Monday, October 17, 2005
Media’s new mission?
FREDERICK NORONHA talks to the author of a booklet that has come out against the commercialisation of news
IT'S a slim book that covers 60 pages, and is boldly trying to make a point against the way in which rain-forests of newsprint are now being utilised. Or, misutilised.
Called 'The Rape of News? The Ethics (Or the Lack of It) of Selling Editorial Space', a just-published book makes a strong point of why the media must have a mission, and why newspapers should avoid the "crass commercialisation of news".
Sunil K Poolani, editor of this new title brought out by his his fledging Frog Books imprint, on the issues involved. Excerpts:
How would you describe your latest book?
The booklet was first brought out in 2003. It was the outcome of The Times of India's decision to market editorial space in its newspapers. As a result, corporates and individuals could pay money and feature in news columns or other editorial space. Editors, journalists, writers and PR professionals commented on whether this trend was ethical, will (or should) other newspapers follow suit and whether this was the end of the 'news is sacred' concept.This booklet sold 850 copies in just two months. Twenty months later, we thought we should check what is happening with this trend, whether it is alive or not. What we have discovered is that not only is the trend alive, but it is thriving. The trend has been followed by other papers, too - though not as blatantly as the 'leader who guards the reader.'Instead of having one-two-paragraph comments (as we did in the first booklet) we thought we should bring out a book with substantial contributions from senior media critics and journalists. So, here we are.
What is its importance /relevance to the media fraternity and average reader?
The relevance is that what is written in the newspapers that you read in the morning is not news. They may be true, but they are either irrelevant and/or shouldn't be appearing on these pages. In short, you have no business to read that and get influenced about the people or products which got into that slot by paying money. Isn't this a serious and grave issue? The reading public and journalists should sit up and take notice and, of course, react.
Why have you got so concerned over this particular issue?
I got into journalism when I was 15, when I was part of a revolutionary group. I was part of an underground newspaper and I got into this because I really believed journalism is the mirror of society and what appears in a newspaper should be truth and nothing but the truth. Over the years I have had to make many a compromise, but nothing of this sort. Of course, I am concerned, as any journalist should be.
Could you list arguments from contributors of this book, which you found interesting or unusual?
Most contributors are, of course, against this trend. A couple of contributors also think that, well, what's wrong with this, as the market is changing shouldn't the papers too change in the direction where pelf and power lie. When I asked several journalists and media critics to contribute to this volume, many men didn't want to or were shy/afraid to write about it. But not women. So you will find seven women among the total ten contributions in the volume. A couple of contributors feel that the best way to tackle this issue is to boycott the paper in question, instead of going on murmuring.
Do you think this problem is spreading across Indian journalism?
Yes, slowly, but steadily, in different garbs and volumes.
What influence do you see this book having?
You have to influence the common man and of course the journalists.
— Deccan Herald