By Umang Saigal:
When the world sleeps, they are awake; with their teardrops on fire and fearlessness in their breath. They travel, they capture, in the darkness, to enlighten us, to show us the unseen, experiencing the smell of corruption, injustice, compassion and what not. They hear the unheard mysteries, taste the abominable crimes and yet smile upon the hard truth and unveil the astonishing realities of the world. Journalism, we call it, the third eye to the present world. But there lies a distinct aberration in what it is and how people acknowledge it.
With power lies responsibility. The responsibility to be the watchdogs of society, to showcase the unusual and present it as white and not grey. Not because they are entitled to do so but because we trust them. We do. But should we blindly trust them?
There have been instances where Indian media has twisted facts to create a story that may instigate more people and hence increase their business and visibility. One day, a leading English newspaper published on its front page a photograph of Justice Gyan Sudha Misra of the Supreme Court with the caption: “Supreme Court Judge says that her daughters are liabilities.” This was a distorted and fallacious item of news, published on the front page. He was referring to the financial liabilities he had, and he then mentioned that he also has two daughters who are yet to be married. Though it was quite vague to mention something like that, it was still blown vastly out of proportion.
There are other methods as well like ‘paid news‘ that has become quite prominent these days. Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd, which owns the Times of India, is reported to have asked celebrities and the wealthy to pay for favorable coverage. They have offered a “private treaty” agreement, which accepts an equity stake in a company in return for favorable coverage.
Now this is something highly unacceptable. Also, the media often portray non-issues as real issues, while the real problems stay sidelined. For instance, the personal lives of celebrities are periodically targeted to divert and distract viewers from the issues of more importance. It is of eminent importance to remind the Indian media that ratings don’t last long, but good journalism does.
Commercialization has given us competition but it sometimes kills the essence of situations. Nothing proves this better than the current plight of journalism. Sometimes I feel this kind of competition has ruined it all, but then it has taught us the best ways to mesmerize.
Manipulation and diplomacy today have become synonymous to journalism. The incident of JNU where certain students were declared by reputed media men as terrorists was one such incident. Cooked up stories were sold at high prices. Journalism has hence turned into a conniving art of storytelling.
But does this storytelling entertain the youth of today? Not all. It is of utmost importance to rejuvenate the strategy to penetrate audience who desires quality content and unbiased news. For those who feel otherwise, I beg your pardon, but I don’t think journalism is a source of entertainment.
The onus for responsible journalism doesn’t just lie with the media houses but also with laymen citizens like you and me. The change can only be broadcast when the responsible citizens of India develop an urge and hunger for the truth instead of simply being consumers signing up for whatever is available.