News Next Conference 2019: Do spokespersons live in echo chambers? Experts weigh in

At enba 2019, a panel of experts discussed the role of a spokesperson today, waging war against the press and more

ENBA spokesperson panel

One of the most thought-provoking debates at the exchange4media News Broadcasting Award and News Next Conference 2019 was held when an esteemed panel comprising Gaurav Bhatia, Spokesperson BJP, Shama Mohamed, Spokesperson, Indian National Congress, Ghanshyam Tiwari, National Spokesperson, SP, Alok Mehta, (Padmashree) Former President, Editors Guild of India Session Chair came together to discuss whether spokespersons today live in echo chamber- facts versus rhetoric. The panel was chaired by Dr. Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media & BW Businessworld. 

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Tiwari opined that it’s about articulating your point-of-view the right way. Bhatia hinted that striking a balance as a spokesperson is imperative. "Being a spokesperson is not an easy job. When you speak as a spokesperson, you don’t cease to be an Indian first. Second, you represent the party and you are the voice of the party. You have the task of ensuring that you speak for the nation but you are also speaking for the party. Last but not least, your own conviction in something that you are saying has to be there. I think to balance that itself is an art that some spokespersons master and we must give it to them. "

Making a case for saying things that are in line with the Constitution and making it interesting for the viewer, Bhatia said, "When I speak for my party, I’ll also speak for my nation. Also, whatever is said should be legally correct and in line with the Constitution. I cannot say something that is not in line with the Constitution. I must say that it's not rhetorics. Yes, there is a presentation. You make it interesting for the viewer. He also has to enjoy it. Also, sometimes as a spokesperson, it is more important to not say things than to say things."

Mehta commented, "We want to force what we want to listen." Looking at the undercurrents of politics, Tiwari said, “ It’s important to look at the situation that is playing out in the country. There are times when a spokesperson says something and gets away with it. " He revealed that he observed a phase when a bunch of fresh spokespersons came with a mindset to ride on social media, to make a statement, get viral and gain popularity.

Speaking about how technology is playing in the overall landscape today, Mehta explained, "We have to realize that technology has come in a way that it will look at your videos and eventually give a conviction-rating. In due course, whatever we say on television, technology will be able to analyze some of this and give us a conviction-score. We have to understand that we are building public records. If we stay and expand our work in public life, we will also be measured by the footage that we have created with our point-of-views on various issues, whether they stand the test of technology, time and truth."

Mohamed emphasized the importance of staying in sync with the ground reality and working towards it. "The biggest echo chamber right now is the government of the day. They are living in an echo chamber in a utopian world. We are all Indians, if there is a problem with the GDP or farmer suicide, let’s sort it out. Why hide facts, keep quiet? We can’t live in an echo chamber which is far off from the people. We need to question and work towards sorting out it," she remarked.

Making an interesting statement, Tiwari said, "Sometimes agreeing on a problem is itself a problem." When the discourse turned towards how countries world-over are constantly waging war against the press and bringing down their credibility, Mohamed opined, "We have the right to dissent. If we didn’t have that right, it would be like a pressure cooker about to explode." Mehta observed that it has been something that has always been the case even before Emergency. "Journalists should be ready to face challenges be it in UP, Bihar or North east," advised Mehta. Bhatia called out shows and channels to be responsible for conducting panel discussions and upholding the dignity of guests called on these shows. "There is suddenly a panelist who will hit below the belt and get to your family. The anchor should immediately intervene without a second thought. For the dignity of the guests that are called and in respect for the audience. They wait for 2-3 minutes to do so which is absolutely wrong. Channels also need to understand. Anchors must be well prepared because the audience wants that. They want to hear an educated discussion on facts, on realities of life. Not words you know which have no meaning them. You may lose a debate but never lose your reputation," he said with an air of finalty. 

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