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Friday, December 4, 2015

No, my dear young lady, contrary to what your parents have told you, journalists are not "fanning the flames"

On November 25, I received this message on Facebook:

  • [REDACTED]

    All these reports pointing to increase in Hindu extremism. What is your take? My parents insist the media is fanning the flames but I can't believe it.

    MY RESPONSE:
  • Ramesh Prabhu
    11/30, 1:45pm
    Ramesh Prabhu

    Many people, when they refer to the "media", they are, I think, referring primarily to TV news channels.

    Take the Aamir Khan episode, for example. If you were watching our 24-hour news channels the day after his comments were reported, you would think this episode was the most important news of the day. But that is the nature of the beast, as Rajdeep Sardesai described it during his talk at our seminar a few years ago.

    There were no flames being fanned. It's just that the debates, which become especially raucous on Arnab Goswami's prime-time show, gave the impression that the whole country was talking about this incident.

    By way of contrast, take a look at how two leading newspapers reported that same Aamir news item (see photo below). These are the front pages of The Times of India and The Hindu, which I was reading when on holiday in Yercaud last week.



  • 11/30, 1:49pm
    Ramesh Prabhu

    But, yes, there are problems and there are difficulties.

    Some of the issues that plague journalism today have existed for a long time, for example, the pressures brought upon editors and their staff by the owners.

    Some are new, like the MediaNet phenomenon introduced by The Times of India.

    Some challenges are specific to today social media has helped to amplify many issues, I believe, because it's so easy now to "shout from the rooftop" and be heard by all your "friends" and "followers".
  • Ramesh Prabhu
    11/30, 1:50pm
    Ramesh Prabhu

    Good training is part of the problem — do go through this article I wrote some time ago for a Pune-based magazine: "Media education: From course structure to quality of students, the challenges are immense"
  • Monday
  • 11/30, 8:05pm
    [REDACTED]

    Thank you Ramesh sir for taking the time for an elaborate reply... Your reply puts a lot of things in perspective.

    A lot seems to have changed as far as Indian TV channels are concerned in the 10 years that I have been away. But again it's the same everywhere — the TV news in the States is very sensational too!
    I find myself on the other side of the Hindutva issue than the rest of my side of the family. And I get judged a lot but I guess that's par for the course!


    *****
    "Indian mainstream news media has a strong culture of protest"
    JUST TO GIVE MY READERS ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE, here are three points I have excerpted from a piece on the Aamir Khan episode published by The Hoot, a New Delhi-based site which was set up to scrutinise the media in India:

    First and foremost, Indian mainstream news media has a strong culture of protest, and we are lucky to have such a news media despite claims of creeping corporate control. The culture of protest is much stronger than what we see in western democracies....


    Second, the news culture in India suggests that any value-framing of good vs bad in a news story will privilege victims, and should. This is what we would expect from any news media that speaks truth to power....

    Three, despite this predisposition, most journalists try to be fair to all sides in political debate over policy....

    Read the article in its entirety here: "Aamir's 'alarm' and media bias".