Lifestyle & Belief

RoadNotes: India takes the power of the press to a new level

This morning on my way home from my jog, I found myself behind a guy on a motorbike. He was wearing a jet black T-shirt with bold block letters across the back in brilliant white. The letters read: PRESS.

In one way, it was nothing new. Almost every car in Delhi these days has a press sticker. They aren't actually journalists, of course. They just like to lord it over the cops, threatening with media exposure, or they've just decided it looks cool. 

But in another sense, this was a real development. This guy had basically invented a "PRESS" uniform, suggesting that working for the media in India has obtained the same cache that the NYFD, NYPD and FBI acquired after September 11 (the DEA, not so much).

How did it happen? 

It wasn't writers. It was television news guys. They're just as annoying here as they are in the US, of course. But even if they're not always focused on the right issues, they have real power, I was reminded by an Indian friend who returned for a brief visit last month.

A bunch of thugs who'd lain in wait for a bar bouncer and beat the daylights out of him had just been arrested following a day-long media blitzkrieg, and my friend was amazed. 

"Twenty years ago, if a bunch of goons paid off the cops and beat you up, that *&%4# didn't happen, man," he said. "The only thing you could do was to pay the cops an even bigger bribe and get your own bunch of goons together."

So, not everything about India's booming TV news anchors is bad, I guess.