Updated: Nov 8, 2020
Hithesh A Jain
4th November 2020
Wikipedia—Internet's Encyclopedia, defines Journalism as "An unbiased production and distribution of reports on current or past events based on facts, supported with proofs or evidence," every aspect of which is very far from the perception of news media and journalism that is persistent in India today. Interestingly enough, even a Professional Journalism Course usually teaches at least five different definitions of Journalism and News from many different academicians of different times and places, which demonstrates how this particular entity is radical, voluminous, and distinctively perceived. Dating back to the Printing Press's invention in the 14th Century to the Digital Age of the 21st Century, Journalism has evolved, adapted, and advanced, which is a fact but it has also degraded and is almost dying today a strong opinion.
An Irishman, James Augustus Hicky, gave Calcutta and India its first printed newspaper in 1780. Hicky’s Bengal Gazette, according to the young American scholar Andrew Otis, was a four-page weekly newspaper priced at 1 rupee. Moreover, it took on the rich and mighty of British Calcutta; it tried to cover everything that might be important to Calcutta, devoting many sections to politics, world news, and India's events as documented by an article in The Hindu dated July 14, 2018. Approximate data gathered by research says that there are 1,00,000 newspaper publications, 24 crore circulations, and a mammoth 130 crore readers, making India second only to China in the world's market. India is a house to almost approximate 150 mainstream news channels across different languages on television as of 2020, with the number and the television news domain just expanding. With the New Media revolutionizing the world, one click at a time, the number of news websites in India will be an enormous approximation but holds much significance in the present day. The numbers and approximations are just a mirror to the digitalization and expansion of the domain of Journalism, which is a proven threat to its quality, sanity, and authenticity. ‘Plagiarism’ is a popular word of today; articles and reports, especially on the Internet, are often copies of a website, another article, and it is much easier for one to find a duplicate piece of news rather than an original.On October 8, 2020, the Mumbai Police lodged an FIR on popular private news channels and alleged them of having manipulated the Television Ratings Point (TRP), which is a testament to how the News Media Business is just a petty rat-race. Journalism and News Media is a fast-growing business that is no secret, and one is bound to find ‘market share’ figures on every page while you research news channels. ‘Fake News’ is the reality of the current day; a 2019 survey showed that a whopping 88 percent of India’s youth agreed that fake news was a real problem and a shocking 45 percent of respondents stated that they were not aware of any fact-checking organization. News Media is well and truly tainted.
Reporting should cost money but today reporting makes money(Source- Outlook India)
On the financial front, on paper, all major News Bodies are in loss and are not making money, but some numbers do not essentially add up. Reports and data from the Broadcasting Ministry Of Indiashow a significant surge in News channels broadcasted in India; the number of newspapers and news websites is also on a constant increase. There are new platforms and mediums on New Media that serve news on a palter too. If there is a loss in the existing business logically, how is Journalism creating new avenues and jobs day in and day out? A personal observation following news in the recent past and its evolution as a business and an entity makes it almost impossible for one to believe that Indian Journalism is not making money. P Sainath—founder editor of The People’s Archive of Rural India(PARI) goes on to make interesting and insightful remarks; most News Medium that exists now is Corporate News Organizations, which he terms as ‘Talk TV’ that is designed to function as a lucrative revenue model. In his opinion, to cover News Items that traditionally mattered to the country, there needs to be extensive research, organized study, and travel- all of which 'costs' money. He remarks that to make money, ‘Talk TV’ requires only low cost, high decibel speculative cacophony. The Journalism Model existent for a decade has ignored a huge crisis that has affected masses and has instead covered what makes money. Journalism is steadily being converted as a business model that poses a threat to its very definition and existence as an entity.
History books talk extensively about Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, and how they used the Press as a powerful medium to send messages to the masses. The British Raj had to bring in the Vernacular Press Act to subdue the Press's voice and send messages of Independence across. Payam-e-Azadi,Samachar Sudhavarashan, Doorbeen, and Sultan-ul-Akhbar are a few instrumental pillars, the Independence Movement needed the mobilization of masses to overpower the British Raj, and these are the early stories of Press in India. What Press has evolved to in the present day is a few organizations and news bodies that are constantly being accused of bias and propaganda. The same power of the Press used to unite India is now being used to create a divide. Some channels are clearly and significantly biased to certain ideologies in the country, spreading propaganda and sensationalizing news. Today's Media is tailored to catch your attention and try to push the agenda- all by essential ‘Sensationalism’. Journalism is now synonymous with Sensationalism, a word that is here to stay with Indian Media. News is being fabricated to suit the needs of making money; people are being manipulated instead of being informed. According to the point of view, the primary function of News Media in the last few years has been to polarize the masses and spread propaganda, and this has led to a politically charged India—a country in which colossal tension exists. Journalism claimed as the fourth pillar of democracy has been instrumental in facilitating the toxic environment and a fragile situation that has continuously led to disturbances and disasters in democracy.
In conclusion, a probable one-line solution to Journalism being destructive is for news to be facts and not opinions. The exploitation of power and influence of news needs to cease at the earliest and move towards a body that makes a country rather than breaking it. Regulation of news content is the need of the hour. All over the country, the news is being presented, but the news is meant to be reported. Journalism needs to be a voice, not noise.
(Sources- The Hindu)
Edited by- Sravanthi Neralla