Hard Knocks: Sadly, Mr Katju may have a point

04 Nov,2011

By Anil Thakraney

 

The Chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, is determined to sort the Indian media out. Some days back I expressed skepticism on whether he’ll succeed in his noble endeavours. Here’s the link to that piece.

http://www.mxmindia.com/2011/10/hard-knocks-katju%e2%80%99s-unreal-expectations/

It appears Mr Katju read my post (hehe), and perhaps out of frustration, has lashed out at the Indian media. He’s basically questioning our skills, integrity and competency levels. Naturally, there’s collective outrage in the media frat, and an angry desi media is a dangerous beast, you don’t mess with it. I would be quite surprised if Katju remains for very long in his chair.

Having said that, and having been sufficiently offended, we need to once again take a hard look and check if what the man says is entirely wrong. Some soul-searching would actually do us good, and perhaps we’ll hire better personnel in the media. So let’s examine Katju’s critique and his three key problems.

He says the Indian media divides people on religious lines and is anti-people. A sweeping generalization, no doubt. But there IS a section of the media that caters to specific communities and their respective communal biases. A section is even aligned with political parties. And this ideological bias comes to the fore during riots and elections. So what Katju says isn’t entirely wrong.

He says TV channels focus on cricket and other celebrities. And Katju doesn’t like that very much. Well, that’s true. We do pay too much attention to entertainment and celebs, and I am guilty of that too. And often hard news gets buried somewhere. Yes, we do need to worry about excessive flooze in the media, for sure. But I don’t know how this will ever get sorted out. Because the truth is: Advertisers are more interested in Katrina Kaif’s fashion mantra rather than the survival plans of the family members of that RTI activist who got killed. That’s the sad commercial reality.

He believes journalists have not studied economics, politics, literature and philosophy. Is he entirely wrong? Switch on the news channels and you’ll notice the general knowledge skills of most anchors and reporters. Yes, it needs a lot of beefing up, we have to admit that. Most journalists are too busy chasing celebs to find time to read Shakespeare, that’s another fact of media life.

Bottom line: It’s easy to get offended by Shri Katju’s crazy generalizations. And dismiss them as outbursts of an angsty uncle. Still, it will serve us well to pay attention. He isn’t entirely inaccurate.

 

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PS: Watch this show as Barkha Dutt interviews a Google chief. You’ll notice what a struggle it is for her to have a meaningful conversation with a new media specialist. It’s not her fault, really. Most of us old-world journos would find it tough going. A glaring example of the schism between the old media and the new media. Also, hope Mr Katju didn’t watch this one. Else he’ll accuse us of being zero on media, apart from literature and philosophy!

 

Link: http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/news/in-the-google-of-things/215082

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