Pure news is passé, now ideology shapes news

New Delhi : Senior journalists rounding up their assessment of media coverage of the 2014 general election said that “pure” news has more or less disappeared and that the personal ideology of the editor or proprietor often shapes news.

At a panel discussion chaired by NDTV Group Editor Barkha Dutt on Tuesday evening on “Media and the political process”, most journalists observed that reporters today are in greater contact with their news consumers and that has impacted the coverage of news.

“We have made media far more personal. During elections, large part of the media gets criminalised, in that we report/show what people want,” said senior journalist and political commentator Swapan Dasgupta at the discussion held at the India International Centre, reports IANS.

Siddharth Varadarajan, former editor of The Hindu, seconded the thought, noting this process has also led to media losing its credibility among people. “TV events are impregnated with personal views of either the reporter or the anchor or the channel… You can clearly see on Twitter and other social media that attitude for mainstream journalists is very much negative,” Varadarajan asserted.

On the coverage of news in Hindi heartland, Mrinal Pande, former newspaper editor and chairperson of Prasar Bharti, said vernacular press often caters to what people want to read as news.

“Journalists are now more connected to their consumers. Readers of vernacular press have a certain political ideology, and media is quite happy to allow certain political parties to influence their reportage,” Pande said.

She added that the fact that a newspaper is sold at Rs 5, even though the cost of its publication runs up to Rs 16 per copy, has led to media’s dependence on subsidies or advertisements. “The money comes from advertisements from political parties, and hence there is a temptation to take political parties on board,” Pande argued.

Varadarajan added that media today lacked “professional” editors. “There are no professional editors today. This means that there are no editors who can dictate the coverage of news without second guessing of what the proprietor wants,” Vardrajan claimed.

Dasgupta opined that even though a reporter would like to include different voices in his or her story, the end product is determined by the ideology of the channel. “The decisions are taken internally based on the belief, calculation etc. of the channel or paper. Most reporters are helpless,” he said.

There was more or less unanimity amongst the panelists who believed that in the last leg of the election campaign, then BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was given preference in terms of coverage.

“The channels suddenly realised that a Modi speech could fetch them far more TRPs. And since then they started to live telecast whatever he said,” Dasgupta observed.

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