Ye bik gai hai Media
Remember Doordarshan news? I remember DD News. It was boring, brief, unemotional and their anchors were as bland as the CRT TVs we watched them on. I hated it back then. I even remember complaining to my father, “Why are these guys so serious? Why can’t they make the news more interesting? And why is that lady always wearing a saree!?”. I was seven years old back then. My father didn’t reply. Maybe he didn’t have an answer. Maybe he did.
Today, I’m 23 years old and the last time I touched a physical newspaper was to clean a suspicious stain on my intended seat in a Mumbai local. Today, more than ever I hate the news. Not because of what’s happening in the world, but because it’s garbage. So lets conduct a post-mortem of the three major forms of news media in India.
I started reading newspapers as a kid to check up on the latest sports(cricket) news. Despite my parents urging me to read about current affairs, I could only read the first page and sports page till 8th grade. Obviously Bombay Times’ second last page with scantily clad foreign actresses and Mumbai Mirror’s “Ask the Sexpert” were the bedrock of every Indian urban teen’s formative years, but that’s a topic worthy of its own article. The jokes and puzzles section which kept me so interested and intrigued back then is thoroughly impotent today.
A far cry from the egregious TV, print was a respectable medium for me. But everything changed in Dec’ 2012 after the Delhi gang rape. Not one day would pass for a year without some ghastly story of sexual assault on the front page. There were times I swear I could tell these guys were trying to sell papers with headlines and horror stories from all parts of the country. It didn’t help that the 2G scam and a million other robberies by our politicians were constantly in our faces. I couldn’t take it anymore.
I stopped reading. I turned online. It was fringe at the time, but at least I could choose not to read about horrendously inhuman crimes and the billions of dollars being swindled by our leaders. I still chuckle at uncles in the train who don’t read the news on their phone thereby inconveniencing everyone in the process. I look at the paper in my house every once in a while and after waving through seven pages of advertisements I am reminded why I left this nonsense in the first place. Paid articles are easier to spot nowadays and not to mention that half the stories there are done and dusted online by that time. Today a newspaper is like a cassette to me. Archaic, cumbersome and not belonging in the 21st century.
What comes to mind when someone asks you about TV media today? Lot’s of people posing as experts, yelling at each other, BREAKING NEWS tickers flashing on screen hell bent on giving you an epilepsy fit, ‘sting operations’, spineless interviews and of course, towering over everything else, Arnab Goswami. Back then when it was coming into its own 15 years ago, we had Deepak Chaurasia and Umesh Kumavat trying their best to garner views for Aaj Tak and Star News respectively. They looked patently middle class like us and had their own charm.
I remember watching “Aapki Adalat” as a kid and realised a couple of years ago, that the man hosting the show had simply refused to age. That man is Rajat Gupta, who owns India TV of “Kya Aliens Gai ka doodh peete hai?” fame. But everything changed after the 2014 Lok Sabhha elections. Arnab and Rajat were pro-Modi and Barkha and Rajdeep who were rabidly anti-Modi were branded anti-nationals. At least that’s what Twitter told me! No news source was trustworthy anymore. Beef ban? Dadri? Muzaffarnagar riots? Ghar vaapsi? Love jihad? What was true? What was propaganda? Who was lying? Who was being a ‘fearless reporter’ and who was being a shill? Why was Arnab still yelling? The office is closed man!
I was done. These guys were showing more underwear-banyan ads than foreign policy news. There was no objectivity, no transparency and definitely no maturity in the reporting. This format was meant to attract eyeballs and confuse me, not inform in any way so that I could come to my own conclusion. It was time to switch. The internet was getting faster and the prices were getting lower.
Internet (“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”)
When I first joined Twitter, I was mesmerized. What a website! Any news, opinion, update from anywhere around the world on my fingertips within minutes, if not seconds! This was in early 2012 and I didn’t fully take it up as a news source until late 2014. By that time even Facebook had joined the news source bandwagon. All the information I needed, from reliable sources, directly on my phone. Plus, I could voice my opinion about it. What could go wrong?
Just about everything. The job of the editor is to decide not just what goes in the publication but also what doesn’t make the cut. Imagine a world where there are no editors and just about everyone has an opinion which can be seen by anyone and everyone. That’s Social media. Add prejudices and confirmation bias to the equation and you get the dumpster fire that is Twitter in 2017 - a failing company that was once touted to compete with Facebook.
Be it any piece of news, depending on your opinion on it on social media, you’re either a Sanghi, AAPtard, Congi bastard or sexist. Actually you’re sexist irrespective of your opinion. #JaiFeminism. Twitter today is a place for pathetic jokes, nonsensical trending topics (10 years of Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, We want want justice for Bapuji, etc.) and straight up inflammatory and misleading posts about current affairs. A cesspool of sweepstakes and paid hashtags, Twitter’s story looks more tragic than that of Vinod Kambli.
Facebook today is the world’s most powerful news source and will only get stronger. The digital boom in India also meant people from all sides of the political spectrum beginning their news ventures online. The scroll, firstpost, swarajyamag and opindias of the world didn’t exist until half a decade ago. But today, they are giving tough competition to the websites of traditional newspapers like timesofindia, hindu and hindustantimes. All these publications battle it out on Facebook and this is where it all went wrong.
See these guys operate in the ‘click economy’ and only those who can get the most number of visitors wins. This led to cancer like clickbait headlines, easily digestible listicles and vomit inducing content to become the mainstay of our timelines. Quantity, not quality is what took precedence which led to respected outlets like DNA and TOI reporting on Bigg Boss and which celebrity trolled body shamers on Twitter. Here too, the content is incredibly biased and depending on the publication, you’ll conclude whether the PM is a dictator or a God sent to relieve us of all our problems. To sum it up, the internet too has lost its hygiene and social media is a dump yard of Buzzfeed apes that employ 23 years olds who think their opinion matters ( 📷;-) ) or hyper partisan journalists that aim to convert young minds into future votes.
As of now I am confused. I spend time on Inshorts which I believe is a symbol of how useless our generation has become (No more than 60 words of news please. I’ve cat videos to watch). I do wade through the garbage on Twitter to find some decent sources once in a while and Facebook can be a good source assuming you are ready to work hard and go deep into the web for diverse opinions. So print is archaic, TV is a joke and the internet is a radioactive cesspool of insanity. Where is the news? I don’t know. Maybe the so called ‘independent media’ will rise and Arnab will once again torture our masochistic souls with his Republic. But there’s time for that.
Oh and DD News was fantastic. I was stupid.