Discussions over Tea (Of course, cutting maar ke)

Friday, October 10, 2003

MEDIA : Ranting on the media

Disclaimer: This is a long and personal rant on the media and my opinions and frustrations with it. You will obviously disagree.

Every time I read a national daily or watch the news back home the question that begs to be answered is "What is the responsibility of the journalist?". Is the journalist only responsible for delivering the news to the audience? Or is the journalist supposed to be a moulder of public opinion? Note, that the latter, is a strong weapon; one which should be wielded with great responsibility. Or is the journalist just another professional out to earn his daily bread and who will take his orders from the editor on content and form?

I look at two different media, the web and TV and in India, the most popular pages for these www.rediff.com and Aaj Tak. Yet, in terms of content, these two, in my opinion are the worst. Yet what is it that makes them popular? Is it because they cater to our 24x7 information needs? Rediff, on it's first page splatters birthday wishes for some movie star/starlets and Aaj Tak covers Karishma Kapoor's wedding LIVE (?!?!?).
We're glued to sensationalism. We're shy away from opinions which aren't to our liking. We're becoming the 24x7 nation. Watch out USA, here we come!

Take an example of the recently concluded Cancun meet. The best reportage of the happenings and key issues I got were from the international media and from a few blogs. What was our media reporting? All our media went on and on (and on) about was how it was a great victory for India without obviously laying down the background and it's repercussions.

I just hate the lack of analysis done into most media reports these days. It's either a case of on-the-spot reporting or a case of cut-and-pastes done from other locations or from freelance reporting agents or agencies. Though these form most of the news, any analysis can be added from independent sources of information and opinion.

And while we're on the topic of columnists and editorials, does anyone else notice the lack of socio-economic reporting in the Indian media. Most columns and editorials which come up in most dailies and websites (including the famed Hindu) are political columns. Why does no one continue on the topic of social reforms or topics like healthcare, education, rural reform or consumer reform?

Someone once said, it is the journalist's responsibility "to make people care about things" and it is the editor's responsibility to "to find out what people need to know, and then to make them want to know it".

The rules for a journalist should be as follows -
  • The reporting should be truthful. If they're truthful, they can't be unfair.
  • The report has to deal with both sides of a story. Even if the other side cannot be covered in depth, make people aware of the other side in unambiguous words.
  • The reports should reveal as many as the causes and consequences of any any incident. It should not just be a "Incident W happened, X said this, Y said that" report.
  • The media should give voice to the voiceless. It should be a medium of outcry for each and every person who has been wronged or cheated.
  • And finally, tell the story even if it is unpopular to do so.

Finally, there was this thought from the managing editor of NYT back in 1880, which holds true even now -
There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, as an independent press. . . . The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. . . . . We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes. -- John Swinton (1829-1901), managing editor of the New York Times during the Civil War and later of the New York Sun, in a speech to journalists in New York, c. 1880.

End of Post

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