Since I just rant-vomitted on eM’s blog after watching that amazingly mediocre NDTV programme on bloggers – which admittedly picked up a little bit at the end but not much – I thought it was only fair that I shell out some space here as well.
That programme concentrated my thoughts on something I’ve been thinking about as a journalist for a long time. Because our job is so public, we are subject to all kinds of criticism and opinions on what we write about and how we should write it. People who don’t get written about complain. People who do get written about complain. People say there’s tabloidization in the Indian media – which I am not part of anymore so I can say that tabloidization is a trend worldwide though somewhat more pronounced in Inida – but continue to lap up that very content enthusiastically.
Having worked in a tabloid in India, I have to say this:
1) The media is a business and so has to cater to it’s audience. We give you what you want or we close down.
2) That said, there is room for some higher intelligence in media and in fact, people expect it of us. While, like adolescents, they will lap up candy every day if given it, they will also generally eat the good stuff because at some level they know it’s good for them.
So in between the high-brow and low-brow type of journalism, there is room for a middle-ground where newspapers balance out their market-driven desire to feed the public the drivel their crave and the hopefully self-driven knowledge that they do have another task to perform – of informing the public of issues that matter in as unbiased a way as possible.
The rampant popularity of blogs could be a testament to the fact that the mainstream media is not doing its job and either not reporting on what’s relevant or not doing so in the depth required.
Both these factors were amply in evidence on the ‘We The People’ show on blogging.
First the topic itself. ‘Should blogging be regulated’. The impetus for this question itself is questionable. I can just see how some editor type dreamed it up. ‘Ooops we missed the bus on the general story on blogs, now what can we talk about. Let’s package it to make it sound more serious. Can we link it to some issue’. Or worse – it arose from a deeply personal campaign on the part of Barkha Dutt because she herself was a victim of how cruel the Internet can be and the general paranoia of the mainstream at large for anything new. And it appears that the television media is in a tussle with the government about regulation, so if us, why not them to?
The sad thing is that I can just see some demented politicians deciding this might be a good election cause and actually moving to regulate and burn a few effigies. In the same way that I fear for people who talk about sex or homosexuality in too public a forum because in India, in certain cases it seems to me like there’s more freedom in secrecy.
It all sounds like some conspiracy theory but having worked in media this is often how it works. Not so consciously but many of the topic are selected at an editor’s whim and I am often amazed at how mediocre these people are. It’s like they live in a bubble defined only by mass appetite fuelled by their own illusions of intelligence. In the case of Barkha and some of the other NDTV stars, there is no doubt that they were once very fine journalists. It’s scary to watch them now – sort of like looking at your parents and thinking ‘God, is this what I’m going to be like when I grow up’. They seem to have lost the will to learn. How often do NDTV anchors not know the names of the people they are interviewing or don’t seem to have read the news or any background before it comes on?
Why was it that there were no well-known bloggers who write about political and social issues. If there were, why weren’t excerpts from their blogs read out? How typical that when Barkha was belittling the ‘sex and the city’ kind of blog, that’s exactly what she decided to focus on because frankly that’s what will push up the ratings and create controversy. It’s not the bloggers who write about sex who are saying this is what the medium is about. Though of course, the small personal voices and stories are also an important part of the whole new media movement and of course, this is probably what is frightening to the mainstream media. What’s silly is that so many of us are part of both and probably wouldn’t even bother having that conversation because it’s so mundane.
Ooops though I just did.