As I type this, I can hear a gentleman shouting at the top of his voice on one the most-watched Indian News channel (that’s what they call themselves), and my dad glued to the television, taking in all the wisdom earnestly. Before you jump to any conclusions, I must tell you that it’s not a piece of Breaking News being reported with all that zeal and enthusiasm. It’s the same old amalgamation of COVID, religion, statistics, and blame that they were discussing yesterday, and the day before that (and the one before that…).
Most news headlines nowadays make me wonder, “Whatever happened to journalism?” I agree that a part of the job description is to point out where things are not working correctly. It makes the society aware and well-functioning, or does it? Is it true that society will function well if it only knows what is going wrong? Isn’t it equally important to focus on what can be done to progress from there, and how can we do better? Adding information about where things have become better is only essential for societal welfare, it will also make the press depict society more accurately.
Most of the news that is presented to us is based on a “victim-attacker” framework. Let’s take the ongoing crisis and its impact on the labor class. The poor fellows who are forced to walk kilometers without proper food and sleep on tracks are obviously in a terrible situation. But what happens when the journalists think of them only as victims? They tend to design their reporting in a particular manner by working on blind angles. Pointing out that the condition is horrifying and helpless is one thing, and entirely designing the report around it is a whole other story. What the news is tacitly doing nowadays is a form of marking and tagging – victims face hardships, attackers take advantage, politicians fight and disagree, reporters blame, religion defeats rationality… and many more. What it does to the viewers is that people tend to have blind-angles in their view of the world. They form images in their head and then look around for evidence to confirm their biases. Most viewers watch the news that aligns with their blind-sided thought process, and hence the so-called news channels keep re-heating serving the same dish with slightly different garnish every day. I don’t understand how someone can be so focussed on TRPs that they forget about the enormous responsibility they carry.
What I am suggesting is some constructive journalism where the news, rather than revolving around conflicts and negativity, becomes solution-focused. If the reports are talking about a problem, they should also try to cover the potential solutions. Instead of playing blame-games and calling them debates, the channels should be facilitating more productive discussions amongst the decision-makers. Now that everything is locked-down, journalism has become important more than ever before. I think it’s high time to add some positive and constructive elements to it and make sure that even if it can’t mitigate the situation, it doesn’t cause the societies to break down either.