Storm in a teacup?

IN Media Practice | 07/04/2009
How much of a big deal can a newspaper scooping ad industry awards become? A press freedom versus media ethics issue, no less.
The HOOT DESK looks at reactions all round.

A one-a-half-column, page one story in the Economic Times of March 31 has become a press freedom vs media ethics issue of all things, for the ad world. It concerns Goafest, the ad industry jamboree organized in the first week of April. Awards are given, and both this year and last year ET scooped them, and according to critics, played spoilsport by announcing winners in some categories. The chairman of Goafest thought the  printing of the report was "immoral and unethical".  It let to lots of indignation and hoopla, with the advertising and marketing website hosting feedback from a large number of readers, and the website from ad industry stalwarts.


What makes it interesting for the Hoot is how people see an issue like this.  Afaqs¿s Prajjal Saha thought ET¿s scoop was "a rather mindless interpretation of the freedom of press where the damage a report causes is far greater than any perceivable benefit..."  He also thought scooping the awards two years in a row amounted to systematical humiliation of Goafest, no less.  The Afaqs editor thought that his organisation could have got the story but would not have used it because the right to print without fear and favour has to be used with discretion.  At they blamed the jury members who sign non-disclosure agreements.   


A huge number of comments on the afaqs site had a fair number of people thinking ET had the right to report, others subscribed to the party pooper argument. They thought it was like giving away the end of a movie.


And then there was Campaign India whose editor turned sarcastic:


"The Economic Times broke the Abbys winners on the front page, just as they did last year. Well done, ET.


I only wish you were as efficient and persevering and farseeing in your core areas (the market capitalisation lost in the 480 point drop in the Sensex yesterday is bigger than the entire advertising and media industries).


So I wish you could have told us, last June, that the Sensex would tank to the 6000 mark.


I wish you could have warned us, last June, that the dollar would hit Rs. 50.


I wish you could have told your own management that newsprint prices would go through the roof"… and so on.


His punchline? "That¿s valuable breaking news. Breaking the Abbys winners is not."


Umm. Forecasting is not in the same category as breaking news, is it?


The comments that followed his piece included some swipes at the kind of newspapers TOI and ET are.


Then come the views of the advertising industry stalwarts, published by Campaign India.  That included the Bennett Coleman Executive President Bhaskar Das who is president of the Ad Club, Bombay and who, hardly surprisingly, blamed the jury:

"I must say that I am amazed. How did the results get leaked despite NDAs being signed by all the members of the jury who have the responsibility to keep the results confidential?


The media will do their job—and their dharma is to break stories which The Economic Times has done. Why is there a demand to rectify the media? It is all of us involved in the organisation of the Abbys who need to introspect and correct ourselves and ensure that such leaks do not occur. "


Apart from him and the chairman of the festival, 15 others were interviewed, including Sam Balsara, Prasoon Joshi, et al.  Seven thought it was the fault of the jury. Others sniffed that it was a highly irresponsible piece of journalism.


What do you think?



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