Jul-Sep 2010

Mahesh Peri: The Media Today

Mahesh Peri, Publisher, Outlook Magazine, was at the Indian School of Business (ISB) to talk about media and life at the news desk.

“Baptism of fire,” is how Mahesh Peri, Publisher, Outlook magazine described his foray into the world of media and news reporting. Moving from a comfortable position in investment banking, Peri was slapped (literally) on one occasion by members of a certain hard-line group, in the early days of his job. This led him to question his choice of career. But that initial apprehension has transformed into a great sense of satisfaction, as evident from his insights on the multifaceted role of the media and prospects of a career at the news desk.

“The role of the media is to talk about what is not happening in the way that should happen. We are watchdogs,” he asserted. It is important for the media to maintain integrity – by being outspoken and “calling a spade a spade.” Only then can the media be considered truly independent.

Our purpose is to create a debate. Can we put in information that has not been published till that point in time to create a debate in this country?

But the problem with the media organisations is that as they move up the rank, they become increasingly pro-establishment. “As you keep moving from number three to number one, you start moderating your voice – and in that moderation, you veer yourself towards a pro-establishment or a non critical stance,” he observed.

Besides non-partisan reporting, the media plays the critical role of questioning and putting forth alternative points of view. “Our purpose is to create a debate. Can we put in information that has not been

published till that point in time to create a debate in this country?” he questioned. He cited the example of how, after India became a nuclear-powered nation, Outlook was criticised for questioning whether nuclear power was essential for India’s security. At a time when the country was beaming with pride over nuclear empowerment, this alternative perspective, despite examining the crucial broader implications, was not welcome.

Talking about the commercial aspect of media, Peri confessed that it is challenging to maintain a “good excel sheet,” while abiding by certain principles that require him to publish stories that portray the advertisers negatively. In addition to this pressure, news desks also have to deal with the expensive legal suits that follow after the investigative stories are published.

Nevertheless, Peri also talked about aspects of the job that provide satisfaction – the fact that he is in a position to make a difference and “give voice to the billions of people who are furious, who are angry but their voice is not heard.”

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