This blog is in defence of gossip handles that have suddenly mushroomed as twitter handles. Lutyens' spice, masala and insider are welcoming additions on twitter war zones. With the exception of few tit bits, the initial dose is not exactly a treasure trove of information, yet it is promising stuff.
As expected, identity of those dishing out gossips is wrapped in mystery. But then, most gossip columns in mainstream newspapers do not carry by-lines. Those who are brave enough to put name, are disliked, feared and secretly admired.
Unlike the West, gathering political gossips in India is a challenging task. The political class is generally wary of media. While it is ever willing to share dirty secrets of political rivals, there is no tradition of confirming or authenticating true nuggets that place in cabinet meetings, party congresses, parliamentary board or working committee meetings. Gossip writer is often left with the option of dropping gems of info or risk silencing conscience/established journalistic practices.
Mercifully, Lutyens' Delhi has a handful of politicians who share gossips to strengthen their ties with media. These practitioners are a delight to observe. Invariably, the one holding durbar is quick to scan the gathering and identify carriers. Next task is delay and wait for “undesirable” elements to leave who either have a potential of carrying tales to the rival camp or act as spoilers. Once the ground is relatively secured, everyone leans forward as sealed lips start speaking. Most political journalists prefer this cosy moment over any amount of sumptuous meal or liquid diet.
There are unwritten ground rules of avoid taking notes or posing counter questions. Protecting source identity is obvious. Gossip writers are expected to take some creative liberty but sticking to “spirit” of information is a must condition.
Like bad news, gossip travels faster than light. The wheel moves and every hand oils the wheel as it runs. There are no dearth of seasoned journalists who “habitually” pass on gossip to armed-chair columnists, forever hungry to get genuine nuggets of info. These “unsung heroes/heroines” draw utmost satisfaction from seeing gossips published.
At times, there are skirmishes too. I was witnessed to an incident when a party spokesman was busy bitching about his in-house political rival when his phone rang. The rival on other side was hearing the conversation from another phone used by a journalist friend transmitting it. The gossip distribution was read faced. Betrayal was so intense that he stopped holding “off the record” briefing.
Offering unsolicited advice is not desirable. However, as a veteran, I am tempted to risk it. Lutyens' spice, masala insider and others in gossip circulation business would be better off observing some basics:
1. Never get personal or use forum to settle scores.
2. Always keep larger public interest in mind.
3. Try authenticating, verifying, double checking, cross-checking before circulating.
4. Use commonsense. Experience would tell how a politician would react or comment in a given situation.
5. Listen to inner voice.
6. Avoid gossips about media practitioners as much as possible. We are neither celebrities nor newsmakers.