Much of what has been reported has not come as a surprise for most who have been on the inside. I saw a lot of this first-hand in 2002, when I was still part of the editorial set up, and could never really figure out how to make my peace with it. Somehow you are made to understand that this is how things are, get on with it. Why I finally left the editorial side of things about a year or so after that had a lot more to do with the fact that I just was not cut out for being a journalist. I did not have the persistence, patience or the thick skin required for it. Nor could I figure out the incredibly petty politics and other weirdness that accompanied it. Believe it or not, the business/operations side of it was much better compared to the editorial.
I was reading Indrajit Gupta's piece on the whole mess and was quite amused. He mentions how young journalists, who are not as well trained/mentored as an older generation used to be, are easily swayed by the temptations of planted information and leaks. The nice sleight of hand he pulls off in the argument is to absolve the senior journalists (most of those who are on the tapes could not have been called either “young” or “junior” in the past decade) and let it all rest on the kids who are not trained well enough. True, there is an issue with the quality of the younger professionals these days, but they did not cause this and the senior ones are the gatekeepers. The buck stops there.
The extent of all this is much beyond what is spoken or written about. PR companies have extensive profiles of both publications and their employees. It is well tracked, catalogued and often profiled to the extent of how should a story be pitched to you if you are working a beat that their client has interests in. That you are getting played is often a fact that you are not aware of even when you strongly believe you are not getting played. Fancy junkets and deep throats have long been a part of the industry, I am yet to come across any journalist who says “no” to either or both. If you work the beat, you always have to work your sources, it is just that the information is a lot more valuable these days, heavily incentivizing the plants. Consequently, it needs a lot more of vetting and scrutiny. But who has the time for all of that?