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t is very easy for the media to exaggerate anything to solve their purpose and oblige their masters. But, when we talk about media or journalism ethics, we are the spoilers at large. I would like to cite one example here: On August 6, there was a press conference in Delhi about NITI Aayog’s new initiative. We spoke to a gentleman, who plays a key role in this establishment, who happened to say that Modiji has lied about many things and everything is fair in the election. Our newspaper made a big headline, the so and so authoritative person called Modi a liar. Trust me, this could have been the headline for me, people would have enjoyed reading the content but it also had another angle to it, his intent of saying was, Modi could not fulfil all the promises he made as everything is fair in politics; what he said during the elections rallies were jumlas but after coming to power, he has worked hard towards development. I think, now you readers don’t need much elaboration on it. I could have easily made a sensational story, but I chose to highlight the good initiative taken by the NITI Aayog because that was more in the public interest. I made all the necessary changes in the story. However, that’s not the case in the media world today.
Being sensational and shallow can be a much easier way out than to present a great analysis. I’ll give another example: There was a small news item that Priyanka Chopra was going around with a guy younger than her and some rumours that she is already engaged to him! A news channel carried that as its the main story. But, the only problem was that they had absolutely no new information or images to prove her marriage. They had made a hodgepodge of her Instagram clips and pictures and kept repeating the same statements and the same collage. I wondered how long it would last and they managed to keep it up for 7-8 minutes! There’s no shortage of archival news, snippets, clips related to populist stuff like film stars and cricketers. But if they had wanted to do a 10-minutes special show on farmer suicides, they would have required much more legwork, depth, and exclusive content. If they talk about Gauri Lankesh or other rationalists’ death, they would displease a certain section of people who are their favourite viewers. They can discuss the education system, poverty, policy failures and much more but all that requires a lot of authentic data and efforts while gossips need no approval or authenticity. As long as such news is getting telecasted, even government is at peace because people’s attention is diverted from the real issues.
If you remember, during the demonetisation, the unauthentic pictures of new Rs 2,000 notes went viral on social media after Zee News published that “Rs 2,000 note comes with a micro Nano GPS chip, to track the exact location of the currency across the world”. Later on, the RBI and the government clarified that the note doesn’t come with any GPS technology. However, no one held this journalist responsible for spreading false news, because he was diverting the attention of people from the side effects of demonetisation. The irony of India is a social platform that brings us updates from around the web world to keep us updated on current affairs, political and alternate news, entertainment with sarcasm, and above all the TRUTH.
General incompetence and ignorance, a journalist has to have a general idea about everything. However, there are many who have a general idea about nothing. Reporters are shifted from beat to beat throughout their careers. Some become subject matter experts but most simply go through the motions. TV anchors and News Deskies have to be Mr know-it-all or the presentation may fall flat. Media houses don’t believe much in knowledge-based training programmes and workshops. Everything has to be learned on the job. Not everyone copes, leading to such simple errors that any basic expert of a particular field could point out. Again, ignorance and incompetence can be covered up in many other professions but gets brutally exposed in the media. Competition and Money Liberalisation have led to many problems like the 2G Scam. It has also led to an absolute explosion of media companies. Profits and the sheer necessity of staying afloat dictate editorial policy and populist news. “Serious” and “developmental” journalism gets pushed to the backseat. “Paid news” is also used to pad up the bottom line. Freedom of the Proprietor, not Press, Traditionally Indian newspapers, has been one-man organisations. There was no Freedom of the Press, but the freedom of the proprietor of the press. The owner usually unilaterally decides what the editorial policy or political slant would be. With the advent of TV, not much has changed and a sole TV anchor becomes the face of the channel and it is his personality that dictates what the channel should be like. If you’ve noticed the Proximity and Behind the Scenes, they all are politician’s Men — then you’ll notice the reporters struggling to make a sense of all the murky events that ultimately became the scandal. Closed doors greeted them everywhere and finally an unknown source to bail them out. In India, the journos are too close to the VVIPs. Reporters hobnob with the Ministers. Editors wine and dine with the high and mighty of the land and some even play unofficial power brokers. It’s difficult to maintain the objectivity if you’re that close to the subject you are covering. You have absolutely no idea of the behind the scenes that trade between the media and politicians. Hostility is the New Mantra in the pre-liberalisation era, newspapers used to be termed pro-establishment or anti-establishment. Nowadays, there seems to be a single mantra called “Confrontationist”. So if it’s not Bollywood or Cricket, then it’s confrontation in politics. News coverage automatically veers around that and TV channels find discussion panellists shouting at each other. That’s one reason why the whole Anna Hazare show was covered like a mega-event and now zeroed down to nothing. We questioned the earlier government on the implementation of Lokpal but now we are silent on these very issues. Media is living in double standards and they are agenda driven.
To be continued……
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