Media studies is exciting, but…

…It has lost sheen owing to multiple reasons
"The report has picked a degree in journalism among the list of the top 10 most regretted degrees."
"The report has picked a degree in journalism among the list of the top 10 most regretted degrees."Wikimedia Commons/ Brett Jordan

Just a few days back, I got an opportunity to review the performance of the media, particularly the journalists, while interacting with media students in one of the universities in Kashmir.

I have always believed that our region (J&K) is a suitable place for training journalists when it comes to observing objectivity in a situation which prevailed here in the last three decades. In fact, our region has emerged as a green pasture for journalists where innumerable human interest stories have remained untold.

Journalism has been one of the fastest growing professions in the region, especially at a time when private cable and television channels emerged on the scene.

We saw not only viewership and readership of media growing to unprecedented levels, but the manpower behind these media outlets also saw an army of people joining the profession to explore the power of media and simultaneously carve out their livings.

During the course, it was objectivity, the main pillar of news media, which got marred and people most of the time had to struggle to check the authenticity of the news flashed by the media outlets. Precisely, cooked stories became the order of the day, which added more to the turmoil engulfing the region.

Cooked stories are actually fake stories where the intention is to harm a particular section by misleading the general public. The trend continued for decades as there was no check on such kinds of journalism. Unfortunately, the trend was existing at national level too where in the war of TRPs, the electronic channels played with the facts and most of the time aired the incidents in a twisted form.

Some time back, in a discussion with the management of a reputed national TV News Channel, I raised the issue of a particular reputed anchor of their channel fuelling fear among the audience.

Even as I quoted several incidents reported by the particular anchor as fake reports, one of the top management level executives of the channel rubbished my statement by saying that the channel was enjoying higher TRP than other channels.

In fact he was projecting the highest TRP of his News channel as a certificate of credibility from the public. But, it was not so. I had to explain to him the difference between TRP and credibility. He was speechless when I told him that whenever I come across any “Breaking News” on his channel, I had to switch to some other channel for authenticity of the News.

The point is that it’s credibility which matters and keeps such organizations afloat, not the TRP. As a student of media I have learned that media, be it print or electronic, often plays a key role in conflict situations. When it takes an active part in the conflict by staying independent and out of the conflict, it contributes to the resolution of conflict and alleviation of violence.

But the relationship of the media with the actors and the power holders in the conflict has always carried a big question mark on their credibility. I fervently believe that it’s this biased functioning of the media, be it at individual level or organizational level, which has time and again been driving the turmoil. Mostly, they have failed to provide sustainable social support through the means of information to the people.

Frankly speaking, most of them have been looking for power rather than offering their services with responsibility. So it’s the lust of this power which overpowers their sense of responsibility and sacrifice professionalism. They gather the information, twist it and put it to the public.

Besides, they have been presenting themselves as most important than the information. Generally speaking, their reporting has most of the times been defamatory, malicious and corrupted. I think this kind of sensational and fake reporting is an unpatriotic act as it only breeds unrest.

Now let us come to the growing influence of internet-based digital channels. It has become yet another route for non-professionals to venture into the field of journalism. It is seriously challenging the nobility of the profession.

The public trust on this once noble profession is dwindling fast owing to the freedom of speech and expression observed by the breed of self-styled journalists who shamelessly introduce themselves as reporters, editors and experts of everything.

Professionally speaking, journalists should never look for power, but should deliver services with responsibility in the line of duty towards the nation and its subjects. They have to exhibit their ability to mold or mobilize public opinion in a positive direction through their write-ups or productions. Let them be opinion makers or analysts enjoying readers’ trustworthiness. Basically, we should seek moral journalism - a journalism that cares as well as it knows.  

One thing is most crucial. A journalist must be careful not to become more important than the event and he should not even prescribe how the audience should feel and react.

Last but not the least; a journalist should be – to the people, by the people and for the people. He should deliver services for society and not for better TRPs or circulation and money. He should show more concern about social development and not assuming power for money.

Meanwhile, the mess around the profession of journalism and the bad name brought to the profession by some unscrupulous ‘self-styled journalists’ has triggered dejection among the student community.

During the past few months, educational institutions offering degrees in Mass Communication & Journalism have been repeatedly offering admissions in Journalism courses by waiving off certain formalities.

But, if reports are to be believed, the institutions failed to get a suitable number of students, which itself indicates that students are losing interest in pursuing degrees in journalism.

Let me quote a recent survey report in Mint. The survey, according to the report, has found that students who studied journalism as their college majors regretted their decision the most and would jump at the opportunity to go back and take up a different degree. Notably, the report has picked a degree in journalism among the list of the top 10 most regretted degrees.

Lastly, let me reiterate that a licensing of Journalists should be explored and a system put in place whereby individuals would be required to apply to an external authority for permission to practice journalism, which may be refused or revoked. Licensing will take care of genuine persons with professional qualification and background to practice journalism.

For this, there is a need for a regulatory authority where a database of professional journalists would be built up. Once under its ambit, various welfare schemes for the journalist community can be tailored by the government.

Even as licensing of journalist is a rough idea, it will axe fake and self-styled journalists who have been on prowl to rob people of their peace of mind and prosperity. The idea needs, of course, brainstorming deliberations.  

(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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