Years from now, earnest journalism majors will study an episode set to air on Indian television later today, in which Barkha Dutt, a massively influential but ethically embattled TV news anchor, submits herself to public inquisition by a panel of her peers. Four flinty journalists will grill the anchor on the extent of her relationship with one of India’s most influential (and, some would say, murky) corporate lobbyists, with whom the anchor was clandestinely taped talking about how to get a pliable politician a job in the Indian cabinet—a placement that would have benefitted the lobbyist’s corporate clients to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. (One assumes that clips of the inquisition will be posted on Ms. Dutt’s NDTV website.)
Think—and I offer this rough-hewn equivalent only to bring the matter to life for an American readership—of Katie Couric as the anchor, caught on tape talking to the flack for Halliburton, on the subject of getting Halliburton’s preferred candidate the job of defense secretary in the run-up to a major war. And think, then, of an hour-long segment in which Couric sits down with, say, Charles Krauthammer, Fred Hiatt, Ken Auletta, and Katrina vandel Heuvel, and submits herself to on-air questioning on the subject—with the aim of explaining, as Dutt has sought to do, on Twitter, Facebook, and in a press release, how her conversation with the lobbyist was within the bounds of ethically acceptable journalism.