Journalism – yellow and other colors

I was going through the middle pages of Hindustan Times yesterday; there was one interesting article about the role of media in India. The tone of the article was pretty affirmative and I don’t completely disagree with them. It’s true that there have been many instances like Jessica Lal case, Tehelka revelations, etc. where the proper action was been taken by the authorities only after a media probe into the matter. However with the growing yellow journalism, it is becoming difficult for people to distinguish between the sincere and not-so-sincere issues. The real message is getting suppressed by the loud voices and gestures of show anchors, by breathtaking pictures/photographs, and by amazing bond-movie-like soundtrack.

One example can be seen in the day-to-day language. I observed that two metaphors have been unanimously accepted throughout India in recent times: Siddhu and India TV. I’ve heard people commenting like “Arey yaar tu to Siddhu hai” on people who laugh hysterically on sad jokes; and also like “Kya India TV types baatein bata raha” for the people describing some incident so dramatically that it starts appearing like impossible. Arguably, or rather not-so-arguably, India TV emerges as the winner in this rat race of news sensationalization. One good dialogue which I can remember from a recent flick is being said by a news reporter –“Yaar aajkal biwi ghar pe poochti hai ki khaana kya banaoon to mere mooh se nikalta hai- sensational”.

However, yellow journalism is a smaller problem in comparison to the one which is slowly making its path into Indian scenario. This is about the “availability of impartial information”. It’s true that all aspects of news can’t be covered in one go due to the factors like limited availability of time, space, information resources, etc. and this point is acceptable to almost everyone. But the problem begins when a particular media network starts going for selective journalism. This can though never be proved with facts because they will always go away with the lame excuses like limitations, and all. However, if someone notices and observes deeply, he would be able to locate these aspects.

One such example is of CNN-IBN. This is one of the most talked-about news channel as well as news portal in recent times for both good and not-so-good reasons. It’s true that they have been more concerned with the layouts, designs and news presentation, due credit goes to Sh. Rajdeep Sardesai. He is undoubtedly THE person behind this work. Besides, they have also tried to cut down on advertisements and ‘sensational news’ though nobody can avoid them completely for business reasons. But the biggest problem with this network is their BIAS. They have constantly been biased against or for something and have been defending it for unnecessary reasons. This is a problem associated with them since quite sometime now.

I still remember a 2-year old news coverage by them (I remember precisely because it was hugely biased and twisted). Sardesai first pointed a few JNU types, got approving answers from them and then turned to Dr Safal Singh for the kill and asked the question that set the tempo for the rest of the debate. Where the doctors who went on strike out of touch with India’s reality? Because according to the survey (which he had conducted) “most” of the Indians(read survey sample) support reservations?

Now Dr Singh a smart guy realised what was happening and he tried to give a background instead of answering a very trick question. He tried to recount the list of demands laid out by YFE but he could at that moment recall only two, one was of a apolitical commission to study the effect of quotas and another to include socio-economic criterion instead of only caste for Reservation purposes. This must be a good lesson to atleast carry a copy of the list next time around.

Dr Singh was ably supported by Gurcharan das who argued that caste was not the only criterion today. It is a kind of a moral dilemma that someone on the admissions board of IIT would face if he has to choose between the son of a Rich OBC bussinessman from Kanpur who has scored only 40% and the son of a Poor Brahmin schoolteacher from Gorakhpur who has scored 80% (interestingly, those who have supported reservation for poor were included as pro-reservation though the whole debate took place for caste-based reservation). He also spoke about the need for taking both talent and equity hand in hand and also spoke about the opportunities presented by India’s current economic boom.

However, these all things were intentionally and cleverly subdued by the CNN IBN. If people remember, the verdict (Yes the programme title was indeed “The Reservation Verdict”) was announced as – Caste-based Reservation has got HUGE support amongst country’s youth. Anyways, this is just one of the many instances. I would keep updating at least one instance of biased reporting across news channels in every post of mine as this might help in creating awareness across the audience. If we go by media history, the CNN (one of the parent company in this venture) itself has had great bias in other countries like USA though as the audience intelligence increased, those kinds of coverages have come down. I hope the same would happen in India and IBN would have to reconsider their strategy of manipulating minds in the direction of their philosophy.


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