Journalism- Then and Now

The 12th anniversary issue of Outlook (link via Abi) carries a discussion on the changes in journalism in the last twelve years, though I’d say that the changes started in the late 1980s.

Some of the most incisive insights are by P. Sainath. Here are a few excerpts from the discussion. All the comments below are by Sainath.

The biggest trend is the growing disconnect between the mass media and the mass reality. A very tiny Indian press, for a hundred years, served a very large social purpose, and tried to speak for the masses. Today, paradoxically, a gigantic Indian press serves a very narrow social purpose, which continues to narrow everyday

If 80 per cent of your revenues comes from advertising, and 20 per cent from sales—what that means is you’re going to give advertisers four times the importance you give readers. Their preferences and priorities take precedence

You see it in the simplest and most direct way: the organisation of beats.

Many beats have become extinct. Take the labour correspondent: when labour issues are covered at all, they come under the header of Industrial Relations, and they’re covered by the business correspondent. That means they’re covered by the guy whose job is to walk in the tracks of corporate leaders, and who, when he deigns to look at labour, does it through the eyes of corporate leaders. Now find me the agriculture columnist—in most newspapers, the idea doesn’t exist any more. If you lack correspondents on those two beats, you’re saying 70 per cent of the people in this country don’t matter, I don’t want to talk to them, they don’t make news.

That is, until the elections, when they screw the media’s happiness

Everyone keeps dividing journalism into serious and non-serious journalism—it’s a bogus division. What is called non-serious journalism is in fact a very serious business proposition, or at least it’s perceived as that by the media owners. They divide journalism into what’s serious…and what makes revenue.

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