The ‘Objective’ Media in a ‘Hypothetical’ World

02 Aug,2022



By Ranjona Banerji


Ranjona BanerjiThe general public very often gets upset when a media outlet reports blandly on a controversial issue.

The general public also gets upset when the media takes sides on a controversial issue.

The general public gets most upset when the media pretends to be objective on a controversial issue but ends up legitimizing lies because it will not take sides.

Tough calls, all.

Like for instance, a hypothetical minister whose hypothetical offspring may or may not own and run a hypothetical bar and restaurant in a hypothetical state. This hypothetical bar and restaurant is served a hypothetical notice by a hypothetical excise department for a liquor licence that is perhaps not quite legally obtained.

Not surprisingly, this hypothetical situation has the potential to blow up into a massive scandal.

And what does the media love more than anything else? Massive scandals.

So in another universe, headlines might have read like this:

Minister’s Child caught in Massive Scandal!

Can Minister Survive this Scam?

Did Minister use Clout to Get Permissions?

Old Video and Social Media Show Minister Praising Offspring for Restaurant! How can Minister deny this?

And so on.

Nightly screaming matches: Minister Caught! Will Minister be Sacked?

What happened to promises of stopping Corruption?

What does the Prime Minister say about Minister.

And so on.

In this hypothetical world however, headlines read like this:

Minister launches attack on Opposition!

Minister defends offspring like wounded Tigress!

Minister demands answer from another political party!

Minister blames dead Prime Minister for attack on Offspring!

Minister denies everything!

Add whatever else you want.

Should the public be upset or not?

Somewhere hidden in broadcasts, pages and websites, far from the screaming headlines in defence of the hypothetical minister, there may be some stray articles which contain a few facts.

Or not.

It is more likely that some media outlets will scrub all references to this hypothetical video which shows the hypothetical Minister’s Offspring discussing personal involvement in this hypothetical restaurant.

And that all similar references to the hypothetical social media posts about the hypothetical restaurant by the hypothetical minister will also be deleted from public space as much as each obedient media outlet can.

The “objective” media will present both sides: The minister’s denial versus no reference to any evidence at all, especially said video and said social media.

The scared media will “report”: the hypothetical minister said and the hypothetical court said, minus any context.

The propagandist media will amplify the hypothetical minister’s defence and the blame of various earlier and preferably deceased ministers. It will do no further work.

What right however have readers and viewers to be upset about this form of media behaviour?

In the real world, they have total right and rights which should be expressed loudly and to their favourite media outlets. Much as media outlets are often arrogant and only pretend to care about what news consumers think, they cannot completely ignore feedback.

However, in this hypothetical world you can wave any attempt at real journalism goodbye. The survival stakes are too high and frankly, I am shocked that anyone expects the bulk of today’s media outlets to behave any differently. There has been so much evidence of media capitulation in the past eight years that there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that the media will not allow the hypothetical minister to get away with whatever she wants.

Prove me wrong. Please.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentatior. She writes on MxMIndia on Tuesdays and Fridays. Her views here are personal


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