One can see, in India, Corona Virus is being fought fiercely in the News Room Studios than in the hospitals and the reporters are more worked up than the doctors. There are around 1500 TV channels and over 1,00,000 newspaper publications in India, today. India is the second largest news market in the world: Indians have an insatiable appetite for ‘khabar-sab ki’. Everyone knows, ‘News’ is a moneymaking industry, specially if it is salacious and stimulating. They realize, sex, scandals and scams have better market value than Truth and facts. Aim is to acquire good ratings in order to get advertisers, so that profits soar. Fear based news stories prey on the anxieties we all have and then hold us hostage. Earlier, journalistic mission was to report the news as it actually happened, with fairness, balance, and integrity.
These days, watching the news can be a psychologically risky pursuit that could undermine your mental and physical health. Every channel wants to bring out the breaking news; they want to be the first one to cover the sordid details. Earlier, they lived by the principle, “ It is better to be late and right than to be premature and wrong”.
In the late 19th century, William Randolph Hearst, editor of New York Morning Journal, wanted more readerships for his newspaper. He figured, a war would do the trick.
When the USS Maine, one of the first American battleships, was sunk in the Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, Hearst—who was already passionately in support of Cuban independence from Spain—seized this opportunity to fan the flames of war between the United States and Spain by printing bold headlines of pure speculation, presented as fact. Although it may not be correct to say that he was solely responsible for the Spanish-American war, but none can dispute the fact that he inflamed the public sentiment for his personal profits. William Randolph Hearst is best known for publishing the largest chain of American newspapers in the late 19th century, and particularly for sensational “yellow journalism”. Because of his leading role in inciting the war, Hearst was nicknamed the “Father of Yellow Journalism.” ( For those not aware, Yellow Journalism is an American term used to describe the journalism that indulges in eye-popping headlines for higher sales)
Media was supposed to be balanced and unbiased, it has turned out to be diametrically opposite: Biased and unbalanced! There is an old rhetorical question which in itself highlights one of humanity’s many philosophical paradoxes: Is life an imitation of art or is art an imitation of life? As iterated by Mr Pranab Mukherjee, during his Presidential election in 2012, “Political parties and the journalists are like fish and water; they cannot survive without each other”. They are known to eat out of each other’s hands. For journalists, Partisanship is not new, however, it was subtle and unnoticeable. The journalists followed a camouflaged method of ‘show, don’t tell’. Now, it is in the face and direct: It is all tell, tell and tell. In journalism, there is term called ‘Dune Affect’ which means that whoever controls the media, controls the public opinion.
Capitalistic motives, associated with journalism, have enforced a shift in their thinking. Aim now is to cover spectacular, the stirring, and the controversial news stories, as fast as feasible.
The new dictum in journalism is, “If It Bleeds, It Leads, no matter, whose blood it is”.
Mao, the Chinese leader, had said once, “ Political power grows out of a barrel of the gun”. The times have changed, “ He who controls the media, controls the mind.”
“Men are sheep. Media is the shepherd.”