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Who watches the watchdog?




In Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel “Watchmen”, a group of motley heroes and antiheroes come together to unravel the truth behind the murder of their slain comrade, but their tale is as far removed from a superhero caper as you could imagine. At its heart, the novel offers social commentary and poses one central question; “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”. Loosely translated from Latin, it means “who watches the watchmen?”. Indeed, what happens when the police themselves are in need of some policing?

It is a question that we have pondered ever since it came to light that Newslaundry, a self-appointed watchdog that critiques the Indian media industry, published an article riddled with half-truths and discrepancies that unfairly maligned Team Marksmen, our parent company.

Newslaundry’s Modus Operandi

Crowdfunding is one of the ways Newslaundry goes about fighting on multiple legal fronts
Crowdfunding is one of the ways Newslaundry goes about fighting on multiple legal fronts

In an age where controversy grabs eyeballs and drives buzz, Newslaundry has carved a name for itself by regularly critiquing and disparaging media outlets. It even uses samples of video and audio clips from other news websites as part of its own shows, and is famously in the news for doing so. Regardless, this deliberately negative stance feeds into Newslaundry’s aim to increase its standing in the digital news space, stirring emotions to appeal to viewers to fork out for a paid subscription to their website, or fund the legal fights they find themselves mired in.

Newslaundry is a strong believer in paying for access to quality media

Social media has been a great leveller, democratising the playing ground, but it also has its downsides. If everyone is a journalist, is anyone really a journalist? Running an entirely subjective story that conveniently ignores the flip side of the argument while furthering your own narrative flies in the face of all things journalism; it is tantamount to propaganda.

Newslaundry has a history of publishing sensationalist reports to further their narrative, often without any evidence to verify its authenticity, and they have frequently had established media houses, anchors, and management in its crosshairs, such as TV Today Network and the Times Group. A routine Google search will throw up multiple results on this front, laying bare Newslaundry’s modus operandi; to target the media industry, often resorting to defamatory and derogatory coverage while doing so, in order to gain a foothold in news cyberspace.

Is Criticism Not Welcome?

Not at all. Criticism is always welcome. It acts as a counteractive force, bringing balance to any ecosystem. The expression of an opinion or criticism is an essential part of any public or private discourse. But what is deeply problematic is posing half-truths as objective fact with great authority, which serves to negatively influence opinion through disinformation. One cannot simply point to free speech and hide behind it to present opinions that malign a reputation when the opinion presented is skewed on account of being incomplete or simply misinformed.

Half knowledge is a dangerous thing; the assumption that you know the vast majority of a situation simply by extrapolating a few pieces of it is inherently flawed. Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle; a few pieces are not sufficient to piece together the whole picture. You need to be informed of the bigger picture, and cannot simply force a solution to fit how you see things, no matter how much you might want to do so or believe your assessment of the situation to be the right one.

So what does Team Marksmen do?

Simply put, Team Marksmen creates events built around industry verticals, and curates content for these events that offer insight to senior industry leaders.

As a part of these events, we also conduct research-led awards and recognition programs, with insights and recommendations shared with us by our research partner. This list derived from our partner identifies brands or leaders that are worthy of recognition in their industry.

Allow us to state this categorically; Team Marksmen does NOT charge for the awards/recognition conferred at its events, or even any speaking opportunities. However, if a brand or leader wishes to amplify its visibility at these events, we offer multiple media options to achieve this as a marketing support service. To reiterate, this is NOT a prerequisite for any recognition. In fact, all brands and leaders recognised at our events are mentioned in any subsequent press release and digital coverage.

And so, the question of monetizing these awards and recognitions simply does not arise. However, since media houses charge a fee for media coverage (as they are well within their rights to) for media visibility on their website, or channel, or publication, this cost is borne by the brand or leader. Hence, a clear distinction must be made between paying for the award or recognition in itself (which is absolutely not the case), and paying for media coverage (which is an industry-standard).

After Newslaundry’s story came to our attention, we wrote to them to clarify these points and offer our perspective. Interestingly, while the article was later updated to reflect the views of another renowned media outlet, our rebuttal was mysteriously absent. This is ironic since Newslaundry positions itself as David against Goliath, while clearly toeing the line on this one.

In Conclusion

In an age where sensationalism sells, it’s more critical than ever to ascertain the full facts of the situation before putting forth a story, especially if you claim to hold dear the principles of journalistic integrity (as Newslaundry does). If not, Newslaundry risks becoming the very thing they rail against, and someone will then have to watch the watchdog. Such is the circle of life.