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Are we losing faith in the fourth pillar of democracy “MEDIA”

Recently, India has been honored with a low rank of 138 in the World freedom Press index.  A report compiled by Reporters Without Borders(RWB). It measures the level of freedom available to journalist and not the quality of journalism which has progressively stooped down at an unimaginable level.

Now, many have argued that this is a biased opinion as foreign correspondents report negative stories about India. Some section of society has used this opportunity to blame the government of the day which is led by BJP. While the others are compelled to accept the fact that this is nothing new. It is a norm. And the rest have tweeted enough!

It’s an astonishing fact that nobody had the courage to do some self-reflection. As in the real sense, media is not just a watchdog but also a mirror of society. In a democratic nation, the media is responsible to disseminate information and educate the citizens about the world at large. It has the power of holding the politicians and administrators accountable who basically are responsible for the policy formulation as well as execution.

So, what went wrong? Have you ever thought about it? Why did we lose faith in the media?

Before answering the aforementioned questions, let me give you a brief ride about how things work behind the curtains.

In any media organization, either print or electronic, generation of information happens simultaneously with the presentation of news. The reporters are the people who have a nose for news, keep looking for stories. They travel to distant places in order to knit their story well, the camera person captures the required footage and finally send this to their organization. By the way, they are also responsible for fact-checking which is one of the core journalistic principles. This does not happen in a breaking news situation or live broadcasting.

In the second stage, it gets filtered from different departments commonly known as gatekeeping.  And, finally, it reaches to the editors’ desk. Now this man or woman is the real maai baap of a news organization. It is his/her (gender equality should be respected) responsibility to verify the story objectively and give it a thumbs up!

Once the news is out it spreads like a teer from kamaan (bow and arrow). Despite all the efforts one can never take it back. Even if one manages to do, it will be useless in this technological era, where information travels faster than light. Most of the times the story revolves around politics, crime, murder, rape, deaths etc. It’s a tradition in journalism to follow the golden words which say, “if it bleeds it leads.” As a result, you will never read or watch stories about a beautiful sunny day. Rather you will be informed about hurricanes and tsunamis.

The decision making of a reporter and an editor shapes the story which ultimately leaves an impact on the people’s mindset. Somewhere down the line, they are responsible for shaping a country’s destiny by reporting nothing else but TRUTH. Often times you will only be fed with the information about what’s happening in the core arena i.e politics but sadly be deprived of ground reality which actually happens at the periphery, the grassroots level where the majority of the population resides. These days the media has an obsession with WHO SAID WHAT rather than WHO DID WHAT.

In this context, the stories on the failure of government policies, working of administration at ground level, everyday struggle of informal workers, environmental issues, social issues seldom get the space. I agree with the fact that the media has been responsible for setting the negative agendas which ultimately have made fissures in our society.  For instance cow vigilantism and lynching cases triggered by inciting hatred amongst the masses. And the vehicle was media, losing its faith and credibility.

A few days back I did a survey where I had asked the people about the impact of news in their lives and to my surprise majority of them had a similar kind of response – We don’t watch the news because it’s negative and ruins our day.

But being a responsible citizen it is our duty to question what is being reported. Before believing everything, take a step back and think about the information which you have just received. Reflect on the fact, how can you use this information productively. What kind of changes you can bring in the society. After all, IT’S NOT JUST A STORY. An active participant is better than a mute spectator.

In the conclusion all, I can say that there is an urgent need for the media organization to introspect and find the loopholes. Ethical journalism has been lost in the pages of history which needs to be regained. A journalist who cover positive stories, which can bring some stability and respite in citizens lives, their voices needs to be amplified more. The killing of a journalist who is brave enough to challenge the administration is a blot on our society. The government should pay enough heed to protect the truth seekers and media should work honestly to regain the faith.