By Nupur Dogra:
Media is like a weapon, which if used strategically, can prove to be an asset but, if it falls into the wrong hands, can, in no time turn itself into a cause of mass destruction. In India, media has become one of the most powerful sectors of an industry operating in every possible available stream. Be it politics, economy, Bollywood, a small village or a metropolitan city, media is everywhere. When a common man watches a news channel or reads a newspaper, he is more likely to believe what he sees and reads instead of brooding on the very minute possibility that he may not trust the news. With such a power to influence people of a country, in a way which no other office or authority can do, comes the responsibility of handling such power sensibly by being unbiased while reporting and being exact and truthful. But today, with the commercialisation of media, anchors or journalists behave like judges of Supreme Court and adjudicate debates between famous personalities, putting words into their mouth and creating sensational news, running after the TRPs, not to forget the paid news, and the worst, their behaviour like loyal pets to political parties.
Indian democracy stands on the principle of checks and balances, thus no system or branch should be left untouched. When such immense power is given to media, there has to be proper scrutiny on their activities. With these challenges coming up, some of the responsible journalists and media persons have taken the broom in their hands to clean up the mess before it worsens to an extent that is irreparable. They call themselves media reformists. Following is the insight into two of the most prominent media reformist sites in India.
This website was created in March 2001, with an aim of scrutinising the working of all the possible branches of media. Be it print or electronic media, none is spared from the grilling. This website was launched by the Media Foundation, whose origin can be traced back to 1979. The sole objective of this media foundation was to protect, promote, and encourage all kinds of media. The belief, that by encouraging media, they can protect the freedom of speech and improve the quality of life motivated them to work with dedication for the betterment of media. The Hoot believes that the media in the subcontinent criticises everyone except themselves. This website has evolved out of the concerns of few practicing rational journalists about the recent alarming trends of media. Its structure has been formulated in a way to inspect the issues of precision, censorship, fairness, rights and responsibilities of the media. It was set up under the cost of Rs 2, 00,000 with a business plan to employ 200 journalists paying them Rs 100 per month. The Hoot had its share of ups and down, and in its second year, despite a strong readership, it faced problem in raising funds, since most media or business houses would be reluctant in associating themselves with something which criticises the mainstream media. The Hoot even went off air for two weeks. But now it has come a long way and generates its funds mainly from advertisements.
This website has a structure with different sections ranging from “media watch” (which watches all the actions of every existing news channels and newspapers in the country and criticises them for any misdeed), to media and conflict, ethics, etc. It has a separate section for film, tv and radio. Basically it is designed in a way such that no section of media is left untouched.
This website is different from “The Hoot” in a way that it is a bit satirical in nature and more fun to read, while the soul reason for its existence remains the same “turning mirror on one self”. The admins of this site are Madhu Trehan, Abhinandan Sekhri, Prashant Sareen, all of whom are experienced journalists and Roopak Kumar acts as the business head. Their tag line “sabki dhulai hogi” is self defining in nature. They work to ensure that none will be spared. They want to make a difference to the media while having fun along the way. This approach has been appreciated by many as it is not at all monotonous. Innovative names for various columns such as the working desk being called the “dhobi ghaat”, makes reading fun. Articles, cartoons etc are very attractive and at the same time does the job accurately. They not only criticise but also appreciate good work by journalists. This website is still fresh and new and has a long way to go.
In the times when journalism has turned into a business, such organisations are an asset to our country. Such sites are perfect personification of the thought “charity begins at home”; like others in the field, these people also could have given in to the demons of the industry, but they didn’t. They knew and owned the responsibility they had towards the society as journalists.