Ranjona Banerji: How everyone loves to bash journos

14 Jun,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The media is now one of the top topics of conversation in India. I took part yesterday in a Google Hangout organised by the website Halabol to allow Amnesty India to present their current and future projects to some of Halabol’s bloggers. The minute the floor was open to questions, the conversation veered towards the media and its real and imagined transgressions. Luckily, someone steered everyone back to the subject under discussion. But the danger was very real.

 

The internet has of course made journalists out of everybody and television has made journalism enter everyone’s homes. This combination has not just smashed and toppled the ivory towers of old but it has also eroded at the basis of journalism itself. And definitely at its credibility. Wild accusations are made against journalists and the media houses they work for without any evidence. Expressions like “paid news” are flung around without most having an idea of what it means or stands for. Political polarisation means that any hint of a lack of criticism by a journalist or even too much criticism is seen as a sign as taking sides. People who were earlier oblivious now look out for signs of collusion and often even innocent mistakes are seen as part of some grand media conspiracy to destabilise someone or the other.

 

How dangerous or difficult does this make life for journalists? There is no denying that there serious problems in the media and that many of those have not been effectively addressed. It is also true that unfortunately TV’s manipulations and lack of depth are both visible quite frequently. But that does not mean that every journalist is corrupt or that no media house ever does its job. But a blanket attack on credibility and integrity cannot help in the long run.

 

A common refrain is that there are not enough websites or any other media tracking journalism. However, this is not true. The Hoot has been doing an excellent job for years. The Press Institute of India brings out Vidura which focuses on media issues. Shailaja Bajpai’s column in The Indian Express is a must read as was Ajit Bhattacharjee. I do remember Mihir Sharma writing regularly on the media. The Hindu has an ombudsman. I’m sorry if I have left anyone out. There are also innumerable blogs which discuss the media. And we at mxmindia.com do what we can to hold up a mirror to the media.

 

However perhaps there is an argument for more mainstream effort in critiquing journalism so that the reading and viewing public are in the loop if not playing an active part. And for somehow including television news in the mix since that is where much of the public anger stems from.

 

Anyone have any ideas of how it can be done?

 

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Firstpost.com which started out so well with its platform for opinionaters is now being accused of being too kneejerk in its responses. This accusation is not without its merits. Often, opinion pieces will be written before the full facts (or even half the facts) of a case are known. And no apologies are made later. Given the seniority and experience of the people running the show, I am a bit surprised by this shoot and run policy, the possible consequences of which are that it will lose traction or become a laughing stock.

 

I can understand the compulsions under which firstpost.com bought the satirical site Faking News and why Faking News sold itself, but wonder how free fake news will now be allowed to be…

 

**

 

Since there is evidently no stopping the Jiah Khan life and death juggernaut, I give up.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator based in Mumbai. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. She can be reached via Twitter at @ranjona. The views here are her own

 

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