What Guwahati Incident Says About the Media

The case in Guwahati, where a teenage girl was molested by a mob has made headlines everywhere. I hope the media frenzy over the issue leads to a speedy trial and justice for the unfortunate girl.

But I wonder about the factors which propelled this news story to the national consciousness. Of course, there are those 12 news values which Galtung and Ruge proposed as far back as 1965. And even the video shot by the journalist of a news channel played a role. But there is more. The bias of the media towards the rich (and the middle class), and the urban milieu is more than obvious.

If the Guwahati incident was to happen in some remote village in Assam or even to a poor girl from Guwahati, I doubt it would have gained the same attention. Few years ago, a very tragic incident took place in my village. A girl aged less than two-years was raped by her own father, which led to her tragic death. The whole village was shocked, but no media entity took notice of the incident, not even the vernacular newspapers.

This sheer lack of will on the part of the media to report about underprivileged sections of the society is due to two main reasons. The working population in the news media sector is mainly from urban middle class. Also, the biggest target audience of the news media is again urban middle class.

Unless something extra-ordinary happens in a village, media does not care to report it. I would understand if the issue was only about resources, which is clearly not. The other problem is that this bias is very intrinsic and many from the profession will not readily accept it. Hence, creating awareness about the issue becomes necessary.


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