Sensationalism has become synonymous with the Indian Media, especially Television. In 2008 during the coverage of 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, Barkha Dutt, India’s known journalist, received flak from several sections of the society for her overzealous reporting style. Critics blamed her for ignoring the ethics of journalism by making the coverage dramatic. Similarly, during the 2015 Nepal earthquake Indian Media was criticized for its insensitive coverage of the incident. #GoHomeIndianMedia was ‘trending’ then to express people’s outrage against the Indian media.
Shift from Voice of the People to Voice of the Governance
Media is one of the four pillars of a vibrant democracy and India can be proud to own freedom of Press. TV news channels evolved from a single Doordarshan, which telecasted a five minute news bulletin in 1965, to a total number of 397 news and current affairs channels in 2014, most of which have 24/7 news broadcast. However, the presence of these many players has obviously led to cut- throat competition. Higher TRP ensured sustainability which eventually increased the company’s profitability. This has shifted the focus to sensationalism rather than credibility of the news. Journalists take advantage of India’s love for sentiments and emotions to spread propaganda.
In the beginning, news channels were considered as a credible source of ground reporting that provided ‘information’ to people. The inferences and judgement of the news were left to the conscience of the viewers. However, that is not the case now. Today’s journalists and anchors usually go beyond the scope of just ‘reporting’ the news by giving their personal verdict of the matter, giving the viewers very little space to think on their own. Anchors of debates act more like judges rather than mere mediators. The inclination of media houses towards certain political parties and business houses have given rise to biased-journalism. They have been used as tools to influence and tweak people’s thoughts. Political parties and corporate houses use them to increase their vote-bank and market value respectively.
Social Media in Journalism
Internet especially the social media has re-defined Journalism. More and more people depend on social media for breaking news. They serve as a platform to read about different perspectives. Also, the prevalence of blogging, Facebook and Twitter has given rise to citizen journalism wherein even a common man has an option to report, criticize and comment on topics. This has made the traditional media more accountable about what they broadcast. Any hypocrisy, prejudice or bias shown in their reporting immediately gets mocked and shamed on the Social Media. Example: the Indian cricket fans used the #ShameOnTimesNow hashtag to slam Times Now channel for sensationalizing Team India’s defeat at the previous World-Cup.
Journalism is what maintains democracy. It’s the force for progressive social change.
Evolution is inevitable in any industry, with media being no exception. However, the purpose of evolution should not bypass a collective cause. India has many serious issues that require attention, like poverty, corruption, illiteracy etc. Jessica Lal Murder case is an example of how the media can play an influential role towards social causes. Power of media together with the support of citizens can be a threat to anyone who brings hindrance to the country’s growth.