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Sex and cheap thrills: When ‘The Print’ struggles, Shekhar Gupta pulls a ‘coup’ on journalistic integrity

One is bound to ask what purpose is Shekhar Gupta trying to achieve with this 'sex symbol' article on his portal? It is not funny at all because headlines like these trivialise an otherwise good debate on feminism.

In the second half of 2016, the great philosopher Shri Deepak Kallal had remarked while gently stroking his collar bone, “Sex-related articles are the last resort of struggling news portals.” Looking for the ‘unique angle’, confused nude, err… news portal ‘The Print’ has now come up with an article that is asking the readers a question ‘if Narendra Modi is a sex symbol for village women?’

When the headline has a question mark, it says a lot about the writer that either he/she is confused, or knows the ways of journalism good enough to use that punctuation perfectly.

Writing these kinds of articles, while elections are just days away, is altogether another level of journalism where only those with a PhD in sociology from Lallanpot University can reach. On similar lines, the editorial team at Lallandown are out looking for unique articles after their recent adventure with Hitler’s genitalia was a huge hit, because why effing not!

It is an in-the-face fact that in the times of rising competition, the race for survival and the weight for a big name result in portals opting for sensationalism and negativity along with fake news and sex-related articles. These have high traffic value because while some read it for fun and some to question why it exists at all!

We can always expect Shekhar Gupta to toe this line as his front page ‘military coup’ story has brought a sad name to the Guptas of India who have always been an epitome of hard work and success, for which the nation won’t forgive him.

One is bound to ask what purpose is Shekhar Gupta trying to achieve with this ‘sex symbol’ article on his portal? It is not funny at all because headlines like these trivialise an otherwise good debate on feminism. The lipstick feminists who march with the flag of feminism and attack everything male, get a high when they hear or mention the word ‘sex’. Every ‘ism’ ends up in ‘sex’ and the words, phrases, sentences and headlines related to ‘sex’ can establish you as the wannabe feminist you always wanted to be.

What’s the research behind this article? Just a few photographs where Modi is comfortably standing with a few celebrities and females like Anushka, Kangana or Ivanka? Should Modi stick a note on his forehead, as Amrish Puri did in ‘Hulchul’, that reads ‘Aurat narak ka dwaar hai’ (Females are the gateway to hell)? Or, spotting women around him, he should ask the photographer to take his phone somewhere else and say, “please photoshop me in between them”? Or, should Modi be distressed and uncomfortable with his shoulders and eyes squeezed in as if he is not among women but electric eels that are hanging from the walls?

Had the journalist tried to understand the resources these village women have, she would have realised that in hundreds of villages from Bihar, UP, Bengal, Rajasthan, Odisha etc even a radio or a newspaper is a luxury. Those who know Modi only as the PM, those women whose first priority is to feed the family, those who drape their malnourished bodies with half of the saree, and worry about what will they wear once that piece of cloth gets torn, wouldn’t really care or even be able to picture Modi as the sex symbol.

People who want to get noticed with these stupid words are those hollow individuals who neither know sex, nor symbolism, let alone village and its women! The women whose life struggles start with the doors and end in the courtyard, whose hard work goes to and fro in a straight line from work to the kitchen, admiring a sex symbol doesn’t make much of a difference.

Pseudo-feminists would perhaps ask me how I could possibly know the sexual desires of village women. My response would be the same – what do they know about their sexual desires or its priority in the lives of these women who long wait for a roof, food, water, clothes, and children’s education? For every Sunita, Gita, Radha and Salma of these so-called journalists and their articles, I can bring ten Mala, Nida, Minakshi, Varsha and Bahaar. Putting a few names and attributing words to them doesn’t make an article meaningful or acceptable, nor does putting in a psychologist’s statement!

What if someone were to write about how some Gandhi is the object of a TikTok wannabe’s sexual desire? Will Shekhar Gupta give it space on his portal? Will Shekhar Gupta publish and share this stupidity even if the writer puts in statements and videos for authenticity? I don’t think Walk The Talk Shekhar Gupta will be able to walk this talk.

If he is ready to do that, he should be ashamed of himself and his journalism that an editor working for him can entertain this kind of filth for more than four seconds. ‘Is Narendra Modi a sex symbol!’ This is what journalism has come down to? Do we have nothing left to question the government or political parties?

There is no fixed definition of who can or cannot be a sex symbol. Shekhar Gupta can be a sex symbol and so can I, but that’s not our job. We are journalists, Modi is a political leader and Hrithik Roshan is an actor. A person whose career thrives on his body and its attractiveness, for them an article detailing out why Hritik is a sex symbol for college girls makes sense.

But, for a person whose whole life has been political, a person who has seen and heard all sorts of allegations but nothing could be proven, he is being trivialised with such kind of words. Shekhar Gupta must have covered tens of elections, interviewed some hundred leaders, must have talked with a few thousand people from political parties, but this kind of article shows how far he has gone for a few hits on his portal that he has to share an article that has Narendra Modi and sex symbol in the same line.

Articles are sold while keeping in mind its timing and relevance. I am using the word ‘sold’ because I don’t find any purpose of such articles. If it is election time, journalists are advised to look for election related developments like history, data, statements, rallies, opinion, ground reports etc. But where does Gupta ji go? Shekhar Gupta, the Chief of Editors Guild is focused on a colleague trying to justify the notion of Modi being a sex symbol, while he is sharing it from his handle to garner a few hundred hits.

What does this article mean? What does society gain from this kind of information? What’s the positive or negative impact of Modi being a so-called sex symbol on the society? These absurdities are born out of empty-headed editors who entertain these stupidities just because the internet has free space.

Those who are thinking I am taking a moral stand must know that it is not about morality or ethics but also about the responsibility of journalism. There is neither a purpose nor any meaning as far as this article goes, and it shouldn’t be defended. Journalists are hanging on to the doors of ideologies but never accept it.

After going through the article we come to know that the writer has put in the opinion of a psychologist so that it at least seems like something serious has been done. This is often a tool used by some people to try to put a stamp of authenticity to something as trivial as this piece of work where patriarchy, marriage and sex have all been put as synonyms while asking ladies of the village if they want to marry Modi.

As if all other questions that directly affect the lives of these village women have become irrelevant! Every single one of these women might have something, negative or positive, to add about Modi that has some political or social relevance. There can be stories if they were benefitted by Ujjawala scheme, if they had toilets in their homes, did they get LED lights from Saubhagya scheme, were they able to get assistance for their girl’s education, did government schemes affect their household budget, are they using the roads to reach the markets, the list is endless.

But a journalist looking for that unique angle can ask these women if they want to have sex in the toilets provided under Swachchta? Would they enjoy having sex under blue LED light provided under Soubhagya? If they would like to have sex after preparing tea with the help of gas cylinder from Ujjawala? Would they enjoy sex on the roof of the house built under PM Awas scheme?

This could then be turned in to a brand new article with the sellable headline- ‘Sex appeal in Modi’s schemes and village women’. Of course, I am just floating an idea here. The rest depends on Shekhar Gupta. It is him who needs to decide if he wants to send his reporters to a few villages around Delhi. And to top it off, at last, a psychologist’s analysis must be inserted – “See, Modi has given cylinders, electricity, toilets… so these women are emotionally attached to him. These emotions can, you know, sometimes go wild… Need I say more? Possibilities abound for the soulless, gutless pens for hire. 

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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अजीत भारती
अजीत भारती
पूर्व सम्पादक (फ़रवरी 2021 तक), ऑपइंडिया हिन्दी

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