RECENT revelations that scores of journalists in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh blatantly accepted bribes and expensive plots of land from a former state chief minister to bolster his image have generated a heated debate. Mulayam Singh Yadav, recently replaced as state chief minister, reportedly disbursed around 30 million rupees (HK$7.8 million) to journalists, in return for them praising his policies. The names of the guilty writers are to be tabled in the state assembly later this month, while a blacklist of those 'tainted' has already been published in several newspapers. But aside from its brush with corruption, which has struck at the roots of most professions across the country, journalism in India's national dailies and magazines today is no longer fun or exciting. The capital city of New Delhi, in its remoteness, sets the political perspective for most journalists, hogging headlines and defining the paradigms of national perception and concern. Influential journalists comment authoritatively on important events in other parts of India, exclusively from Delhi. It reminds one of Shah Alam, the latter-day Mughal ruler of India of whom it was pityingly said 'from Delhi to Palam [a distance of 32 kilometres] stretches the kingdom of Shah Alam' as he ruled with token sway over a truncated Hindustan. This lesser Mughal had little choice in the matter. History had presented him with a splintered empire. Ironically, the same territorial analogy applies to modern journalists who have reduced their canvas to the federal territory of New Delhi. For them, Delhi and country are synonymous and Delhi's aspirations are India's aspirations. These limitations, however, are reduced even further. The boundaries of this outlook are confined principally to the 40-odd-square-kilometre area of colonial Delhi designed by Sir Edwin Lutyen in 1911, where India's top legislative, executive and judicial bosses live. Here the reality of the rest of India - a non-existent infrastructure, overflowing drains, power failures, food shortages, cholera and other disease - is kept away by an army of conscientious officials. For journalists, the self-perpetuating antics of these leaders living in these surroundings have become an obsession. Mindlessly they report their activities, and parrot their attitudes and what pass for thought processes. Priorities in reporting the rest of the country are judged by the simple formula of proximity to Delhi. Whatever threatens Delhi merits immediate attention. Hence, the northeastern states, once again racked by militant violence after a period of quiet, impinge little on the national media's consciousness. And, last year's plague became real only after the first suspected case hit the capital. The telephone has replaced on-the-spot investigation and the end result the following morning is sketchy, boring and unedited. The malaise of indifference and cockiness exists all the way up the greasy journalistic ladder. Senior journalists are jostling each other in the breathless game of musical chairs to join the burgeoning gang of syndicated columnists, most of whom are low on ideas and syntax and high on hackneyed concepts. The routine is clear cut - today's inexperienced reporter/correspondent is tomorrow's mediocre editor who in turn graduates to become an infinitely boring and mostly unreadable columnist. Gone is the irreverence, camaraderie and curiosity which made Indian journalism exciting and challenging not that long ago. And, lamentably, no longer are journalistic reputations in India built on relentlessly exposing corruption, police atrocities or political scandals. New recruits scramble to be on the political beat, shunning city beats like crime, university or the corporation - all of which provide excellent training to chronicle bigger events later on. And, when selling newspapers is equated by most owners with hawking consumer goods, a majority of relatively senior and experienced journalists have become tied to their corporate perquisites like flats, chauffeur-driven cars and lavish expense accounts. But when faced, as everyone is at one time or another, with the prospect of compromising professional integrity and keeping the goodies or erring on the side of professionalism and running the risk of doing without them, unfortunately, there are not that many journalists in Delhi today ready to stand up and be counted. Proliferating television channels, however, may have the potential to deliver us from it all. And, given the run on several tentative television channels by scores of print media hacks, it is widely believed that they realise their comeuppance is imminent.