Right, so there's no such thing as objectivity in journalism, but one must try and be objective. Sounds hypocritical? Nope. For instance, everyone knows India Today and Pioneer are sold out to the BJP, or that Outlook and The Hindu have a leftist bias. And yet, objectivity is a nuanced thing. So when the Times of India promotes its other brands in news stories, we find it more crass than a paper consistently showing a political bias in its editorial. For newspapers have always shown biases in their op-ed pages. It is reportage where objectivity should be maintained at all cost.
The most crass thing to do is to promote your own friends in your paper. So if you publish an artcle promoting a friend's art exhibition or novel – that's just not done. It's worse than political bias. Which is why I cringe every time I see Minty Tejpal in Tehelka's pages: isn't he obviously Tarun Tejpal's brother?
Blogs revolve around individuals. Most bloggers seem to be blogging to promote themselves, to be celebrities of some kind. They jump with excitement every time they see someone linking to them. They beg to be blogrolled.
Fine. No problem. If you are a good blogger you deserve attention. But once you acquire celebrityhood, it amounts to power. With power comes responsibility. Is it objectionable if you are a biased ideologue of one ideology or another? No. You surely have the right to promote your own ideology. What's really objectionable is when you use the popularity of your blog to plug-in friends and promote them – without giving a disclosure. If you really think your friend's novel is good, say that he's your friend.
One example of such objectivity is this recent post by Patrix on Desipundit:
The ‘podcast arm of DesiPundit’ (or as I like to claim it to be) – IndiCast – is going to be featured on NDTV. One of the co-founders and podcaster Aditya informs us:
Channel : NDTV 24×7
Programme : India This week
Day : 2nd April, Sunday.
Time : 9 PM IST
I’ll appreciate a YouTube or Google Videos link if anyone can provide me with.
Full disclosure: Aditya is my brother who has moved back to India after staying in the United States for couple of years. If I know him well enough, he’ll be soon retorting that DesiPundit is the blog arm of IndiCast.
But what if such a disclosure is missing? Two examples:
Gaurav Sabnis promotes his friend Chandrahas Choudhary's "delectable" post on a cricket blog by calling him "easily one of the best cricket writers alive." Boy! That's a statement! How many cricket books has one the best cricket writers of our time written? And what does he mean "easily"? How do you 'difficultly' get a certificate of best-cricket-writer-alive from Gaurav Sabnis?
Follow that link and what you get is a short post about Ramesh Powar. Well written, no doubt. But see also on the side that Gaurav Sabnis is himslef a contributor to that team blog. And the team of the blog, well, is merely a collection of "select" Cricinfo reader. Pray, how do you get there? Just by reading Cricinfo? Or by being friends with Amit Varma?
Now, can someone confirm if Amit Varma is related to Jasmine Shah Varma? He's eagerly promoting an exhibition curated by her: http://indiauncut.blogspot.com/2006/03/departure-by-nikhileswar-baruah.html
The paintings are so so godawful, and since when dd Amit Varma become an authority on art anyway?
Amit Varma is the winner of the best-blog award in the Indibloggies 2005. He was a member of the jury, he nominated himself, and everyone voted for him! Not just that, he was excited like a kid to have won the award!
Around the same time, he wrote this post (found at http://indiauncut.blogspot.com/2006/01/bloggies.html):
I'm delighted to inform you that just a few days after winning the IndiBlog of the Year award, India Uncut has now been nominated for the prestigious Bloggies, in the Best Asian Weblog category. This is the only South Asian blog among the five finalists, and I guess that's an honour in itself. Thank you to all those of you who voted for me in the first phase of voting and made this possible. If you feel my blog deserves it, please do help me win this one by voting here. Hurry, voting's on for a just a limited period of time!
Back to work now.
Now, what is the insecurity that he is dying for awards? But alas, he was not a member of the jury, and he couldn't nominate himself, and didn't win the best Asian Weblog Award at the Bloggies. Someone else did. Varma did not even have the courtesy to write a post congratulating the winner.
Considering that Varma regards blogs as "the new journalism" (http://indiauncut.blogspot.com/2005/01/blogs-new-journalism.html), he should tell us what he thinks of the issues of objectivity, backscratching and, well, self-promotion in blogging.
I have been reading many Indian blogs for a long time now, and the more I read them the more they make me want to throw up. These people are all so full of themselves, I tell you!