V brought up a good point last night when I told her about the troublesome CG-dinner piece: what really would have happened if we’d posted the entire controversy and really only checked with him about his verbatim comments? He’d ask us to retract it, but it’s not as if we wouldn’t be right – and it’d be published, anyway.
Instead, I’d sent him the entire article, he’d had his secretary respond with “kindly use this corrected version and no other”, and then we’d back-and-forthed about a couple of stylistic/grammatical changes. Tame for an editor-in-chief who’s weathered The Temple Story, the Event Review Story, and the Crazy Copolov Comments Story. Also, for someone who keeps whining about journalistic integrity and how the CG killed it, incredibly hypocritical.
I’ve been thinking about it since then, and all I can say was that it’s probably safe cowardice. We’ve had to deal with separate powerful entities before, of course, but none of them were extensions of the Indian government. Not that the GOI could get to me, but the fact remains that many of the kids who were there that dinner, and especially the one or two caught up in the debated issues, were Indian passport holders. I’m not sure how exactly the GOI works, but I don’t like the thought of them getting into trouble because they spoke their minds.
And this is not the sort of gentleman, I believe, who thinks very much of the first amendment. It was quite obvious through the dinner that his primary purpose was to make sure that India was presented to the world the way the government thought would be the least damaging – which is understandable, but not an accurate reflection of the state of affairs in the country. Do I want to spend weeks haggling over the nuances of my writing with a man like this? Not really.
I wouldn’t even mind that possibility if it weren’t for the fact that, again, it would be a government entity we’d be up against – the entire process of opposing them would’ve been far worse. We would publish; they could ask us to modify or retract; we would refuse; and then I’m not sure what would’ve happened. How tough could GOI be, and how long would we want to keep opposing them? I don’t know, and I don’t know if we would want to find out.
The point is, we – meaning the organization I am in – need to figure out what to do in situations like these. Our “policy” right now is a bit like my own policy because I’m generally the one who deals with this, and I tend to err on the side of caution. But what’s our general policy going to be, especially after I leave? When we say “we publish everything”, how are we going to be both professional and accurate, and sensitive to the grey areas? Do we really have the ability and the mental strength to potentially get into conflict with someone as “big” as the GOI? I really don’t know if we should, or could.