An enlightened public shall engender a socially responsible press, say journalists

An enlightened public shall engender a socially responsible press, say journalists

  • 13 Mar 2018
  • FWD Admin
  • Features

Veteran journalists, Pamela Philipose, Sashi Kumar, E P Unny, and Vinod K Jose opened our minds to the kind of journalism we need today

Four eminent media personalities, Vinod K Jose, Pamela Philipose, Sashi Kumar and E P Unny, came together as a panel to discuss the subject, ‘Journalism during the time of ‘unfreedom’ of speech and expression’, at a session organised at Bolgatty Palace by the Krithi International Festival of Books and Authors 2018. All four speakers raised pertinent issues related to the field of journalism in the present day context, touching mainly on aspects such as paid news and the ensuing lack of objectivity, fake news, the target readership transforming from the citizen to the consumer and the market model of journalism.

Pamela began with an overview of the history of the transition of the media, the paradigm shift from public interest media to market interest media, that has created the present crisis in journalism that makes the public view the press as a corrupt, or rather, corruptible body. If, earlier, it was said that politics is the domain of every rascal and villain there is, journalists too have begun to be seen as complicit and at par with corrupt politicians. When the monopolisation of cross media by certain entities gave rise to media giants who built empires of their own, the norms and values of journalism were broken down.

“In our current market system, it is impossible to remain on the fence”, said Vinod, “but I think History can lend us strength. At the time of the Great Depression in America, the public vilified the press. Henry Luce of Time Magazine went to Robert Hutchins for a solution, to save the credibility of the American press and the result was their report, ‘A Free and Responsible Press’, out of which arose the Social Responsibility Model of Journalism that we largely follow today.” This encourages total freedom of the press and no censorship, but the formation of the jute press as opposed to this, the traditional model of the press changed the scenario. Sashi agreed saying that the Golden Age of Journalism was rather short lived, with “the concepts of objectivity and fair-mindedness being fairly recent developments”. He opined that the press is always partisan in nature, with the market determining the news and its veracity.

Unny, however, preferred to take a less cynical view, saying, “In the broad sketches of pessimism, there seem to be small windows of opportunity.” Even as Vinod pointed out that the dissemination of fake news follows a business model, Unny maintained that fake news would not last long. Citing Arnab Goswami’s declining popularity as an example, he said that people soon lose their taste for that sort of assaulting sensationalism. That is not to say that the temporality of fake news makes it any less dangerous. Pamela, referring to the recent Gujarat elections and the allegations against Mani Shankar Aiyar, said, “Fake news, through the microphone of the media, becomes the common sense of the time.” In this age of ‘fake news’, it is troubling to see portions of the public preferring certain ‘news bubbles’ choosing, like they would an ice-cream flavor, the version of the news they prefer. Given this state of affairs, Pamela said, “It is the duty of an enlightened public to be sceptical about the news they receive.”

Suffice it to say that, at the end of a two and a half hour session held at the Karoor hall of Bolgatty Palace, the four veteran journalists left us in a pensive, and rather troubled, state of mind.

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