The newspapers are full of unsubstantiated tid bits, gossip and half-truths. There is nothing of consequence from across the world. Stories of inferior quality are being printed by the media, exposing the lazy rut that journalists have wallowed in, over the last decade in particular. These days, packaged hand-outs and suchlike, which political parties and corporate entities distribute to the media, form the basis of ‘stories’. Sometimes, the content propagates and celebrates a company, party or person. At other times, insinuations about misdemeanours are consciously spread to dent the reputations of colleagues and competitors. Information has become utterly unreliable, given the absence of empirical evidence. The same lethargy has invaded the airwaves as well. Here, anyone can say anything and get away with it.
The corridors of power are like sieves that allow partial information to slip through the perforated gauze, creating havoc with half-truths that are used out of context and for character assassination. Television, in particular, has become a bottomless pit of toxic stories that are based on flimsy assumptions which lack, more often than not, adequate evidence and verification. Viewers enjoy the tamasha even when they do not believe the stories. The proceedings are akin to a reality show. This is the pathetic truth about Indian television.
When compared to other international news channels, it is evident that the ones in India have descended far below the acceptable line. The explanation given is that the people enjoy the rubbish that is dished out. This is untrue. Insulting the intelligence of the viewers is unacceptable.
Journalists have forgotten how to ferret out, follow and chase a story. They have their ‘sources’, who provide them with gossip which they take as the gospel truth. Every single public relations company knows how to use the spoilt and lazy journalist. In nearly all the ‘piece to camera’ that we are inflicted with, the lack of perspective and comprehension of the event that is being talked about is palpable. Words and expressions are used randomly and mispronunciation is rampant. The ‘breaking news’ phenomenon on television has become a joke. Where are the Fareed Zakarias and the Christiane Amanpours? Where are the lively reporters who are on top of their stories? Where are the commentators who are experts in their fields? Why are there no young and new faces commenting on the realities of today?
It is a desperately sad commentary on the media scene. Those of us who read more than one newspaper every morning are beginning to glance at the headlines of one publication and then dumping the rest. Many watch the news after pressing the ‘mute’ button. The rude and meaningless babble is unpleasant. The madness on screen makes a mockery of good sense.
The standards that are being set through inferior television programmes are reflected in the general abuse that has overwhelmed the public domain. When people watch political leaders, senior editors, academics and other professionals they look up to screaming and abusing one another and shunning reasoned and measured debate, they too begin to clone what they assume is the correct way to behave.
It is time to set right the programmes and presentations on television. Men and women at the helm of the Indian media need to be committed to this renewal. New ideas, unusual people, imaginative enterprises and so on, can make for scintillating viewing.
The media should feature positive human achievements instead of State and corporate hand-outs. There is so much to share.