Media needs a new working language
Of late, Indian media has witnessed a churn that has seen, one the one hand, prominent editors being unceremoniously removed from their positions, and on the other, commentators grappling with momentous change in the political scenario, making a necessity of self-questioning and self-doubt. Essentially, this two-pronged development points towards a bigger story that deals as much with the state of journalism in current times as well as with the interface between media and the political-economical matrix and the pressures ensuing from therein. If top journalists are mourning the shadow emergency and the gradually strengthening regime of censorship via boardroom diktats, then what also must be questioned are the very edifices which these scribes had helped erect in the first place, the edifices that bespeak a certain privilege rather than become voices that must be heard. Journalism in India, indeed worldwide, has become another platform for private conglomerates and mega corporations to trumpet their limited agenda, and using the media as a launchpad to introduce and float policy tweaking to suit specific ends. If newsmen and opinion-makers in big media houses are now feeling the pinch, experiencing the reign of the gag, why didn’t they see it coming before when they were busy being the cheerleaders of a new, rudderless, neoliberal and basically exploitative system?
Independent journalism, in order to stay alive and thrive, needs to reinvent itself. Along with the political reconfiguration, mostly triggered by the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (less as a political organisation and more as a phenomenon, with a symbolic significance far outweighing its actual electoral and governmental reach), media too needs a new, energised language, that is fundamentally more democratic, accessible yet not simplistic or reductive. The tightrope between objectivity and bias, party neutrality and pro-people ideological leanings, infotainment and rigorous reportage – the choices before the media are hardly clear-cut, and in fact rather fuzzy and overlapping with public and private interests. However, as a recent interview of the Delhi CM by a top newsanchor has demonstrated, hanging on to rehearsed questions and their spontaneous permutations, clutching on to practiced ways of putting forward non-threatening queries and the intermittent breathers of a shared joke – will no longer do. As political realities change before our eyes, we journalists must change too. We need a new methodology to comprehend the now, the present continuous. No longer the old assurances. No longer the old language of smug access. It’s the best of times. It’s the worst of times.