The Quest For Truth

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In today’s day and age, the media is consumed in all its forms virtually everywhere. Be it at home or at work or on the move – there are countless ways nowadays to access news and information. With more ways to access news, the demand for talented journalists has increased exponentially. News organisations require well rounded individuals to file stories, produce videos and explain large amounts of information. Journalists are now expected to adapt and be multifaceted and understand print, broadcast and digital journalism. New age journalists will have to embrace ‘digital-first’ reporting, if they want to survive in the constantly evolving and incredibly convoluted world of journalism. It’s still a great time to become a journalist since there is no dearth of resources nowadays for journalists to tell their stories. Countless pages of information and sources can be found online with a click of a button. The ‘click and share’ mindset that exists today coupled with the growth of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat has made each and every one of us a potential news source. Journalists are now faced with the dilemma of literally ‘making news’ in the rush for ‘breaking news’. In India itself, we have seen how dialogue and reason has often been reduced to mere (high decibel) rhetoric in the television news space. Paid news is a growing concern not only in India, but all over the world. That being said, the media is still one of the most exciting places to be in the 21st century and with India having experienced a rollercoaster of a year in the form of 2014, it’s an industry that’s only headed one way – and that is up!
2014 was truly a huge year for India. It was a year that firmly cemented the media’s role as the fourth estate in the world’s largest democracy. We witnessed an iconic election which was won and lost in the media space. India’s M&E Industry reaches 161 million TV households, over 94,000 newspapers and nearly 214 million internet users. The numbers might sound massive but they is still a very small percentage of our population of over 1.2 billion people. India’s potential seems infinite and as Indians, our opportunities are endless. But, in today’s media environment, where journalists have become household names, it is imperative that they remember the saying ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. Journalists must ensure that they act responsibly, efficiently and transparently. Today, journalists and consequently the media play a pivotal role in influencing and being an agent of positive change in society. Join us, as we tell you a story about the art of storytelling and get you insights from the some of the best story tellers in the business!

The Old School Media
 If you were to go by global trends, India is an anomaly. Globally, print media has been in a state of decline for nearly ten years. But India is a different story. Here’s an insight into the complicated world of print journalism in India.

Living in a metro and gaining access to news at the click of a button seems like a walk in the park for most city dwellers. But, we overlook the fact that the internet only has a strong presence in tier one and two cities. We forget that village dwellers and those from smaller towns rely heavily on newspapers to learn of the numerous happenings around the country. In a time when traditional forms of media are struggling to survive globally, revenues for newspapers in India witnessed 8.7 % growth in 2014. One thing is clear – print media is still alive and kicking in India.
In India,newspaper distribution has notched new realms of perfection right from the colonial era and the distribution models ensure that there are papers hitting every single pocket in the nation. This is especially true with regional papers. The regional papers play a pivotal role in giving one an insight into the numerous socio-economic events in the country and around the world. “The distribution of newspapers also gives us a reasonable idea about the readability in the various pockets and the numbers are bewildering”, states senior journalist, A. Ranade. According to a survey conducted in January 2014, there are approximately 281.7 million nespaper readers in the country. It is also reported that dailies such as Dainik Jagran are in the number one position, recording the highest readership of over 15.53 million.

USE OF NEWS
The Indian economy is rural and agrarian in nature. Our farmers always require knowledge on the development work undertaken by the government in the farming sector. Owing to the unending electrical problems, lack of education, and barely any network in the village areas, relying on TVs, the internet and even the radio is impossible. Thus making newspapers the perfect solution to derive news. Also, newspapers are printed in numerous regional languages, making it easier for the reader to comprehend the details of the news. Being a predominantly rural economy explains why regional news is more popular amongst Indians as compared to the news from prominent English dailies.
Unlike the computer screen, a newspaper can be read by a lot more people. The regional newspapers (keeping the regional spreads in mind) are a whole lot cheaper than the English dailies or any other media. In India, one can get their hands on a newspaper at the crack of dawn. This facility is not readily available in the west, owing to exorbitant labour costs. In India, even the hawkers enjoy a cut on the cover cost (which, by the way, is miniscule, but nevertheless fulfilling). “The Indian print media is a stream that enjoys a certain rate of growth as compared to any print media around the world. The readability has still dipped (relatively) primarily because of slow economic progress. This in turn directly affects advertisement revenue, curbing profits”, states Ravi Dhariwal, CEO of BCCL.

THE COURSE OF ACTION
A career in print journalism is the ideal choice, if you are smittened by words and you constantly feel the need to bring to the people of the country what they need to know. Inquisitiveness serves as an added advantage as it helps the journalist to delve into the crux of an issue and gather the facts. It may not be necessary for one to earn a degree in the subject; however the practical experience can be very important. A clear insight and an investigative point of view on the various proceedings, especially in the chosen field of interest can take your journalistic career to a new high. It is mandatory to keep your ears and eyes open if you want to be or are already part of this field. Try building on your connections from the very start; perhaps, right from the time you even think of taking up a journalism course.
Print journalism today is not only restricted to politics, but it also involves a whole deal of writing on fashion, lifestyle, travel, hobbies, art and other subjects, that would otherwise fall under the bracket of soft news. An education in the field of print journalism, gives you a complete low down on the practicalities and the numerous theories that revolve around the subject. A course in the same involves complete understanding of the writing style, formats, verification of facts and also how to connect traditional journalism with new technology.

THE CHOICE
Both regional and English dailies need good writers, people who are passionate about spreading news and those that have a good network. But the demand for regional writing even in the days of the internet witnesses an ascending trend. It is surprising that one can avail of regional papers online as well. Take www.jagran.com for instance. If writing for a daily you are certain to bag a healthier pay cheque. Profits are usually high in the English dailies owing to the advertisement revenue the publication procures.

THE LOOMING THREAT
Until now, regional print media in India has enjoyed a very safe position in the industry. But, the English print media, which was remarkably well placed till a few years ago, is now faced with the herculean task of surviving in an increasingly digital world. Print must embrace newer technologies to save itself from an oncoming, slow and sure onslaught.

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All that glitters..
By far, the most coveted and glamorous of all careers in journalism, a career in broadcast is no bed of roses. Putting all the glitz and glamour aside, broadcast journalists have to deal with a lot of pressure on and off the air. aayush Ailawadi takes a look at this fascinating world

 

Having been involved in television and radio myself for many years, I can vouch for the alleged excitement levels that a career in broadcast journalism entails. But, one must understand that all that glitters is not gold. Just like all things in life, there’s always a flipside. It’s a highly demanding job, often with unearthly hours, impossible deadlines and tremendous pressure. But, if telling a story to millions of people is what makes you tick, then it’s worth all that hassle and a lot more. Broadcast journalists deliver the news to the public in a variety of formats, including radio, television and nowadays, even using the internet. They are our one stop shop for the news and that influences our everyday lives. A career in broadcast journalism can put you at the epicentre of all the happenings from the world of politics, current affairs, entertainment or the ups and downs in India’s and the world’s economy.

BUT, I DIDN’T STUDY JOURNALISM?
Often, that’s a question lingering in our minds, awaiting a concrete answer. Well, it’s always great to be certain about what you want to do in life. But, that’s not always the case. If you’re figuring out what your calling is, (as are most of us throughout our lives) then there’s no need to sound the alarm yet. Rajdeep Sardesai, one of India’s leading journalists happens to be a lawyer. Richard Quest, one of the most successful and eccentric personalities on international television is also a lawyer. Even if ‘the nation doesn’t want to know’, we must know that Arnab Goswami has studied sociology and social anthropology and is still one of the country’s most famous broadcast journalists. Basically, as long as you’re passionate about journalism, patient and driven to achieve your goals, you can always give it a shot! Students in a typical broadcasting programme learn the basic skills of proper news reporting, including the interview process and the writing of segments. They are also taught how to produce the news by managing video and audio equipment.
A broadcast journalist can either be the person who is in front of the camera doing a PTC (piece to camera) or with the microphone, being the voice of the news, or the person in the production booth or studio. A lot of work goes into packaging a show or broadcast and it’s the production team that plays a crucial part. The behind-the-scenes action of managing microphones, properly shooting a video and editing are as important as presenting the news precisely and promptly.

THE FUTURE PROSPECTS
Broadcast journalism covers a wide variety of career options. If you aspire to be the storyteller in the spotlight, local television or radio broadcasting is an option. Internships at media organisations are often available and are a good addition to your resume. Similarly, it’s great to gain some experience at your school or college newspaper or radio station as this can make you more employable upon graduation.
Positions behind the camera are also popular career choices, and include producing, editing, script writing, and management. Broadcast journalism jobs are perpetually in high demand. Most of them don’t require a specific degree but if you’re sure that journalism is your calling in life, then a formal education may strengthen your application and also add to your network.

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
A reputed media scholar named Marshall McLuhan once aptly said that ‘the medium is the message’. He meant to say that the medium, or manner, through which the message is transmitted, determines what the message means. Broadly speaking, different media communicate information differently. Various types of media have several pros and cons and people’s perception of a news story depends on the manner in which it is fed to them. To illustrate, television is a visual medium. Strong pictures and video impact the television viewers (and hence TRPs) more than words. Television viewers, therefore, tend to remember how a story made them feel rather than the nitty-gritties of the story.
A case in point is the debate in 1960 between US presidential candidates Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Many Americans listened to the debate on the radio, whereas the rest watched it on television instead. Although a majority of radio listeners felt that Nixon had won the debate, a majority of television viewers believed that it was in fact Kennedy who had won.

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MADE IN INDIA
The fourth estate of Indian democracy has always taken it upon itself to serve as the supreme watchdog of the government, the judiciary and even the citizens of the State. Each day, we witness some broadcast journalists run the ratings rat race to portray themselves as some sort of an ‘ubermensch’ for society – grilling corrupt politicians, slandering officials from enemy states, nodding along with intellectuals and eventually imposing their own colourable opinion on a country of over a billion people. It is from this show of godliness that a massive problem arises – in the event of arbitrary abuse of power by ostensibly revered journalists, who will hold them accountable? It’s imperative that journalists act responsibly and ethically until a formidable regulatory mechanism is put into place.

THE STATUS QUO
The media industry in India has grown exponentially since the 90s. There are nearly 850 television channels and about 250 private FM channels in the country, broadcasting all round the clock to almost 160 million Indian homes. Sameer Hashmi, a leading international journalist explains, “Television news channels have exploded in the last six to eight years. The regional media has bolstered this growth. With so many languages spoken in India, the launch of so many news channels doesn’t come as a surprise. But, the challenge is sustaining these channels. The business model for many television news channels hasn’t worked, with most of them struggling to operate profitably.” It’s interesting to note that ‘the county’s most watched TV debate show’ reaches out to just about 20 million homes, which is still a small part of the 161 million households that have access to television. It only goes to show that in India, news isn’t consumed in English alone but Hindi and regional languages dominate a chunk of the viewership pie. Hashmi adds, “There will be major consolidation in this space with big players buying out smaller channels. The other issue is that the financial crunch is having an adverse impact on editorial quality. Unfortunately, most channels are more or less following the same formula. Television reportage appears to be dying; stories in the national channels are confined to urban areas and issues, making them endemic to that region. They all seemed to be catering to a certain category of audience and end up ignoring the remote rural areas.”

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RADIO-ACTIVE
Ever since the world’s first public radio broadcast in 1910 from New York City, Radio, as a broadcast medium has truly stood the test of time. It continues to be an effective and ubiquitous platform, enjoying an unparalleled reach throughout I India.

If you’ve lived in India, then it’s most likely that you’ve tuned into a news broadcast at some point in time on All India Radio, India’s national broadcaster. Prasar Bharati owns and operates All India Radio (AIR), which has a monopoly on the news and current affairs segment and are the only ones allowed to broadcast news on the Indian air waves. All India Radio reaches out to nearly 99.2 % of the population and hence, it becomes absolutely essential to maintain authenticity and transparency in their news broadcasts. No wonder our respected Prime Minister addresses nearly a billion Indians on AIR in his popular show, Mann Ki Baat.

TRUTH VERSUS HYPE
Fali Singara, a popular radio presenter at All India Radio in Mumbai mentions that he pursued a career in radio since the medium fascinated him ever since he was a little child. Fali, a massive Elvis Presley fan, says, “What’s interesting is that even today with all the choices available and the emergence of internet radio, a good number of people are still listening to All India Radio for the news. In radio there is a big difference between the ‘story’ and the ‘news’. In TV there is no such difference. For example, if there was a big accident – the story or news is shown with maximum impact for its viewers. The channel could have a debate on which person responsible needs to be fired, what the government is doing about it and so on. In news on the radio, there is no such agenda. News on the radio is unbiased and that makes it unique – the media outlet or the newsreader does not force his or her personal opinion about the incident on the audience. They give the plain facts and let the listeners form their own opinion instead.”

OLD IS GOLD
With the much awaited Phase III policy, there will be more FM stations popping up and news dissemination on the radio will take place on a wide scale in the near future. Broadcast industry veteran Ripusudan Kummar shares an interesting thought, “Radio might sound primitive today but one must remember that old is always gold. Radio still enjoys unparalleled reach throughout India. Over the years, we have seen how so many television show formats inspired from old radio shows.” So, it turns out The Buggles weren’t entirely right when they sang the chartbuster “Video Killed the Radio Star” in 1979. It’s already 2015 and we can safely say that radio is still here to stay!

Modern Morning News

Back to the Future
News is ubiquitous. But, what is it that keeps journalism going in today’s digital age? If you like staying updated with the ways of the world, the internet now serves as the perfect morning cup of coffee to get you started

“Journalism is a craft that creatively uses media to get citizens involved with the numerous proceedings around them,” explains Harini Calamur, Digital Head at Zee Media. Over the years, the industry has revitalised itself using various media, from its static status to being more emergent and fluid, owing to the internet.

A NEW ERA
The big question here is, ‘What exactly changed when the internet came into being?’ Till journalism was restricted to print, it was all about objectivity, with the term ‘objectivity’ often being questioned. With radio and television stepping in, people could witness were even closer to the action and live news became a possibility. However the definition of ‘objectivity’ still remained unresolved. Traditional journalists served as watchdogs, catalysing all social and economic reforms in the country. This has been the case right from the colonial era. Over the years, researchers have provided concrete evidence of media houses having political or private leanings that froze in the form of journalistic norms. This panned through the days of the Raj, till about over a decade ago, side tracking the clear meaning of objectivity.  Traditional journalists were compelled to propagate news of a certain format created by their publishers.

DEFINING ‘OBJECTIVITY’
It was only with the advent of the Internet, that viewers watched all the three media creatively unfolding truths in a way that created transparency and defined ‘objectivity’ more fittingly. Viewers were free to key down their opinions. They have also got the option of supporting facts, using more handy media like phones and tablets. “Today a decent phone with a certain resolution is more than enough to capture video’s and photographs. The same can be linked to apps like Snapchat or Instagram or any other social media networking, with ease,” adds Dhanasha Bhat, a Mumbai based student. This heightens viewership, as news becomes more fluid.

INSIGHTS AND MORE
The internet can be used as a medium to create a stir, for issues that have not been showcased by national media. News can be more specific also owing to the reasonability of the medium, as it helps cut down on cost of heavy equipment and space. “The internet allows extreme localisation,” adds Harini, who also speaks of a certain project called lamin.in, where they spot local issues, local heroes and local impact of news in a certain targeted area. “The news comprises of everything that is required at the local or community level in terms of news, information and knowledge.”

AUDIENCES AND MORE
The inception of the internet sounded a new wave in the field of journalism. According to Ms Calamur we learn of tremendous personalisation in the way people consume content, in the recent years. “Unlike TV or print where you get a single channel, paper or magazine and pay for it in entirety, we will see a way where people choose only what they want (whether they pay for it or not).” The World Wide Web gives writers an impetus to choose from their desired field of interest. It certainly widens scope, as readers have a lager bandwidth of interests to choose from, and writers can cater to numerous beats of their choice.

VIEWERS GALORE
Pieces go viral, if traditional journalistic writing is strappingly interspersed with a fitting audio, video or with photographs. Take Huffington Post or Buzfeed for instance. They link their news and lighter pieces to prominent social networking sites of the likes of Facebook. They have created a different space for audiences who do not really follow news by combining news with impacting videos, pictorial storyboards, and photographs. This in turn gives way to a larger audience turn out. In more than one way, digital journalism is serious food for thought. News is better interpreted and appropriately analysed as facts and figures are laid down right before the viewer.

THE FUTURE
As we take a plunge into the future of journalism, we see how Nonny De La Penna marries technology with her traditional insight on journalism. She interestingly renders flavour to newsworthy information by using virtual reality to make viewers comprehend a certain situation in real time. She has innovatively used actual sound bytes and videos in a certain event or a situation, and redesigning the same using a 3D virtual space. The GPS tracking system attached to the device gives further insight on the news showcased on the device. Google Glass is another interesting technology that works on the blink of the eye. Even in India, it is clear that as more people go online and as more money is invested in digital media, digital journalism is going to pick up pace slowly but steadily.

And the India story begins..
In today’s media world, India is an exceptional case. While newspapers and media houses in the United States and the rest of the world have been struggling to make ends meet for the last ten years, the situation in India is poles apart. In 2014, revenues for newspapers in India experienced 8.7 percent growth, even as international behemoths like The New York Times have been trying to cut costs.

MIRAGE OR REALITY?
The continuing success of India’s print industry can be attributed to the fact that in the rural parts of India, internet connectivity is still a glaring issue. But, that doesn’t portray the most accurate picture of the Indian market. According to a KPMG report, of the 214 million Internet users in India, 130 million have access through their mobile devices. The report predicts that mobile users will top 350 million by the end of 2018. Once 4G connectivity is in full swing throughout India, the opportunities will be endless and the digital media space will be a whole new ball game. It’s interesting to note that a lot of the media growth recorded in India comes from regions where Internet connectivity is low and where news media is just beginning to penetrate. A number of established newspapers and media groups in India and abroad have already spotted these trends. The Times of India, the most widely circulated English-language paper in the world has partnered with ‘digital-first news’ pioneers The Huffington Post for HuffPost India and Buzzfeed has already set up its India operations.
In place of going for subscription money, many newspapers have reduced their prices, making their products cheaper and offering free delivery. Instead, they focused on revenues from advertisements, selling large chunks of ad space to people keen on publicising their products and services. That’s where the problem of paid news comes into play.

PAID TO BE MADE
In a nutshell, paid news refers to the sponsorship of articles or broadcast stories by the powerful elite, published under the garb of journalistic pieces. In India, it’s a known fact that news content is purchased and sold in an open market, especially during elections. It was one of the country’s most influential publishing houses that started this practice of selling their editorial space and planting paid reports as news. The irony is that channels and papers hardly expose or report on paid news related pieces to avoid upsetting their sponsors or rather their private treaty clients. The infamous Radia Tapes controversy reiterated how low the standards of ethics in journalism have fallen in India. These tapes expose a national corruption scandal using telephonic conversations between Nira Radia, a political lobbyist with renowned journalists, corporate houses and politicians. Lobbying per se is not legalized in India like it is in the United States. Due to the absence of a robust and punitive regulatory framework, most of the accused in this controversy are still scot free and continue to hog the Indian media space, as arrogantly and belligerently as ever. Is it fair that in the world’s largest democracy where the denizens take pride in their fundamental rights – the powerful and corrupt minority remain above the law?

CHINA’S HARE V/S INDIAN TORTOISE
To put things into perspective, in China, most media organisations are run by the State, whereas apart from our public service broadcaster’s channels, India’s media houses are mostly privately owned. If the fear in China is that the media is telling the people the story the government wants them to hear, then the corresponding apprehension in India is that media channels might be parrots for their capitalist owners. Many of India’s biggest media networks are known to be run by behemoth corporations with varying and conflicting business interests. But, the question that’s most baffling is – what good is an uncontrolled, untamed media system like India’s where paid news and corporate ownership are becoming rampant and where sensationalism and subjectivity are slowly becoming commonplace? The biggest concern in India is that in this ratings oriented rat race, our media must not lose their rationality and neutrality while reporting a story. India’s enormous network of newspapers, television channels and online setups provide an efficient and convenient means of reaching millions of denizens across the country. As we anxiously wait to enter a new era in the digital age, it’ll be intriguing to see how the production, dissemination and consumption of the news will change in India.

Top Journalism Colleges in India

• Asian College of Journalism, Chennai
• Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi
• Xavier Institute of Communication, Mumbai
• AJ Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre, New Delhi
• Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, Pune

Top Journalism Colleges around the World

• Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, New York City, NY
• Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
• Cardiff University, UK
• University of California, Berkeley
• City University, London

 

Volume 4 Issue 7

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