Let’s begin the year with us, the journalists. All of us in this profession would know the danger of falling prey to planted news. So, we remain cautious. If that caution is missing or compromised, then the credibility of the publication, the broadcaster and of course the journalist is lost. And that’s what happens to Oscar Pinto, the reporter of The Newsroom — venerable English daily of the country, when the published news of the arrest of Bombay don Narayan Swamy by Police Commissioner Donald Fernandez turns out to be wrong. What follows is a tale of raw power, sleaze, wits and dirty tactics used by all the sides, in Oswald Pereira’s debut thriller, The Newsroom Mafia.
Pereira, who has been a journalist for over 30 years, offers the insight through his blunt portrayal of the nexus between a section of journalists and the vested interests — politicians, bureaucrats, police and mafia. “Lot of things that I have seen were in the back of my mind. The book is based on my experiences, but the story in the book never really happened,” he claims. “All the characters are fictionalised.”
Beginning it as a non-fiction “tell-all” work, Pereira soon realised that the book can be turned into a fiction. “As I wrote, the plot developed. But I didn’t really think that I will be writing a thriller,” he says. However, he was certain about “telling the outside world” about that section of journalists who compromise their integrity. “Journalists criticise others. But they never put themselves in the dock. I wanted to write this book as a kind of introspection and make it clear that we are not as holy as we all claim to be,” Pereira asserts.
But he makes it clear that it did not intend to target the media through his work. “I didn’t target anyone. Neither did I want to sermonise. But I have seen how young people, who get into the profession as honest journalists, can get sucked by corruption... getting paid for printing a news, or for not printing something,” he explains. “But most of the journalists in this country are honest. And most of my colleagues have been supportive, and have praised this effort,” he adds.
I ask him how difficult was it for him to keep the balance between a journalist’s objectivity and his creativity while writing this thriller. “It was not easy to write. This book is my labour of love for the profession that I carried out objectively. Moreover, the aim was introspection. I had to keep that in mind,” Pereira replies. “As a writer, one has to keep the readers in mind and write responsibly, not to spread the muck too much, yet tell the truth,” he says as we wrap up.