Media Savvy Jackass: You’ll Believe Anything!

mediaGetting a media job (any job for that matter) was very tough in 1983. I needed a job very badly since I had to take care of my higher studies then. Luckily, I got a small job as sub-editor in a vernacular weekly. Pay was very meager. The first work assigned to me was to write “astrology column” as the astrologer who had been writing the weekly column suddenly died in an accident.

“But sir, I know nothing about astrology…”I said

“Go through the old copies yaar and compile a new one…” the editor said curtly.
I have gone through the old issues and wrote down some rubbish things under each star for 27 stars.

The biggest surprise came in form of huge pile of ‘letters to the editor’. Many people said that the prediction was very accurate! The editor congratulated me. He asked me to (permanently) handle the column and offered extra payment. His righteousness didn’t sync with that of mine. Hence I refused. Natural outcome = he was kind enough to sack me.

While I was working in a national investment magazine, a public relations officer (PRO) contacted me with an exclusive story about his company. It was about a listed company XYZ (can’t give the name) that went public with a premium initial public offer (IPO) two years ago. He produced account statements and documents that would convince you that XYZ was incurring huge loss. It window dressed the bottom-line. Its order-booking position was zero for the next year…. Everything appeared true. I carried the story.

Same day, I saw lot of other publications carried the same “exclusive” story. The PRO was not reachable on phone. The shares of the company nose-dived from Rs48 to Rs 5. Later, I came to know about the manipulation done by the promoter of XYZ with fake documents. XYZ had actually got very huge export order. The promoter bought back all the shares at Rs 5 which he had sold at a premium two years ago. I became a JACK ASS. (Now people say regulators are strong)

I was shocked and upset. I contacted my chief editor and explained. He said, “Don’t worry. I know you are an honest editor and you don’t invest a single paisa in shares.” It was a shallow pat on the shoulder.

“Sir, I feel morally guilty, lot of investors lost their money…”

“The story was carried in many publications…So it was not your story. Don’t worry about investors – they invest money not for the love for humanity- they are just a greedy lot. So how can be you guilty…?”

“No sir – I can’t work with this anymore. I am sorry.” I had to resign the job and then struggled for 4 months without any job. I don’t have any great ethics in life. But I was aware of a logical fact that if I become part of…..

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By
Udaylal Pai
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