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Lessons For Journalists From The #LalitModiRow

Lessons For Journalists From The #LalitModiRow


Lalit Modi Row is a lesson for journalists to never meet a source at a bar as private conversations can be carelessly leaked on social media.


If there’s one takeaway from the Lalit Modi story, it is that if you’ve met him, had a chat with him, exchanged texts or Whatsapp messages with him, brushed against him on the street, or honked at his car in a traffic jam, it’s only a matter of time before the world will know. With screen shots and everything.

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Also a story as big as the Lalit Gate/Bomb (depending on what your favourite news channel is) in the Twitter age is as much about the journalists reporting it as the story. Well, why not. Journalism is often a thankless job – and it is perhaps only fair journalists, once in a while, get to play roles in dramas they cover.


It all began with Arnab Goswami telling “viewers from 80 countries across the world watching The Newshour”, night after night, that it was Times Now, which broke the “first big scandal” of the new dispensation.  Actually, it all began with a story in The Sunday Times but still. Just like Times Now had always “broken scam after scam” ranging from “2G to the Commonwealth Games” and  just likeNewslaundry warned the world about paid news, Section 66A, Section 69, climate change and net neutrality – it caught on.


But what really stirred things up was when India Today TV’s Rajdeep Sardesai managed to interview Modi against a backdrop of yachts on the Adriatic Sea. The interview didn’t go down well with Goswami, for Modi, in spite of persistent efforts by Goswami, refused to give an interview to his channel. Goswami claimed the nation wanted to know why Modi was giving softball “selfie interviews” to “certain other journalists” and not him.  Rajdeep Sardesai is the name, Mr. Goswami, but never mind – why break the bro-code by naming anyone, even though, you are, for all essential purposes, questioning the man’s integrity.


Goswami, however, was not the only one who failed to get an interview.  NDTV’s Sreenivasan Jain got the worst deal. We’ve seen how livid not getting an interview with Lalit Modi makes Arnab Goswami. On the Arnab scale of outrage, taking a “12-hour air dash” after being “uprooted from a European holiday” and then being told, “sorry, interview not happening”, would be punishable by tossing the subject into the sea with Arnab as Jaws. But, hey, at least it was Montenegro. Not so bad.


But Jain, instead of telling NDTV headquarters back home that it may take another two days, decided to get all whiny and confrontational with Lalit. Why? Just stay on buddy terms – thanks for the weekend bro, hug, lemme know when you want to talk to us or even just pretend to, especially if you’re in an exotic location so I can come by again.


But no, Jain got into a Whatsapp spat because Lalit Modi was giving another interview and it was not to NDTV this time either. This broke Jain’s heart because you know Lalit Modi’s word is oak.




To make things worse for Jain, Modi released screenshots of his Whatsapp conversation with Jain on Twitter, accusing Jain of “threatening him”.


The conversation above demonstrates what a sensitive and mild-mannered person Lalit Modi is since he felt threatened by that exchange. London is best for him because the Enforcement Directorate’s questioning will be slightly more “threatening” than that.


Twitter reacted like it does to anything related to NDTV – which means not with much charity.   And leading the way was… well, no free subscription of Swarajya Magazine for guessing that. 


Of course. Convincing a source (more like the horse’s mouth in this case) for an interview that you were categorically promised amounts to “groveling”. The next time Jain negotiates with a potential interviewee, he should perhaps talk like Subramanian Swamy does to Goswami – and dare anyone cancel on him then.


Also, Jain was hanging out with Modi at the bar, of all places, at 10 pm? (Hawww, what will the neighbours say?) Anyone practicing journalism knows that ethical journalists only meet their interviewees at Satsanghs, at the temple stairs after the visit. (Not before. Never before. Pehle introspection, phir interview.) Or, at the Shakha after the exercise and drill (not before. Never before. Pehle exercise, phir interview). Or, at church after mass or at the langar in the Gurudwara or doing something pious. Never at the bar. Chee!


Jain’s apologists may justify the choice of a “bar” by the possibility that there might not be much of a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh presence in Montenegro or a Satsang or a temple but wouldn’t doing some early morning yoga in the picturesque setting have been a better plan for a rendezvous?


Amidst all of this though, India Today TV got another interview, though, this one was apparently only “cricket based”. This time, it was India Today Group’s Consulting Editor (Sports) Boria Majumdar. But that’s not what is keeping us interested in this story, it is this – communicated most appropriately by Rahul Kanwal’s tweet.


Modi tweet


This article has been republished from

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