“Ashaant hokar chale gaye Sushant“, was the headline that began doing the rounds on a popular Hindi news channel moments after the media got wind of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. Things went from bad to worse when another one of those ‘popular’ news channels began harassing the late actor’s relatives for a byte. To put things simply, the Indian media is veering from information to ‘chaos’.
Gone are the days when journalism in India was synonymous with quality and credibility. However, these are all bygones. Welcome to 2020, a year where journalism, jingoism, rumour mongering, and herd mentality amount to the same thing.
No prizes for guessing: Media, too, is nothing but an economic unit. The pressure to ‘manufacture’ a smoking-hot headline is immense. Moreover, no longer does the media fraternity have a 24-hour deadline at its disposal. Deadlines have shrunk considerably ever since the online media boom began making its presence felt. Newer headlines are being churned out at a rate of knots to grab eyeballs.
Also, nobody waits for the morning newspaper these days. News stories begin doing the rounds on social media within a few moments of the event’s passing. What follows the event is a monumental barrage of likes, shares, and comments. Such is the pace at which news stories are created and consumed.
The relentless pace at which news stories are churned out makes it impossible for journalists to verify the facts. Given the time constraints, journalists are required to go all guns blazing. The ‘want’ to churn out stories at the speed of light is part of the ‘cancer’ that’s rotting the country’s media outlets. Also, gone are the days when judgements were delivered by the court of law. Judgments are ‘manufactured’ and delivered in newsrooms these days, it seems. SSR’s suicide/murder saga presents a perfect example of how not to go about the journalism business.
Journalistic practices have undergone a sea change ever since online journalism began making its presence felt. However, textbooks from the 1970s are still being used to teach journalism to aspiring journalists.
Having read a few of them myself, I can tell you with the utmost conviction that not all, but a considerable number, of those books are redundant in this day and age. The likes of Bob Woodward and Carole Rich are exceptional writers, but many of their works from the 1980s have now become redundant, all thanks to an ever-changing media landscape.
Herein, you can’t help but think of the old adage that everything in life is subject to change. Therefore, much like anything and everything else, literature pertaining to journalism, too, needs to undergo an overhaul.
What Has Led To The Putrefaction Of The Media?
It is via TV screens and smartphones that the masses are exposed to the rotting corpse that Indian media has become. Violence and warmongering have become ‘normal’ in 2020. The India-China border spat has taken the shape of an all-out media war between the two countries. At a time when the world is being ripped apart by a pandemic, such ‘media-wars’ can be termed as nothing but shameful, to say the least.
Fake news is yet another problem that’s wreaking havoc. It’s the latest of maladies and is robbing the masses of their common sense. According to a survey, about 50% of the respondents claimed to have seen or heard fake news of some sort. Many of these stories were ‘manufactured’ to leverage political or commercial gains. Not long ago, a journalist, of the stature of Rajdeep Sardesai, fell prey to fake news. The problem is much bigger than what meets the eye as it is difficult to pick out the genuine news stories.
Here’s the problem: the fine line between ethical journalistic practices, the right of the people to know, and the freedom of speech has become wafer-thin. Self-regulation isn’t the answer to anything.
Simply put, we do not need million-dollar media outlets, but responsible ones instead.