Speaking on the challenges confronting journalism at the Venkatesh Chapalgaonkar Memorial Lecture, Pune, Rajdeep Sardesai, one of the well known and respected journalists in the national media today, had the following comments to make on today’s journalism:
Honesty, integrity and a passion for news are in normal times, seen as the basic attributes to be a journalist. These, however, my friends, are not normal times: honesty was once a qualification to be a journalist. Today, intellectual and financial dishonesty is probably a qualification for some to be a journalist. Sense has been replaced by sensation, news by noise, credibility by chaos. This is probably more true of television than print.
Yes, my friends, there is a crisis in television news journalism: living in denial is no longer an option. We have been part of a television news revolution that broke the monopoly of Doordarshan, that brought a passion and infectious energy to the news process, which ensured that there was no place to hide for public figures. But two decades after the ascent of private news television, the truth is that the revolution we were all part of now threatens to devour us. Last week, the great singer Kishori Amonkar died: except one or two national channels, no one bothered to pay fulsome tribute. A classical singer after all is not an instantly recognised Bollywood singer.
He is not wrong: we exist in a news ecosystem where a Yogi Adityanath sells, which is why we track him 24 x 7 as if he is a pied piper of Lucknow, but will not even have space for a decent obituary on someone who was a living legend. Of course, the Yogi makes news as a public figure, but do we need to monitor his bowel movements with a hawk eye?
Forget about high culture, we don’t even care about agriculture. For the last one month, farmers from Tamil Nadu have been in the national capital, agitating in Jantar Mantar for their farm loans to be waived off. They have even brought the skulls, or replicas of the skulls, of their fellow farmers who have committed suicide, in the hope that someone will take notice of their plight. The skulls of farmers made for good dramatic pictures, which is why the story was finally covered by the national TV media for at least one day.
Definitely words to ponder over.