Tuesday, 27 September 2016

New Form of Entertainment: Journalism!

Journalism and social media today have converged together as a powerful medium. Flurry of news channels have cropped up in the last decade, which dish out the same news over and over again, albeit in a different format, but the content mostly remains the same. The threshold has been breached wherein no news channel today stands unique and has rather turned itself into a commodity.

And what can help sell this commodity? Sensationalism! The tiniest uninteresting point is displayed as the most important facet of the news; forget even if it is relevant at all or not, it is BREAKING NEWS still! All in the hope to garner few more TRPs than the rivals – to feed in the 24 X 7 news generating machine. And sometimes to create sensationalism, the news editors overlook the ethical aspects and undermine the consequences – putting a lot at stake, their lives, careers and even their country. Welcome to the dawn of new era of irresponsible journalism;

Excerpt from the book "Game of Anarchy"

Media today is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy. That is a very important role indeed, especially in democracies like India and USA where capitalism has taken over socialism in most of its forms. Though there are social policies that govern the core of the government objectives, it is fuelled through capitalistic means, thus creating a conflict between benefits provided vs benefits that actually reach the intended. Hence, it is imperative that Media should act as a watchdog and remain apolitical bringing in unbiased news coverage to the masses. Judiciary and Legislature are often bound by rules and regulations that prevent them to go beyond certain boundaries; and hence may not be able to check the excesses of the Executive. But Media can and it does. It has been a very effective tool that has formulated public opinions and has changed the course of history in many countries.

But how reliable is the media today in the fast paced world of digitization ruled by few conglomerates? Majority of the media are owned by few of the wealthy patrons who often have ulterior motives in swaying public opinion for their own desires. Media acts as a very powerful medium in building up a persona where none may exist. It may help create a facade for more sinister objectives. There have been allegations of some western media overstepping the bounds in gathering information – Rupert Murdoch’s Sun is one such example. Ambani’s of Reliance fame in India created a furore in media circles when they became majority stakeholders in TV18, resulting in exodus of top journalists from the channels who believed, they cannot remain unbiased under new bosses or at the least, there will be clashes of ethos that they conceived.

At the same time, there have been numerous instances where media has behaved as the judge, jury and executioner without even letting a fair trial. Powerful journalists have been able to sway public opinion on key political issues driving wedge and creating chasm amongst the masses. They have acted against the very ethos they are supposed to protect; no wonder the term “#Presstitutes” have gained a lot of prominence in India. Gone are the days where the citizens were gullible. In this digital age with information overload, the common citizen is now more critical of receiving each news and analysing it in his own terms of reference. The public is no longer isolated and openly voices their opinions on social media platforms. Heckling of reputed journalists like Barkha Dutt is now a regular phenomenon on twitter if any tweet promotes certain ideologies that are against the societal norms. Thus public scrutiny itself has now become a safety-valve against the errant journalists who earlier used to get away with such arm-chair activism.

This thus gives rise to a very vibrant democracy. With the annulment of the draconian Sec 66A of IT Act by the Supreme Court of India, it has been proven that the masses have the power to criticise each and every aspect of governance without fear; it includes the media as well. Alas, we haven’t achieved much more in areas of RTI to rein in the political parties, but the day is not far where public pressure will force the government of the day to pay heed and make the necessary changes.

But the question remains – How neutral is today’s media? #PaidMedia is a common twitter hashtag. That in itself demonstrates public confidence. There always has been a nexus between the business and the politicians – giving rise to crony capitalism. Media has remain divided on these issues depending on whose interests to defend; given the difficult situation that the patrons of the media houses tend to be either politicians are businessmen.

Lastly and most importantly – the media circus. It is more of an entertainment channel where scores of panelists/experts are brought in to air their views to have a meaningful debate. Instead, it’s turned into a high octane drama with chest thumping and mud-slinging, raising the volume of fervor of pure unadulterated idiocy and lowering the bar of journalistic ethos. It is a shame that such channels garner more TRP than real news channel where meaningful debates are performed. These channels on prime-time give the staple Saas-Bahu serials a run for their money!

In short, journalism doesn’t enjoy the respect once it commanded. Reputed journalists were respected and feared by all even few decades back. Today, there are rarely any journalists who can be unanimously voted to remain unbiased and true to the journalistic ethos, atleast in India – barring the small cities where the reach of influential hasn’t penetrated much. Every citizen is aware of the news that is being fed and questions it authenticity. It is not far when even journalists will be brought down and discredited in public. It has already started happening in India and it is a revolution in itself – unique in nature, fascinating to observe.

So, the fourth pillar of democracy as we call it – today, unfortunately is crippled. Thanks to online social networks, truth travels much faster in the midst of coordinated chaos and as time will pass, online scrutiny will hold these travesties of journalists accountable and responsible. It is the only glimmer of hope in this era of information overload.

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