What is responsible journalism?
“And I believe that good journalism, good television, can make our world a better place.”
True. In the words of our apex court, “Dissent is the safety valve of our democracy”. And, who holds more power than our journalists to speak the unpleasant truth, never faltering? Indeed, good journalism makes the world a better, more fair world.
However, as much as it is necessary to cultivate good journalism, it is also equally essential to keep a track of any mistaken steps. Over the years, the journalism world has often been in the radar for an alleged decreasing credibility. From sensationalism to fake news, there are many things to tarnish the image of journalism we have had in our minds for decades- fierce and honest.
How would you define ‘good journalism’?
What makes the world a better place, what makes journalism, “good” journalism? Let’s develop a rough rulebook, shall we?
a. For one, it should be free. Free, because journalism can best be described as the society’s ultimate source of truth- that is, if done right. It becomes imperative then, to make sure that the voices are channelised unobstructed.
b. Neutral. The role of media, one can say, is to act as a mirror for the society. And, of course, a mirror should neither be smudged nor distorted. Neutrality remains one of the most necessary, and often, the most difficult to apply traits of journalism. Of course, in cases related to topics like brutality, discrimination, one cannot and should not stay neutral. But, when it comes to presenting information, it should be done so in a fair, disclosing manner.
c. When journalism first became liberalised and powerful, it was to act as the voice of those who could not yet speak for themselves. And, to ensure that the truth does not dwell in the darkness, but rather, comes out in front of the citizens. It is very essential that this essence is not forgotten.
d. Accuracy and accountability. Recent times have seen plenty of instances where media has been accused of not sharing truthful information, or even presenting fake ones. Be it for gaining more views through ‘sensationalism’ or of granting paid favours, if our media stops representing the world for what it truly is, it would be a sad defeat, indeed.
State of Indian Journalism
Indian news anchor, Rajdeep Sardesai is of the opinion that “television news media in particular is driven by a tendency to put sensation above sense”. To put some more context, we now introduce a term “yellow journalism”. Coming to existence in mid-1890s, this term is used to refer to to that journalism which “does not report much real news with facts. It used shocking headlines to catch people’s attention…”.
Some people refer to the media’s coverage of Taj Hotel attacks of 2008, as another form of sensationalism at its worst. The news channels had gotten in a lot of controversy for showing live footage of the army’s operation- footage even accessible to the terrorists. Be it carelessness, or a TRP gaining tactic, the move could have possibly jeopardised the safety of innocent civilians inside the hotel.
The possibility of profit earning has slowly turned several news channels into mere TRP bagging sources of entertainment. Gossip about Bollywood, tidbits about latest Hindi serial episodes enjoy more coverage than even real issues, sometimes.
Our aim is not to say that journalism is no longer the beacon holder of justice as it used to be. Of course, there are several journalists and news channels, newspapers that bring information to you as honestly as possible. Many journalists even risk their own lives to make sure the truth gets out, and there efforts should never be ignored.
But, the larger picture is one that often stirs some worries in the heart. Overly dramatic news headlines, detailed representation of trivial issues, glamorising the news industry is an apparent, common sight. One can hardly forget the string of articles and news reports on Taimur Khan by the Indian media. It is in times like these that the common man if forced to sigh and look back. Look back at the days when there was perhaps more sense than sensationalism. But, the country still owes gratitude to all those who still keep the integrity of journalism alive.