Sunday, May 05, 2013

~ News is entertainment ~

Post the Doordarshan era when the Govt of India allowed private players to broadcast, we initially had a bouquet of sports & entertainment channels. As far as the News channels were concerned, back in late 90s we had - DD, Zee News & Aaj Tak. The alternative source of news were magazines - The Outlook, The Week, India Today & regional cousins - and traditional Newspapers.

Step into 21st Century, we have 120 News channels operating across India. Of these 120 channels, guess about 5 English channels are watched by most urban population, discounting the Regional news channels. 

Thanks to these channels, am disillusioned by how information is feed to us & at times they have constant supply of *Breaking News*. Thanks to FDI &  politicians / political parties who want a medium to reach out to the masses, we now have many of them who own or control some of these channels. Most of these channels are biased towards a specific party, religion or an issue. Very rarely do we see these channels take a neutral stance &  get the bottom of an issue. 

After the Radiagate exposè, I lost faith with some of the main stream media professionals {& their organizations} whose names have appeared in the deal making. I feel the role of media today has changed to that of a *Middleman* who brokers deals between different political parties, business men, corporations than their primary objective of delivery quality information to the people of the current affairs. My view holds good w.r.t Indian media only.

I have been watching Madhu Trehan's episodes today morning & agree with her points. Wonder how those anchoring the shows fail to miss the obvious. I wish those Media professionals watch Madhu's show & take it as feedback about their work & bring some change. Have been following the alternative media - bloggers or websites - which cover/offers another perspective to the main stream media. Some of them which I frequently visit are:

Move over bloggers or websites, we now have  realtime crowd-sourced news being covered by people across the globe powered by Twitter. Any major event {Political | Sporting | Festival | Product Launches} or Catastrophe being delivered instantaneously with videos & pictures. This breaks the hold of mainstream media on coverage of events. The below pictures were taken by Andrew Kitzenberg, in the night when Tsarnaev brothers had a show down with police.

Here it’s clear to see the brothers taking aim and firing on the officers. (Taken at 12:47:57AM)

This is a zoomed in view from the last image. The red circle highlights the pressure cooker bomb that was used just moments after this photo was taken. These are the only pictures which I have come across on the internet captured by Andrew. For first hand account of the event witnessed by Andrew visit here

However, the normal public do not have access to information when it comes to Govts or Corporations. That's where we bank on the these Media Corps to deliver news AS IS versus interpreting or transforming before reaching us.

We have hacktivist style of news reporting from YourAnonNews & WikiLeaks. Even though their means of obtaining information is not considered ethical by majority their intent isn't *always* wrong. From the recent Boston bombings, we have seen online vigilantism which caused a lot of rumour & chaos in the already stressed environment. This is one of the major drawbacks of digital world when data is available for everyone to piece together & offer their own versions.

One of the politicians I admire is Mr Obama. How I wish our PM Mr Manmohan Singh shared some wit or at least spoke, at times, when it mattered. Enjoy this talk, Obama taking digs at the entire media during his speech at the White House Correspondent’s dinner.

Additional reading: A week inside India's media boom {FT} | Inside the Anonymous Hacking File on the Steubenville 'Rape Crew' {The Atlantic} | THE LESSONS OF STEUBENVILLE {The NewYorker} | Breaking news is broken {Slate} | Hey Reddit, Enough Boston Bombing Vigilantism {The Atlantic} | Security alert: notes from the frontline of the war in cyberspace {The Guardian} | The trolls among us {NYT}

Update 13 May 2013

Anubha Bhonsle has a very good write up on how Twitter plays a role in how we consume news & also the responsibility of the journalists to get their basics right & provide meaningful context to the raw data. Do read 'News in the time of Twitter' on News Laundry. 

There is no denying that social media platforms can today spread information and misinformation far quicker than they would have spread a decade ago. The problem though isn’t with technology. The problem is many of us have all but abandoned standards of good reporting, the very basics. The need of the hour is a reporter who will shape a narrative in a cacophony of noise, conversation and abundant content around him/her or on the social web. A reporter who will dig, question, unearth and make the linkages.
Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter has been quoted as saying, “We provide the information. That’s when we hand off the baton to journalists, to provide context.”

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