Journalism, Judgement, Jingoism

In the extremely polarized world of today, there is a growing need for the media landscape to remain sane. However, with traditional media houses struggling to retain advertisement revenues and paid subscriptions, most media outlets today have turned into circuses pandering to the audience’s need for confirmation bias.

Readers and viewers are no longer interested in acquiring informed knowledge about issues of the day and are rather looking for content that will reaffirm their already biased outlooks and points of view.

A left-liberal Indian is as unlikely to watch Republic TV or Aaj Tak as much as right-wing extremists are to take to The Print or even NDTV. What the audience wants now is a media that not only agrees with their sensibilities but also reinforces their beliefs.

The only time that these two sets of audiences will converge is when they need the inspiration to make memes to be spewed on the halls of hell that is social media and WhatsApp.

While media outlets try to pip each other by touting their readership or viewership figures, at least in India, they do share a commonality. This commonality comes to the fore when it comes to reporting on foreign affairs, i.e., China and Pakistan.

When WION was launched, it did so on the promise that it would report on global issues from an Indian perspective. To its credit, it continues to do so. In fact, it does it so well that while viewing their reports, one cannot help but be overcome with a sense of paranoia about an impending Chinese attack tomorrow.

As people living in the eye of the storm (Arunachal Pradesh), it can give you sleepless nights.

Such is the appeal of patriotism/nationalism that even NDTV’s Vishnu Som has at times found himself playing the card (insert his reports on Kashmir’s impending invasion by Pakistan).

One can hardly blame him or WION, really. After all, news with a patriotic angle works well with the audiences and it even demands it. In fact, if some news anchors are to be believed, if you don’t take a nationalistic stance on some issues, you are anti-national.

This begs the question, what exactly is a nationalistic stance and who gets to decide it?

An even bigger question is, should news even be patriotic? Is the job of a journalist to tell the truth or a version of the truth?

To be honest, it’s not even a new trend. We in India have constantly accused the media in China and Pakistan of behaving in such a manner for decades. Surely, they too must think they are being patriotic to their nations.

Which raises another question: whose patriotism is right?

Closer home, here in Arunachal Pradesh, a journalist or even a layperson will be unable to write or report about certain issues from an objective point of view.

After all, in a tribal-majority state, the lines of identity are quite clear-cut.

What that results in is that the Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) and the refugee issues cannot be objectively reported upon and preference must be given to indigenous people and our issues and concerns.

However, is that true journalism?

When a lawyer takes up the case of a known criminal whose crime has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, should they raise their hands and surrender their case or is it their solemn duty that their client sees a fair day in court? If they did, conviction rates would obviously be higher but a democracy guarantees certain rights that must be upheld.

Similarly, the job of a journalist is also to fairly report on all issues from all angles, as far as possible. I say ‘as far as possible’ because as humans, we cannot help but be clouded by our own personal prejudices and judgements.

The job is to ensure that the judgement does not turn into jingoism.

1 Comment

  1. I would concur with the write-up. Very often, readers/ viewers fail to understand the job of a journalist. In recent times, many from the press & media fraternity too have also failed to understand their job. The space for free flow of thoughts & opinion should always be kept open.

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