I had gone to a poetry gathering yesterday. After a poem about the government and vices of the society, the discussion shifted to media and its attitude towards news. “Our media cares more about the death of Jiah Khan than the farmer suicides in Vidarbha. The IPL and the match fixing scandal get blanket coverage over all the other issues in the country. Media is interested only in TRPs and nothing else”, someone complained.
I have heard this complaint a million times before. Galtung and Ruge had accurately predicted about which stories get prominence in the media and which do not way back in 1969 in their system of twelve news values. And it is not only the Indian media, but media of every other country, consciously or unconsciously follows this system. Media is the fourth pillar of the society, it is the mirror of the society and it is supposed to uphold the principles of democracy, justice and equality is all bullshit. We all know why the major media houses are in this sector. They are pure capitalist entities, whose sole purpose is profit maximization.
But on the other side, how many of the people who whine about Jiah Khan getting more coverage than the farmers in Vidarbha read P. Sainath? Jiah Khan was a Bollywood actress. India is a Bollywood-crazy nation. India is a cricket-crazy nation. And no one should be disgruntled if media wants to capitalize on that. You do not have to be an admin of a news site to know which stories get thousands of views and which ones do not even go beyond a three digit number. If tomorrow a story about protests against a nuclear power plant gets 10,000 views and a story about Shah Rukh Khan’ Wankhede episode gets only 100 views, the former story will inevitably get more prominence from next time.
A newspaper like Times Of India is the best-selling newspaper in our country says a lot about us. We do not reward quality. I sometimes feel the cliched statement ‘media is the mirror of the society’ is actually true. We ourselves are more interested in Bollywood and cricket and sensational scandals than developmental issues (which require you to think before you can process them) and media satiates this need of ours. Forget media, just have a look at the kind of issues people are discussing on Facebook and Twitter and in the coffee houses and you will get the picture.
I have no hope from mainstream media (except for such honourable exceptions as The Indian Express, The Hindu, Economic & Political Weekly and The Caravan). But there are many alternative media outlets which are trying to bring some sanity to the discourse in India. Kafila, India Together, Pratilipi, Khabar Lahariya are the few I can think of at the moment. If you think media in India is a hopeless entity, do have a look at these small initiatives, read them, reward them, and make them grow.