How far has journalism gone with sensationalism? Is it because of TRPs, or is it something that journalism simply believes in, something inherent in it? A jam-packed session on ‘Sensationalism Vs Journalism: TRP Zindabad’ saw distinguished speakers like Vir Sanghvi, Consulting Editor, Hindustan Times; Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief, Times Now; and Ajay Kumar, Executive Producer, Aaj Tak take up this issue for discussion. The session was moderated by Amit Mitra, Secretary-General, FICCI.
At the very outset, Sanghvi pointed out that the discussion on sensationalism in journalism was an old debate. He said that it was difficult to differentiate between good and bad journalism as the definition and standards of journalism varied from person to person and society to society.
“We cannot possibly treat journalism as a whole. There are different genres of journalism, which should be judged and dealt with in different ways,” Sanghvi said, adding that sensationalism was difficult to define and, therefore, to reach a satisfactory conclusion was tough, rather not possible. He further continued, “The Western standard of journalism should not be compared with ours. Our style of functioning is completely different.” He did stress that there were certain guidelines and ethical norms that must be followed very carefully. For him, anything executed well and with utmost integrity was good journalism. He, however, refrained from touching upon the concerns over the TRP rat race.
Aaj Tak’s Ajay Kumar was all for saving the journalistic tendencies of the media. He strongly believed that TRPs did not drive channels, rather it was content that drove viewers to see and follow the channel. Tongue-in-cheek, he said, even if journalism was sensational, so be it. “People like to talk about sensationalism in journalism, and why not? It keeps us in business!” h quipped.
The man with a neutral perspective was Arnab Goswami, who said, “We discuss journalism simply because it has an impact. It is definitely not sensational, but relevant.”
He maintained that news was not “spiced up”, as was the popular misconceived notion, but added that some salt was added to give it the right perspective. Goswami went on to stress that maturity of all mediums of communication was a must. He, too, did not go deeply into the TRP debate, briefly stating that it did not lead to sensationalism of any kind. “TRPs have not driven content, however, it holds great importance for advertisers and not journalists,” he added.
Journalism cannot be understood in black and white. However, journalism has a grave responsibility towards the common man who gets influenced by it. We do not expect our journalistic community to behave like ‘toothless tigers’, rather they have the power to make the most of it, as long as they remember that responsibility is the key.