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Churnalism+ And The Desi Clique

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By Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar:

Writing something with a title comprising of the portmanteau of ‘churn’ and ‘journalism’ can be misleading: my article is hardly an exercise in linguistics or morphology. The word ‘churnalism’ was coined by Karin Wahl-Jorgensen in The Handbook of Journalism Studies, as mentioned in Wikipedia, with its ‘omniscience’ limited to the strength of its crowd-sourcing. As the origins of the portmanteau suggest, Churnalism is the kind of journalism that bears a lot of resemblance to stock churning: as in the latter, the former involves excessive back-and-forth ‘trading’ of the sensibilities of the consumers to strike up a ‘healthy’ rating in the public domain; the more the masala, the more the chutnification, the better. Churnalism is a term that describes a number of ill practices in journalism today, be it plagiarism or pre-packaged news-bites.

The reason I have titled this article as Churnalism+ instead of just Churnalism is because the original definition of the term is defined as the practice of fishing out news reports on the basis of press-releases and wire-reports. As is wont of the generation, it is my theoretical construct —and a practice seen in certain cases — that a journalist today would rather ‘manufacture’ some news than take the trouble of going through the PR roll. Unravel the ‘pre-packaged breaking news’ that you packaged initially to a gaping audience. Word-play? Hardly. This is what I call Churnalism of GenY or Churnalism+.

The recent case of ‘real-time coverage for capturing the culprits live’ of a molestation case in Guwahati and the subsequent hungama by the firebrand peasant-leader-turned-moral-messiah Akhil Gogoi may be an example of C’ism+. It was probably because this particular case had two things going for it: the prime accused Amarjyoti Kalita’s upstart nature that led him to carry out the heinous task AND upload the video, and the national news channels’ quickness in catching the scent in time, that it came out as a serious crime against womanhood. Although the gravity of the crime was highlighted, the aftermath of the case was mostly embroiled in the protest marches by Gogoi against News Live, a front-runner among the news channels of the Assamese media and incidentally owned by the spouse of Himanta Biswa Sarma, State Minister with the portfolios of Health & Family Welfare, Education and Implementation of Assam Accord (Source: Official Website of The Govt. of Assam) and a man with a political clout probably next to only that of the CM Shri Tarun Gogoi. Though it is yet to be proven, the very idea of C’ism+ being practiced in Indian media is not ill-founded.

C’ism+ is a dangerous tool in the hands of a media hungry for kudos even at the expense of morality and ethics. If there is even an iota of truth in the allegations that Akhil Gogoi is levelling against News Live, then the whole idea of media-liberty and unhindered freedom of expression stands as a flawed practice that needs censure. It is like the fake-encounters that certain police-personnel carry out for petty gratification. Such incidents only project a crude cut in the gem that our forebears envisioned the media as, in our country.

I would probably not be wrong in including the concept of paid news that is largely practiced in print media. Paid news has been a major issue plaguing the Indian media. The Radia-tapes incident brought to the fore the appreciable amount of influence that lobbyists have on the Indian media. Something that had dimensions relating to rural India was the case of GM Bt. Cotton crops in India. The furore over the rosy picture that a certain nation daily had sketched of the ground reality received national attention. This was a blatant and condemnable attempt by certain media-persons to condition the views of a section of society to the line they had been paid to portray. Thankfully, awareness generation of any contemporary society is not confined to a single channel of news today. Even with the clamour of the news-channels on television with all their Breaking News and special reports streaming out of the idiot box every passing hour, and the dailies with their op-eds, the viewer/reader often fails to look through the veils of biased reportage.

Gone are the days when Doordarshan and AIR were the iconic elements of Indian media. Gone are the days when ideals were sacrosanct for the scribes. C’ism+ is a reality of the day and needs to be fought against in the same spirit as we are all fighting for a potent Lok-Pal. I would like to conclude with a quote by Graham Greene that aptly describes the irony of our age:

A petty reason perhaps why novelists more and more try to keep a distance from journalists is that novelists are trying to write the truth and journalists are trying to write fiction.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar is a student of Physics at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi.To read his other posts, click here.[/box]


You must be to comment.
  1. Amal

    media sensationalize and hardly they sensitise

    1. Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar

      True. Good point.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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