As the state of the nation supervisor, the media has immense responsibility since every wrong reporting, can and does, more often than not, lead to grave consequences soon enough. In this age of the information society, the content and the presentation of information, is like a fissionable material which can light up cities or set them on fire. Please handle with care, writes Prof HC Pande
“If you don’t read the newspaper you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper you’re misinformed”……Mark Twain.
The edifice of democracy rests on four pillars viz. Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and Media. For proper maintenance and continued safety of the democratic structure, media, the fourth pillar, or, more appropriately, in the context of the Press, the fourth column, is vital as it reports on the structural health of the other three so that,wherever needed,the necessary repairs can be undertaken well in time.However,as in the case of the Morbi bridge collapse,wrong reporting on maintenance results in disaster,sooner or later.If the maintenance supervisors had given the correct reports on the state of repairs of the bridge,well over a hundred lives had not been lost,and,hundreds more not injured.This was an avoidable tragedy,and,the misreporting,a crime.
As the state of the nation supervisor, the media has immense responsibility since every wrong reporting, can and does, more often than not, lead to grave consequences soon enough. The way an incident is described and given priority to,can provoke or calm a reader,and,set vibrations,positive or negative,in the society.The current state the media fits the statement of George Bernard Shaw “Newspapers are unable,seemingly,to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilisation”.
The way,the cases of murder,molestation,and,mayhem dominate the news headlines day in and day out,advertisements cover the front pages of newspapers,and,interrupt serious discussions on TV channels,seems to indicate that the media barons are either illiterate or ill intentioned or perhaps both.The recent horrendous episode of Shraddha murder is a case in point.A population of over a billion and a quarter would have it’s share,of the gruesome incidents taking place all over the world.Surely,such happenings should be condemned in no uncertain terms but sensationalising it day after day,and,spicing it with all sorts of conjectures is highly irresponsible,and,doubly damaging act.With the investigation still going on,speculating on the possible steps that the Police is going to take,aids the criminal and harms the investigation.Further such reports,at times,can subconsciously influence the investigators,and,send them on a wild goose chase,retarding the dispensation of justice.Worse still is the effect of flashing such gruesome news,365 days a year,which disturbs the peace of mind of the people,directly effecting their work efficiency,and, indirectly,the nation’s development.
The recent trends in news reporting are a serious cause for concern.It appears that the media,the fourth column of democracy,is turning into a, de facto ‘fifth column’ of the vested interests,which could be political,business,or,plain antisocial.In this country,of infinite variety,there are differences everywhere but largely the spirit of co-existence prevails.Surely,whatever happens is news,and,could be reported but a sense of proportion has to be observed in giving it prominence.Further the exposition should be only in substance,omitting needless details that can arouse emotions.The logic is simple;those involved know the details,those interested can find them out,and,the rest need not be bothered with what does not concern them.Slanting the news,to cater to a particular vested interest,is akin to the work of a fifth columnist creating confusion within the society.A fight between two kids over a broken pencil or neighbouring boys,belonging to different communities,over a cricket match,has been,at times,reported in a way which has sparked communal riots.Carrying advertisements of products or services,making,clearly visible,exaggerated claims,is akin to aiding in the economic sabotage of the family budget.
In this age of the information society,the content and the presentation of information,is like a fissionable material which can light up cities or set them on fire. Please handle with care.
(Prof. H C Pande is Vice Chancellor Emeritus , BITS, Mesra)