Journalism is getting murkier
by the day and so are some journalists...or should we call them journalists?
People ask me as to why I do not want to attend press conferences (PCs) and I
tell them it’s getting more and more embarrassing. I am talking about
automotive journalism. On the one hand while companies are dishing out very
expensive gifts in every PC, on the other hand, all kinds of journalists are
coming to these PCs to pick up their share of goodies. No, this is not a recent
phenomenon. This trend picked up speed in 1991 when economic liberalisation
started in the country and public issue press conferences were a dime a dozen
every day. Rs 500 worth shopping coupons were given out and almost everybody
Every press conference has its
share of these so-called fake journalists. They come in droves and they far
outnumber the real journalists. Till now they were confined to press
conferences held in five star hotels by leading auto companies. Now they have
begun to invade day-long serious seminars too. The recently held ACMA convention
in the capital saw several top CEOs from leading auto majors and auto component
companies converge upon Taj Palace for a day of networking and official
Everything went fine till one
of the Editors of a leading south India based auto magazine lost his camera and
Tab. He was busy listening to a speech inside the hall when he left his table
for a few minutes to go to the washroom. On his return he found that his valuable
belongings were missing. That included his camera and his tab. The alleged
thief’s picture was later taken from the hotel CCTV but none of the journalists
could recognise him.
Who do we blame for this? Auto
companies and Public Relation firms are equally to be blamed for this mess.
Whenever a press conference is held, the company is adamant that the room is
filled with newspersons. Just think of it, there are just a handful of
journalists covering the auto beat and to get a house full, the PR firm has to
resort to something different. They call in the boys and girls from fictitious
firms. To make a Press card is as easy as going to the park. Anybody can make a
press card, including your local dhobi! The PR firms lure these fraudsters so
as to impress their clients, give them gifts and ensure a full house.
If all auto companies decide
not to give out gifts (except perhaps a pen and / or a CD / pen drive
containing the press release and hi res pictures) the world would be so much safer.
Now with the whole world going digital, why can they not do away with press conferences?
The other day Audi launched its A6 Matrix and Joe King spoke to the entire
media fraternity through a video recording sent out to every auto
correspondent. The news was carried without fail and later when a test drive
was organised by the company, the real journalists stepped in. No fraudsters
were there. As for the gifts, I wonder what it was, because I gave it a miss
once again! I deputed my young correspondent for this and he came back quite