Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Indian Media : The highs and the lows

The rot started when the story of "paid news" made its rounds during the electiions.

This time, the deafening silence maintained by the mainline media on the tapes that recorded instructions being given by a PR agency to leading editors on the content that they were to publish, has angered many. Santosh Desai, a leading media and advertising professional has in his kept his cool and with calm logic raised this in his column which is carried by one of the largest publications in the country.. The TOI.

It has prompted people to make videos and post them on Youtube. Since the veracity of the tapes has not been questioned, I guess this is bound to happen.

People are wondering if journalists need to be told whether they are human beings and citizens  first and journalists second. The instance of this photograph has come up for discussion.

The photographer of this picture could not/did not help this child and it died. Though awarded and lauded for the picture, it is rumored that the photographer went down with a nervous breakdown soon after and gave up his career. Probably his conscience was not totally dead. 

While it is appreciated that immediate action is not possible, a journalist has to do what is feasible and is powers to help another human being. It is not about simply reporting news.
In Tirunalveli, Tamil Nadu, a police Inspector lay dying on the main rod after an attack on him by assailants with swords, with a journalist shooting his death on video. The chap did not even call the hospital... there was a raging debate on this and many media professionals claimed that saving lives is not a journalists job, it is to report loss of lives!! This is what is worrying!!

It is high time the spotlight was focused on the "hidden persuaders". The 9pm news seems to have become, according to an irate viewer, the hour of "prime-time prostitutes".We have  a surfeit of 'usual suspects', i.e., characters willing to say anything for money  hogging prime time and making the telecast resemble a "nautanki" in a fish market with frequent pandemonium, shouting, slanging, mud -slinging, jibes and what not. Naturally, genuine news is the last thing that gets featured here! No wonder that people prefer the sober and factual  BBC or the 10pm bulletins when the hysteria is over and the main clowns anchoring the show take reprieve.

The issue is simple and apples to everyone, not just the "hacks". Every professional, whether he is a journalist, lawyer,doctor, engineer or whatever, has an obligation to his fellow being first.This transcends the obligations of our "work". By this logic, an engineer should never risk human life at work by endangering workers, or design buildings and objects which risk lives, a doctor has to follow the Hippocrates oath in spirit,the lawyer has to ensure that "justice" is served and if this means pleading guilty and asking for clemency, should advise his client to do so. (I doubt if any lawyer will do that in India. Some of them, the upright one's don't take up the case out of moral issues)
For journalists this is vital and even more important. Once they loose credibility, they loose everything.. it is the case of the boy who cried wolf! It is therefore not surprising that they get beaten up by the public very often these days. Total lack of sensitivity and sole focus on "breaking news" and often manufacturing it!!

There is a lovely Malyalam film called "swantham lekhakan" which has Srinivasan and Dillep. Brilliant take on the media establishment and its loss of its soul. The movie compares them to vultures!!

The international media has taken this up, thankfully... 

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