Why the Penpricks expose was anonymous

BY Frederck Noronha| IN Media Practice | 30/09/2007
"The media in Goa is either owned by corrupt petty crooks or the mining biggies. While the former are vindictive, no one dare take on the latter."
FREDERICK NORONHA interviews them

Strange things happen in Goa. Besides governments toppling with amazing regularity, and politicians hopping sides, a media-blog that focussed on regional issues accused a prominent newspaper with being ready to sell its editorial

space for Rs 300,000.


Penpricks.blogspot.com, which has been drawing some audiences with its sharp-tongued comments on the Goan media, went one step further with its "sting" ... on the media!


The blog explained: "Penpricks posed as business consultants and booked nearly a dozen editorials for Rs 300,000 per piece for the tourism-frenzied months of October and November. Penpricks posed as Manoj Rastogi, business manager of a fictitious Delhi-based vacation-marketing company called "Acer Consultants", which was interested in writing and placing six commercially-driven editorials as part of its Rs

35-lakh advertising campaign in Goa.

 "See http://penpricks.blogspot.com/2007/09/big-one-cash-for-editorials.html


That Penpricks is an anonymously-run blog complicates issues. Some have argued that the media in Goa deserves such a blunt treatment. Others, like Gomantak editor Derek Almeida, called the blog one run by "Mr No Name No Face" and added "The dark shadows [of anonymity] of the alley are for pimps."


For its part, Penpricks promises its readers to help them "discover the rotund flanks and the shaggy underbelly of the Goan media. And of course, the rare honest rib."


This email interview, that focusses on the issues involved:


FN: What has been the response to the ¿cash-for-editorials¿ scam?


Penpricks: From the journos in Goa? There has been an avalanche of silence. That¿s understandable, cause in their unusually long, insipid lifetime Goan journos – both English and vernacular -- have three pilgrimage destinations each to pay homage to.


The English language journos make it from the OHeraldO, to The Navhind Times and to The Gomantak Times, while the vernacular counterparts run from Tarun Bharat, to Gomantak and Goa Doot. After doing these rounds, they run out of options. So it¿s generally a shut-up-to-survive dictum out here.


But other folk too have been reading in too. The response to our less-than-six-month old blog [http://penpricks.blogspot.com] has been very healthy.


Following our ¿cash for editorials¿ investigation, we¿ve been asked by an Aussie tech magazine to state our take on how technology empowers readers [http://penpricks.blogspot.com/2007/09/penpricks-on-techgoss.html]. Another watchdog website to be launched in October has requested us to use the ¿cash for editorials¿ as its launch story.


FN: Why should I take you seriously, if you are not willing to add your name to the story?


Penpricks: How does a name help?


Take the example of the OHeraldO, a newspaper we love to "quote" the most. We have brought to light how they have been shamelessly plagiarizing editorials and stealing articles from newspapers all over the world over the last six months. And we are not just pulling this from out of our hats. We have shown our readers both the original and the plagiarized version each time we leveled the charge.


In the "cash for editorials" story, we have reproduced the email conversations we¿ve had with Herald?s representatives.


On the other hand, the Herald does offer you names on its print line -- Editor Robin Abreu, Editor-in-chief Raul Fernandes. Just because they lend their name they ought to be taken seriously? And we, cause we function anonymously, we ought to be ridiculed? Is that what you are trying to say?


FN: All the same, how do you justify your own choice of anonymity? What makes signing your name so difficult?


Penpricks: Explain this? Why does the entire Goan media not have a single media review column?


The truth is the media in Goa is not only corrupt but is either owned by corrupt petty crooks or the mining biggies. While the former are vindictive and touchy, no one dare take on the latter.


We had an instance, when the owner of an English language newspaper (of the former sort) who actually called a meeting of his top brass to discuss as to whether they should report a people¿s agitation against a Jindal owned pollution-friendly factory in South Goa. The reason? The company had offered to place a series of ads, if the newspaper promised to block out unfavourable coverage.


FN: In a situation where everyone writes anything on anonymous blogs, what happens?


Penpricks: We took a while to hit an even readership keel. It takes a while to earn a bit of credibility. And what¿s the harm with anonymous blogs? Readers aren¿t fools. Sooner or later folks are going to figure out what the scam is.


FN: In terms of critics of your revelations, how would you categorise them?


Penpricks: In a way, we are laying the media wide open. Journos and their masters are really sensitive folk. We¿ve got our share of hate mail. There are people slam us for being anonymous.


There are those who slam us for being mean. There are those who accuse us conspiring to dilute people¿s faith in the media or whatever that means.


Journalists don¿t like their mistakes being written about. If reporting on the goings on in a government organization or a big firm makes for news, then why should the media worry about it being reported?


FN: If such allegations were made against you, what would be your defence?


Penpricks.blogspot.com: The posts on the blog are our best defence. We are a blog that believes in critiquing the media and we take pride in our humour and other investigative posts.


FN: Why the choice of just one paper (Herald) for most of your fire? Are they worse then the rest?


Penpricks: Yeah, we¿ve been asked this very often. Almost all of us pricks have worked in that place. And at a time when the newspaper generated original and investigative content.


Personally, we are saddened by the way things have turned out over the years. The umbilical cord may had dried and fallen off, but the body bears the trail.


Another reason why we feature the Herald often is that the place is really synonymous with "bad" journalism now. We¿d hate to let it slip to "worse" category.


FN: What do you see as the main current ills of the Goa media?


Penpricks: Lack of role models, lazy uninspiring editors, journalism being at the bottom of career lists for youngsters here, the control of the mining mafia over newspapers since Goa¿s liberation, absence of a national newspaper set up here to jolt these [local] newspaper proprietors.


FN: From here, where? What do you see as being needed to clean up the media, in a small place like Goa? Is a blog post enough? Even if done regularly?


Penpricks: A blog posts not enough. A thousand blogposts won¿t do that. We need options in the media here. There¿s no ulcer a good newspaper cannot cure.







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