Ranjona Banerji: Salaam, Salute & a Big Shout Out to Quality Journalism

28 Aug,2020

By Ranjona Banerji

I am not a proponent of the “good news” school of journalism by a long shot. And my experience in journalism has taught me that nor are readers, no matter what they may say in casual conversation. News is by its very nature bad news. “Nothing happened today except two children played in a park” is not a headline that works except in satire. But, watching all the really inexcusable, pathetic, miserable, vile, toxic, filthy examples of journalism around us, has got even me searching the “good news”.

In between all the rubbish over the death of Sushant Singh Rajput on all TV channels or the constant vilification of Muslims whether on the unconscionable Sudarshan News or more reputed English channels or the acceptance that invented nonsense on OpIndia is actually some form of journalism, even if perverted, there is some real journalism going on.

Health reporters across magazines, mainstream newspapers, news sites, specialist health sites and even in TV have kept us up to date not just on the latest Covid-19 figures but also on all the obfuscations, the confused data, the cover-ups when it comes to co-morbidities, the problems around treatment, the plight of healthcare workers, the public versus private hospital issues, money and payment issues, scams related to health certificates, the issues that non-Covid-19 patients face, the human side of the pandemic and much, much more. These journalists have risked their own lives to get us these stories. Some have contracted the virus in the line of duty and very sadly, a few have succumbed to it.

These reporters will not get to be filth-spewing “anchors” anytime soon and that is why their work is not appreciated enough. But it is because of their work that we know what happens beyond government handouts. A salute to them!

China’s excursions into India and terrible brutality meted out to Indian soldiers by the People’s Liberation Army would have been ignored and brushed under the proverbial carpet if it wasn’t for a small band of mainly ex-Armed Forces analysts. Non-Armed Forces defence journalists got into the act late and even then, they could not match the sort of detail, insight and analysis that we got from the initial coverage from our Armed Forces band. You can see how the subject remains obscured by the Central Government, including outright lies by the Prime Minister and contradictions from all the other government agencies involved. A huge salute here as well, although TV gets a pass on this one. Neither first nor insightful. Some TV channels, as is their wont, just put the usual defence of the Modi Government’s lies and incompetence.

In spite everything that has happened since the virus lockdowns began, some brave journalists have carried on with their investigations into the aftermath of the Delhi riots of earlier this year. They have faced mob violence and police brutality as a result. But their commitment has not wavered. They work to remind us of the citizenship crisis that faced us earlier this year. A salute to them!

Legal reporters and legal news sites have changed the way we understand the judiciary. Constant tweets about court proceedings, legal analyses of arguments and judgments have brought our own legal systems much closer to us. This has made the law more accessible and understandable, especially given the various democratically and Constitutionally significant court cases being taken up or postponed. Thank you!

One subject is very close to my heart and that is environmental journalism. India’s environment and ecological balance has been under systematic erosion from the Modi Government’s various rulings and plans. Under the pain of the pandemic, significant and fragile protected areas have been opened up to developers. And even worse, the environmental impact assessments before such developments are given the go-ahead are going to be heavily diluted. A huge salaam to environmental journalists who have kept these issues in the public eye.

I haven’t named names because there are too many and I am apprehensive about missing people out. But these are the shining examples than good work can be done, especially in terrible circumstances. Not everything has to be deflection, smoke and mirrors and government genuflection.

A big shout out also to the behind the scenes journalists. All the deskies, designers, news editors, editors who oversee these stories and who do not succumb to pressure. The ad, circulation and distribution departments which also work through all climates. The managements which do not stop critical journalism. These are some of the worst times for newsrooms with huge job losses and cutbacks. That we see such good work in spite of everything, deserves a toast.

I raise my glass to all of you. Thank you.

PS: For the purveyors of rubbish: see you next week!


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

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