The newspaper business in India is going through several challenges – the digital onslaught, pressure on ad spends as advertisers face tough economic conditions, falling readership, readers shifting to other mediums.
Industry experts have offered several solutions to boost print industry top-lines. More than the business aspects, what struck closer home was what veteran journalist and Editorial Director of India Today and Headlines Today, MJ Akbar, said at a recent conference – “Future of news is assured, but not of journalists”.
Akbar warns journalists against falling into two traps. One is, what he calls, ‘fish journalism’ – wherein a journalist accepts any information being handed out to him, without checking the facts ad limits himself/ herself to collecting sound bytes. The second is the ‘delusion trap’ – wherein the journalist considers himself to be more important than the information he is delivering. No one can be above the news, there is no place for personal biases or partialities.
How many times have we seen news being sacrificed at the altar of TRPs, ‘business interests’, outside interference? Moreover, social media has taken the ‘information’ part right out of journalists’ hands and splashed them across Twitter feeds, Facebook walls, YouTube uploads and the sundry ‘citizen journalist’ activities. While this gives power to the people, how much of that information is reliable, checked for authenticity, filtered for hearsay and rumour-mongering?
On top of it comes a news like Time editor-at-large and CNN host Fareed Zakaria being suspended for plagiarism. This has come as yet another blow to the reputation of journalists. I am not even getting into the entire Niira Radia episode.
Is it time to write an epitaph for journalism? I think not. But it is surely time to take a long, hard look at the very core of the profession itself…