Gone are the days when people had had a very high regards for news media organizations and huge respect for its editors, too. Till few years ago, the news media were recognized for its unbiased coverage and journalistic quality. People were to believe and had absolute faith on media, but situation is not the same today. An expose by industrialist Navin Jindal, accusing Zee News of extortion has once again brought out corrupt media practices into limelight, putting a question mark on the credibility and ethical values of the media.
Probably, it is the first of its kind case in the history of electronic media, where news media organization, which was acknowledged for its coverage, is being exposed by someone else.
Jindal Steel and Power Limited showed tapes purportedly recorded in a sting operation – alleging that the channel tried to blackmail the company and extort Rs 100 crore for not airing stories against it on coal block allocation, and the video sent shocking waves among senior most journalists, as it was something which was unusual for them.
Although, it is still difficult to say who is to blame for this situation of the media. Is it the management, who is revenue oriented, editors who are levied with an additional responsibility of generating revenue or journalists who misuse their power?
Years ago, editors were actually the ‘editors’ and decision maker of the publication. At one point, even managements used to fear them. They were not responsible for bringing advertisements or generating revenue. But today most of the editors have become editorial managers, where they have to look after content as well as advertisements. Due to the responsible role played by the journalists, publications were known by the name of their editors. But now editors enjoy only ‘restricted freedom’ and majority of readers don’t even know who is the editor of the news media they are following.
Today, every now and then a new newspaper and news channel is hitting the market. And due to stiff media competition, fundraising is the big challenge before every media organization. But still, everyone wants to be at the top of the ladder, and then it does not matter even if you need to sacrifice your values and norms. Unfortunately, in this race to win, honest journalists and media organizations are losing their credibility.
Because of some corrupt media practitioners, a whole fraternity has been blemished today. When someone says he or she is a journalist, the first reaction of the person is (whether it is a friend, family member or someone else) – Ohh, you are a journalist; you must be earning good salary plus ‘colossal side income’ (a kind of bribe or goods in the form of cash or materials). Due to handful of dishonest fraternity members, the media image as a whole has been portrait negatively.
Journalists, who are willing to work hard honestly fall prey to management compulsions. In case, if a journalist raises his voice, then he/she is sacked without giving a notice. Journalists are forced to do what management says due to fear of losing job. The thing is much worst with many regional newspapers. Reporters or stringers working with a regional newspaper are strictly given advertisement targets. This target is not only for the reporters who are working in rural areas or small towns, but also to the one working in the urban regions. In fact, most of the times their salaries depend upon the revenue generated by them, and not on the performance they are giving. During election period, instead of digging out stories, they are forced to run behind candidates to get advertisements (which are presented to readers in the form of articles). If these are the circumstances, how can one expect unbiased and ethical journalism? Why the media sorority will not lose its authenticity and credibility?
This is my third generation into journalism; though I was very young, I have seen honest journalism done by my grandfather and father very closely. It was a time when people used to fear as well as respect them due to their trustworthiness and valor. During my grandfather’s journalistic era, people had immense respect for every editor as well as the publication. But today, that fear as well as respect has been vanished somewhere. For many journalists at local, regional and even at national level journalism has become a source of income. One should not be surprised if found a local journalist owning a bungalow and expensive cars.
Integrity in journalism is ‘sacred’ where your audience is ‘king.
Time has come for the media to avoid perceived conflicts of interest; the media should respect the dignity and intelligence of the audience as well as the subject of the news.
An expose by zee is a strong signal for media to introspect itself and regain the faith of ‘common man’.