Monkey Business!

Trivia and selective news is becoming the media’s hallmark.
Monkey Business!

"We buy balloons and a helium tank," explained the editor-in-chiefof the local newspaper at a Russian media conference. "We inflate some balloonsand sell them at local festivals. It doesn't bring in huge revenues, but it'sfairly profitable." Several editors in the room were amused at his remark.

The fact is that editor was being truthful. Media, nowadays,thrives not on quality news but over lack of it. If right news is readilyavailable, it loses its value. Trivia and selective news is becoming themedia's hallmark.

A Russian media futurist, writer and journalist M, Andrey inone of his articles writes- "Have you ever seen a beach resort photographer?Once upon a time, they did rather good business at Russian resorts. But sinceeveryone has their own camera now, what is there for a beach photographer todo? Photographers found the answer – they have bought adorable little monkeys.Anyone can take pictures with their own cameras now, and they're pretty muchsatisfied with the quality. But, wow! Look, a monkey! Cool! No one packs his orher own monkey for vacation. In this case, the value of a service (orcommodity) is determined not by its quality but by its scarcity, (people havecameras, but not a monkey on hand)".

So, media flourishes in monkey business by providingsomething which does not even fall under its domain. In a way, mediacamaflouges its shortage of news with stuff that has little importance andrelevance vis-à-vis the actual news story.

Few years ago, a farmer from Rajasthan committed suicide atpolitical rally in Delhi. While media turned the event into a political slugfest, some trivial details were produced to stray the attention from main issueof alarming farmer suicides in India. The 'news' about dead farmer reportedthat he was an expert in tying turbans and had decked up Bill Clinton amonghost of other political figures and celebs.

A man taking his life in public must have been sufferingfrom a trauma that his turban- tying service failed to salvage. However, mediapreferred to sell his turban not trauma. The newsy element should not have beenhis unrewarding skill, but his debts or poor harvest. Unseasonal rainfall,hailstorms, and destruction of standing crops that had put strain on the poorfarmer. The grim reality remains that media in India is selling hysterics andnot hard realism facing Indian polity.

The question is for how long can fiction substitute forfacts? And can 'monkeys' be always traded? 'Monkeys' are entities to introducedigression and induce new ideas. For media is the distributor of ideology, and'monkeys' are brought in just to manufacture disorder and mystification.

As the media grows and proliferates, the expansion of'monkeys' invariably increases. People now receive news as a matter of course,without any effort or demand on their part. The news will be deliveredregardless. One has to only turn on the nearest electronic gadget with mediafeed apps. To survive in such a challenging market and earn profits, electronicand print media seem left with no choice but to magnetize audiences with monkeystuff. 

To end with Andrey again, "The problem is that thephotographer with the monkey is really selling the monkey, not photographs(alas, the photograph has become merely a supplement). That local Russiannewspaper is selling balloons, not articles. Theoretically, journalism canamass enough monkeys to save traditional news media, but their business will bezoo keeping, not journalism".

Bottomline: Monkeys can be trained to ape but they can'tdevelop into significant 'message' for media consumption! All things shallow eventuallyget exposed and fizzle out in oblivion.

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