On a typical day, a 50-year old urban Indian wakes up to a cup of tea and a dose of national news, even before he has conversed with his wife. Young people are always told to get into the habit of reading newspapers. Most of the GDs of top institutions in the country focus on current affairs, expecting that an opinion on one makes a person open-minded and more suitable to any job.
A number of new websites and radio channels have opened up to give the current news to people. Newspaper, broadcast and now internet is bombarding people with the happenings around us. But does the expanse of news-delivering mediums signify an increase in understanding of current affairs by an average Indian?
Paid media is not news. Major national daily newspapers seem to favour one or the other political parties. Many articles in newspapers are written by journalists who are directly related to one political party. Money is used as an incentive for media houses, or individual journalists to keep shut in delivering the truth, or fancying the acts of one leader. A former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan was questioned by the Election Commission of India in 2010 for his use of funds for paid news during 2009 State Assembly Elections. Even a report (and not Op-ed or editorial) in paid-media hampers our clear judgement of an issue.
With money, comes everything. The fear of muscle power has kept in track the journalists from pursuing true journalism. Example of Jyotirmay Dey who was killed in July 2011 for reporting on oil mafia is just one of the 43 Indian journalists who have died for the truth since 1992. Politics, business and corruption is said to be the top three dangerous beats in India. Clearly, people whose acts civilians expect media to reveal would go at any length to keep them hidden. Ironically, if it weren’t for the evil acts, most of the corrupt people won’t have the money to influence the media.
When a reporter out of his own choice decides to investigate on one leader and not the other, or give people what they want to hear, and not what they should, there is misuse of the power of media to influence people. Also, newspapers should ask why the terror attacks happen, and not only on what the government decides to do to stop them further.
Hence, the incentives of veiling the truth and the dangers of revealing it lead media to hide it. But what is the use of media as an industry if it cannot do what it is meant to do? What is needed for a true journalist, is first and foremost, powerful contacts who get the correct information long before the proofs are meddled with. Second, strong will power to not get strayed by any amount of money offered to not do your job. But if you are working for a media house, it should be time to start freelancing or working individually. And third, to strive for truth, come what may. And till now, there is no law which provides police security to a journalist.
Do civilians, surfing through news websites while sitting in their office, when they are supposed to be working have the right to blame media for protecting the truth to be unravelled? Civilians want journalists to treat their job as a passion, the very reason why most of them landed in this crazy industry with physical stress, bad work environment and low income in the first place. Then if civilians are expecting them to work whole-heartedly for their passion, where are they wrong?