Sunday, April 22, 2007

Quality of news

A while back, one of my ex-manager (who is in USA) was mentioning about how shallow the news reporting there was. An example he cited was of a cat being stuck in the tree becoming national news.

This was around 2003-2004 : and the Indian news 'industry' was shifting into full gear. Even though we had a whole bunch of 24 hour news channels mushrooming all over the airways - yet the quality of reporting was quite decent.
The subject matters discussed were interesting, the 'stories' & analysis was comparatively in-depth and the news channels seemed to take reporting as a social & moral responsibility.
Viewers got the impression that journalists were involved in this process : people who cared and wanted to make a difference in the society, expose events of importance, take up just and worthwhile causes...
So it was quite common for me to be found flipping through these channels.

Fast forward to today - and I dont watch news channels anymore. I stopped about an year or so ago when the SNR became really low. I could not take the drivel being dished out anymore. When I got to my parents place this vacation, I became aware of the further degradation in quality and standards.
Some of the 'news stories' border on media obsession, and the nonsense that passes off as 'breaking news' makes me wonder what they really mean by that phrase nowadays !
The media generated way too much hype around some of the recent events which can be utmost termed inconsequential ! Who really cares who was invited to marriage of x to y or what abc wore or what the personal feud between the father & daughter in law is ?
There are so many more important events happening in this world, in this country. Things which have a direct or indirect impact on quality of life of millions - and sadly they hardly get a mention in the frantic craze to be the first to report anything sensational.
The craze is making the media so irresponsible that, at times even basic validation of the report is not done: at times, in spite of knowing that the involved are just fishing for publicity, the media plays along since they have something 'juicy' and controversial to report.

The news channels seem to be forgetting the spirit of journalism ... and until they (re)discover that, the public would have no other option other than shallow sensationalism and 'sound bites'; and the media will lose its power and position to do anything worthwhile to the society as the fourth estate.

10 Comments:

Blogger Moonjungle said...

Here is an idea- Man walks into news channel office with a small package. Preferably disguised as AC or elevator repairman. Sets up the package in a secluded area in the building. He leaves the building. Cut to his home.... man watches TV gets annoyed with programming, presses button and hurray an EMP bomb with a small range goes off at the news office. No more shitty news channel.

Perplexed cable operator replaces the channel with Animal Planet. Now thats quality programming.

4/22/2007 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're not obliged to give you high SNR or "good quality" news. Firstly, they're money making organisations so they air things what sell (the fact the the mass of the population prefers the kind of thing being dished out is another sad story). Secondly (especially in the US), they have a propaganda function. They influence public opinion (since most people spend a good number of their waking hours in front of a TV or a cheap magazine). Try to see if you can get you hands on the book 'manufacturing consent'. Good read for this sort of thing.

4/23/2007 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Mridul said...

@vipin
animal planet or nick :-D Good plan ! Now to get an emp ... :-P


@anon
Interesting comment (no name ? :) ).
I would agree that news channels are not there to do charity and are in the business to make money.
But the intention of how they want to go about doing this must be made clear.
All the indian news channels try to masquerade as 'serious news channels' upholding 'journalistic ideals', blah, blah.

A parallel could be made to the print media : there are news magazines, there are 'entertainment' magazines, magazines purely for 'gossip', etc.
The distinction here is clear - and is targetted at specific segments.

In the news channel case, they try to maintain a high moral ground with 'incisive journalism', 'hard hitting news reports', 'whatever it takes', 'exaustive analysis', etc (buzzwords from the channels) - and yet report substandard crap.
Either be upfront about being a gossip channel (there are a few like that btw), or try to do what you claim they are doing.

I cant comment more about how the US media works ... but then I usually have a low opinion about them except for two shows : Daily Show and Colbert report ;-)
Thanks for the book reference, will try to pick it up if I come across it.

4/23/2007 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post chetta!

4/23/2007 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger  said...

Uh, I just pick the remote and watch something else instead.

Media getting powerful is a Good Thing, though. Only if it that power can be channelized to get only good things done.

I feel uncomfortable by today's lack of credibility and responsibility of e-media.

4/23/2007 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger AK said...

good topic to pick man.. I couldn't agree more.. I don't buy the idea of channels sell what the public wants, as to an extent media decides what we watch.. with the economic growth, growth in ambitious and educated individual, burgeoning middle-class, globalisation (sigh!!!), and still a large mass of populace that appreciates the good old quality stuff dished out by Doordarshan (from World This Week to Surabhi to Chitrahaar).. I think there is a good segment of the population wants to see lesser of Boollywood - Cricket and corrupt politics. They could even have seperate channels for metros and mini-metros, make it paid even so that you may even cut down on the ads and show the stuff to the people who are concerned.. but Vipin's idea is a quick fix! Guru, you are done for man.. tomorrow they are going to trace your comment back to paranoid schizo.. and 2 snaps 1 b4 REC and 1 Now! will seal the fate.. beware!!

4/23/2007 10:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But the intention of how they want to go about doing this must be made clear.
All the indian news channels try to masquerade as 'serious news channels' upholding 'journalistic ideals', blah, blah.


If a news show started with a disclaimer saying that it's a propaganda tool and not a serious neutral show, it's suicide. They won't make any money that way. So they wont. The print media is a bad example. Take a typical "news magazine", they're advertisement vehicles and distractions. Most of what they write is totally irrelevant. If they actually printed good stuff, it wouldn't sell (since that's not what people want). Serious magazines don't really make it into the mainstream. The ones with gratuitous amounts of scandal and flesh will sell so that 's what they focus on.


In the news channel case, they try to maintain a high moral ground with 'incisive
No, they don't. They pretend to do that since it's expedient. They want to make money and sell their news (and satisfy advertisers) so they pretend to. You're deceiving yourself if you think that they're serious about it. Just like pro-wrestling. They talk about "incredible" stamina but everyone knows that it's staged.

4/27/2007 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Mridul said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/27/2007 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger satya said...

hi mridul,

When I gave a google search for "sun microsystems" + mallu + engineer, chanced upon your blog. Seen that you are working in Sun Microsystems.

I am a Keralite working in Bangalore

For the past few days, I had been trying to find out a Keralite in Sun Microsystems, USA. I told about this to a friend in USA, but he said its difficult to find out without name.

These are the subtle details known about him:

He is from Alleppey District in Kerala, India. He was working in Sun Microsystems, USA during 2003, 2004 etc. His wife also joined for work in Sun Microsystems after their marriage. He should have been in a little senior position there. May be they are still in Sun Microsystems.

He has a younger brother who studied BE/MCA in Tamil Nadu during 2002, 2003 etc. Their father is in a high position in a government job in Kerala.

Do you know somebody in Sun like that, and can you possibly help me in this regard?

Thanks and Regards,
-Satya

Email: ksat77@yahoo.com

4/29/2007 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger Mridul said...

@satya

no idea

4/30/2007 02:27:00 AM  

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