge had shown spine, criticising the Indian government for being largely absent when people died in thousands for want of oxygen and medial help.

"Missing," proclaimed the controversial Outlook cover. It led to lot of consequences, including the dismissal of Banerjee as the magazine’s editor some months later. 

Nearly a year later, Banerjee’s book — part memoir — makes for a dismal read. It details — by reproducing emails that were internally exchanged — how the Outlook management targeted him, possibly pressured by influential people.

More disturbing is Banerjee’s portrayal of the Indian media that is deeply politicised, immensely polarised, hopelessly divided and worryingly less than free. An engaging raconteur, Banerjee dips into his eventful journey from a cub reporter to an editor and dishes out delectable stories – all real events with real names.

Readers therefore have every reason to relate with the book. The challenges that Banerjee faced — from being literally chased out of the Indian Express building decades ago by its then high-strung editor Arun Shourie to the veiled threats that he received as an editor later — are everyday struggles that people like you and me, including ordinary journalists, endure in this country every day.

Having gone missing from action since fired by Outlook, Banerjee’s Editor Missing manages to hold the mirror to Indian media as perhaps no recent books have done in the recent past. The writing is straight, simple and lucid, and the story telling is engaging.

The stories that Banerjee tells range from the hilarious to the alarming. As an aspiring reporter, he was once asked to fetch tea by a prospective employer. The tea served, the job never materialised. 

Even his job as the editor of a well-known magazine took a dire turn, once he came out with the now-famous "Missing" cover story. 

Journalism is in danger in India, as borne by its declining rank in the global press freedom index. From 142 last year, we have slipped further to 150. Editor Missing showcases its rapid decline. 

Editor Missing: The Media in Today's India
By Ruben Banerjee
pp. 237, Rs.599

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