I remember growing up to my parents and teachers telling me every day to watch the news. News, they told me, was what kept an eager mind informed of the world around it. Naturally, I grew up to respect the news media and the people behind them, even DD news (When they weren’t mispronouncing the Chinese Premier’s name).
2016 however, is a different matter altogether. Our fourth estate, the people and the media who so valiantly rose and challenged autocracy in the 70’s is now at its lowest point in history. Opinions have replaced facts, propaganda has replaced reasoning and ridiculous hashtags and click-baiting have replaced solid, meaningful news. Most of all, I believe most of the general audience has lost faith in our news media. What was once a proud profession has now become a platform where shouting matches have become the norm, where the unfortunate news of our dead or missing jawans gets even less coverage than the off-hand comments of a worthless Bollywood star.
We saw the worst of our news media yesterday when popular and decibel-raising ‘journalist’ Arnab Goswami of Times Now and NDTV’s Barkha Dutt got into, what can be best described as, a mud-slinging fight. Terms like ‘pseudo-seculars,’ ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘liberals’ got thrown about at each other so pointedly, that you might have wondered for a moment whether both Dutt and Goswami were seasoned politicians. Shockingly however, it got to a point where Mr. Goswami implicitly stated that sections of journalists, or ‘pseudo-journalists’ must be reined in for compromising national security, put to trial for being ‘pro-Pakistani’, lionizing terrorists and well, disagreeing with his tedious monologue, in general.
I’m not an expert in national security, which is why I feel it’s improper that I address it. As for the lionizing terrorists charge, I am not well-versed with every new channel’s coverage of the militancy and unrest in the Kashmir valley. What I do know however, is that for the past few months and years, there have been circles in politics and the news media which have sought to propagate that any dialogue with sections not in adherence to the State have been broadly painted to be adversarial.
Hence, people who have sought to humanize people who don’t see eye to eye with the State have been labeled ‘anti-national’ while anyone who seeks to toe the State’s line is promptly called a ‘presstitute,’ a label that is the go-to word against any journalist these days. Disagreement is fair, criticism fairer but, any call to rein in such arguments and free speech will be very troubling. In fact, the dictionary does have a word for such behavior. Ever heard of Fascism?
I think it is naïve of the audience to presume that both Dutt and Goswami don’t have political beliefs and ideologies they serve. Objectivity and rationality has been lost in journalism for a long time. And to be fair, both of them are entitled to their views. Heck, even multiple Pulitzer-winning The New York Times and the Washington Post have their own political agendas.
I do not fault Barkha Dutt and Arnab Goswami for having political leanings. What I am concerned about however, is how they go about it. Dutt and Goswami are merely the torchbearers of a generation of the media that has descended into a war over TRPs, rating and eyeballs. Respect and dignity among the press corps has fallen gracelessly to the level of a Fox News broadcast.
Whereas journalism was once a noble profession in the eyes of many, yesterday’s mud-fight is just further evidence of journalism being the pariah of the masses. Few trust the news media today, very few. And people who take pride in their nightly ratings and believe that they are the Plastics of news media need to understand that their news is not news. It’s PG-rated MTV Roadies with shouting matches and laughable hashtags.
The suffix –gate we see ever so often on our news screens came into fashion after the Watergate scandal, after a pair of brave young journalists took down a powerful US Presidency led by Richard Nixon. That is, or rather was the credibility and the legacy of journalism. This, whatever you news people are doing on social and news media these days is none of it, not even close. In fact, it is disgraceful. Journalists may afford to be biased, without being prejudicial but, can they afford to be uncivil and unethical (Radia tapes, anyone?), let alone against their own fraternity? I think not.
I want to tell my kids the same stuff my parents told me about the media, the same media which rallied the country during independence and during the Emergency. As it is, I stand disappointed.
Image Sources: Google Images
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