“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” Malcom X
Of late,yours truly has been noticing about the frivolous and pretentious nature by which media has been trying to twist and sabotage facts using unreal and scrupulous journalism practices-thereby influence policy-making nationally and internationally. The role of the fourth estate has been a very important one-the proper and judicious dissemination of knowledge and in this context, a synopsis for debate and discussion is presented here.
All over the world, everyday people get up and read about the events that occur in their neighborhood, countryside and worldwide. In the pre-Internet days, nobody bothered about what happened outside their communities or their ‘comfort zones’. Post 9/11, tsunami, Iraq, Afghanistan, Obama, recession and Haiti, anybody with an easy access to a mobile phone or an internet connection, does read and be bothered about what happens outside, in and around the world. This situation gives enormous amount of power and leverage to the media that is responsible for the fair and balanced reporting of the news events, proper and just analysis of current and international affairs. However, it is not the case and it has come to a stage that in certain countries like India, widespread angst and debate have originated about the origin of news, paid for and true ones etc.
From time immemorial, press has been the savior of everyone who had the guts to stand up against the establishment. During the period of Emergency in India, Cold War, Holocaust etc, many world events would have escaped the public eye if it weren’t for the audacity and the attentiveness of the media. Many notable personalities and careers were also created in the process. Those were the days, when the media outlets were less in number, and the news reached from place to place through couriers/telegrams etc using such obsolete technology that would make any person living today, stunned. Despite that free and fair reporting was the norm and media personalities, though liberal in kind, stood out as respectable people, out in the honest and untiring pursuit of the truth.
However, when technology grew, the media outlets grew in number. Media content began to be created in exponential proportions. The advent of the cable in US was greeted with skepticism when Ted Turner began CNN- the mammoth potential of which was realized in the first Gulf War-during the Operation Desert Storm. Ever since that period, the media awareness, 24/7 news cycles, advent of the internet etc. led to exposing of lot of concealed evils and resulted in the emergence of the global village phenomena, where anything and everything that happened elsewhere made sense. This led to the growth of a collective sense of responsibility and concern that reared its humane head when events like tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Haiti began to unravel-the realization that I am my brother’s keeper, sister’s keeper etc. Issues like global warming echoed around the world fostered the understanding that I am responsible for this planet earth and I do have a certain responsibility to this that cannot be ignored.
The election of Obama, where a literally unknown senator, was catapulted into the highest corridor of power in the world, reinforced the ability of media to be the ultimate savior of the underdogs. The recession and Wall Street bonuses, showed everybody the depths that resulted from human greed. Issues like Google in China, Toyota recall, Tiger Woods etc brought into the forefront values like free spirit, integrity and loyalty. In this scenario, the growth of free media bolstered by Twitter, Youtube and Facebook requires mention and commendation.
However, a recent disturbing trend has been the advent of ‘paid news’ particularly during elections and referendum in many countries like India, US etc. The whole health care debate was meant to be bipartisan and an unifier for the people for its remarkable potential to affect and change the lives of millions of Americans-it has ended up confusing everybody-due to the frivolous nature of media that covered the event. The efforts of British media to frown and discern the Vancouver Olympics and the tit for tat reaction by the Canadian media exposed lot of underlying and divisive battle lines. The debates that is going around in India regarding the ‘paid news’ have shamed the media further. Every day, news is emerging how the mainstream media has constantly failed the common public and has ended up being the torch bearers of the establishment and the business entities offering the people of this world anything other than the truth.
It’s a sad situation, where responsible reporting is taking a back seat, where ideals like integrity and honesty are being compromised like ever before, the lack of any long term vision or planning. This trend is alarming at the same time disturbing. We, the people should address this situation and be fully aware of what we read and how we base our opinions on. It’s better to prevent this sickness from taking hold and creating an instability now than ever. Be minded, the vanguards of democracy has become, off the people, buy the people and not for the people. And it’s now or never for us to act.