More journalism, less PR & more of what we want in 2019

31 Dec,2018

 

By Ranjona Banerji

 

How bored are you about reading yearenders? And lists? And listicles possibly? (Whatever they are). Not sure if it’s the predictability or the sameness or may be those are the same thing?

So instead of looking back, here’s what we want from the New Year.

More journalism, less PR.

Regardless of all the rubbish that BJP supporters spout about “dynasty journalists” and “presstitutes”, we have not seen a more sycophantic media than now, barring of course THE EMERGENCY. One has to mention THE EMERGENCY just to keep BJP supporters and their media hacks happy because otherwise they will whine incessantly, in between the creepy toadiness they lavish on Mr Modi.

As an example of what we want less of, I quote from veteran journalist Tavleen Singh’s column in The Indian Express, on December 30, 2018: “This column lent it support to Narendra Modi in 2014 in the hope that he would hold true to his promise to bring the ‘parivartan’ India so badly needs… It was the magic of the word “parivartan’ (change) that in my view won Modi a full majority.” The rest of the column bemoans all that Modi could have but did not do, as if Modi is so innocent in all he has not done and not culpable for the wrongs that have been done.

For 2019, therefore, let’s not have journalists and commentators creating false gods, elevating politicians to angelic status or falling prey to personality cults. Or indeed mischievously misleading their audience into believing in the importance of “personality”.

Truth to Power

I use this trendy somewhat self-righteously annoying phrase most mindfully. That’s all we need. Journalists who are able and willing to criticise those in government. Could be this party or that or the other. Hold policy and implementation up to scrutiny, regardless of how the UP chief minister’s pet calves run to meet him and eat sweeties from his pockets. Are sweeties the normal food for calves, by the way? How about a story about that?

Or, after every news channel is “forced” to broadcast the Prime Minister’s radio talk “Mann ki Baat’, how about a rigorous analysis of what he has said or promised and the ground realities of those promises?

Naah, too much to hope for. Look what happened at ABP News for instance, when news anchors decided to question Modi’s schemes and ideas? Job losses for some and more sycophancy from others. And therefore from here, should one move on to…

MORE COURAGE

That’s what we need, really. Self-explanatory. For my fellow journalists who still belong to the Modi Fan Club category, or are waiting to join the Rahul Gandhi Fan Club or belong to the Arvind Kejriwal Fan Club, courage is an interesting word. Do look it up. Also, dump the club membership.

It’s not just courage regarding politicians and political parties that journalists need. Editors need some courage too when it comes to their owners. Okay, maybe that one was a joke for the New Year from me to you.

More #MeToo

I’ve left the most important for the last. The end of 2018 showed us how badly women were treated in newsrooms across India and over the years. The horror was more than many of us had experienced or imagined. Plus, all the horrors we pretended had never happened. Although a few big names have fallen, and some others were called to account, we must acknowledge that misogyny and gender injustice are both rampant. Tragically, this is regardless of the fact that so many women have done so well and risen so high in the media.

A big salute to all the young women who exposed what was going on and all the others who followed with their experiences. You humbled us.

Let 2019 not fall into old traps and patterns of behaviour.

See you on the other side.

 

 Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are personal

 

 

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