The business of News Reporting

Media is said to be the fourth pillar of democracy; and indeed, a healthy media has a significant role to play in betterment of the society – by shaping the value-system, structuring the societal tolerance on different grounds, and refining the socio-cultural ethos of the people concerned. After the liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991, there have been increasing interests in the business of news and tremendous investment has been made in that sector. However, of late, a major section of the media-houses seem to forget or pretend not knowing their constructive roles.

It is very disheartening to observe the rapid deterioration in the quality of news-reporting, especially in a section of electronic media, of late. They seem to mind nothing other than business; and to do better business, they seem to try their best to increase their sale and/or TRP by hook or by crook. Someone may get furious at me for this sharp criticism, but I dare to say that except for of very few media-houses, my above observation holds true for most of them.

Let me cite an example of a news-report about a private-tutor allegedly trying to molest a girl-student. This report is certainly going to be included in the prime-time news-show as a ‘breaking news’ and it would be started this way, “Warning to the parents… beware of home tutors… don’t trust the home tutor of your girl-child… he may be a dangerous molester… don’t put your daughter’s future at risk… and bla bla…”; the actual news would be read after an unecessary introduction two-three minutes – that too in futile details. After stating all the details about the allegedly-molested girl and the alleged molester, the news-reader will take the audience directly to the scene, and the local reporter will repeat the same thing twice or thrice. A video of the alleged molester being whisked away by police and the allegedly-molested girl and her parents answering few absurd questions, mixed with some background-music with animated texts would be a an addition. This news is certainly going to take at least five minutes of the prime-time. Now, presentation of the simple news of one private-tutor allegedly trying to molest a girl-student, in the above way, is bound to create a big sensation. Due to human instinct for the negative, such kind of presentations would attract more and more audience towards the channel, the TRP of the channel will sky-rocket and there will be more profit coming to the media-house in terms of sale of space and time. But, what constructive role would be played by the elaborate details of this news-report other than unnecessarily making all the parents suspicious about the private tutor of their girl-child? Besides, there are few more points to be considered here. First, was the view-point of the alleged molester taken before reporting the incident? It does not look like media-houses ever bother to do that. Then, isn’t the channel assassinating the person’s character by reporting a one-sided story? Who gave the channel to make the person to face the future humiliation, even if he is found not guilty after enquiry? Second, is it not a crime to terrorize all the parents and girl-student against their private-tutors? Will not such a report create a sense of suspicion and distrust between the parents and private-tutors? Will not it directly and/ or indirectly lead to spread of hate and un-necessary cautiousness (and so, mental stress) in the society? Who gave the media the right to destroy the social bonds this way?

News-reporting should be a respected job that involves lots of moral responsibilities. The news-reporters (by the way, news-reporters are not necessarily journalists), before going to report, should know their limits, bindings and responsibilities, and they must always stress on constructive news. However, if they don’t abide by the rules and crosses their limits, they should not be let go by virtue of their ‘freedom of expression’. If needed, they should be made to learn the limits of their ‘freedom’ the hard, legal way. I strongly feel that media had played a pretty big role in creating today’s chaotic, intolerant, self-centric and destructive society and it should not be allowed to be continued.

Dr Basanta Kumar Borah is Asst. Professor of Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat, Assam.

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