ONCE GLORIFIED AS THE FOURTH ESTATE, the Press is facing a crisis of identity and a struggle for existence today. The electronic media with their greater impact, have changed the context, threaten newspapers’ existence and force the printed word to compete. with images.
The issue was brought into focus again when the Daily Mail, a popular British tabloid putting on the front page a report on the March 27 meeting between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, reducing it to a comparison of their bodies.
“Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!” the tabloid’s cover on Tuesday blared. The article dealt more with the two women’s stance than with issued.
The meeting on Monday discussed whether Britain exiting the European Union (Brexit) has given a boost to Scotland’s Independence.movement. The move to leave the United Kingdom, which Scotland had joined in 1707, has been growing in recent times and Brexit seems to have precipitated the matter.
Ignoring such important issues, Sarah Vine, the author of the article, wrote,“but what stands out here are the legs – and the vast expanse on show.” Started in 1896, the Daily Mail is a Conservative daily and the main competitor of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun. Ms. Vine is the wife of Michael Gove, a politician of UK who campaigned for Brexit.
By Tuesday afternoon, a complaint had been filed with the press regulator of Britain. On social media and elsewhere several people protested against the daily’s sexist report.
Many, if not most, of those protesting against the blatantly sexist story are from Labour Party while the Daily Mail and the author are Conservatives. On he other hand, when a BJP leader said Priyanka Gandhi’s beauty will not get Congress votes in Uttar Pradesh (and it did not), all the protests came from the Opposition. Though only her beauty was referred to it was subbed a sexist remark.
Having Studied in a school of journalism and later teaching it for a decade, I see a reversal in he profession’s priorities — “to inform, educate and entertain” – in that order. Entertainment now takes the first place. Now the media have changed again. ‘Titillation’ is the new first priority in place of entertainment .
The Karnataka Assembly recently saw several MLAs, cutting across party lines, attack the media for being highly irresponsible, having scant regard for truth and being partisan.
There was a similar uproar in Kerala with the Transport Minister of the state resigning after a new channel repeatedly broadcast vulgar sexy ‘telephone talk’ he allegedly had with a woman, without any proof that it was not consensual.
Many journalists, on social media like Facebook, admitted the attack by Karnataka MLAs was justified and that the media have been straying from the path of righteousness even while pretending to be the epitomes of virtue. They, however, felt that the main role of media as advocates of public causes and defenders of democracy should not be forgotten.
Indian newspapers today are full of opinionated, biased reports with the facts convenient to those supported by their proprietors played up and the inconvenient ones suppressed. The media owners take sides in return for favours and ‘paid news’ is not uncommon. Some pressmen use their proximity to power to make a fast buck by suppressing news or slanting it to suit their benefactors..
Hype over silly issues (see Feb.13 post ‘Our Blind, Frivolous Media‘) and obviously planted stories get a big play up and not the silent work of many unsung heroes. Journalists do not discuss basic issues of journalistic ethics and shun books on serious aspects of journalism. Their groups content themselves with circulating jokes.
This in a country where journals were once a part of the nation’s freedom movement and most early journalists were idealists. Newspapers now are fast losing circulation, advertisements … and credibility. Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media are making them, and even TV news, irrelevant.
Sexism, sensationalism, populism, hype… may be the new faces of tomorrow’s media? Or death pangs of a dying profession?