There used to be a time when newspapers reported news. And in those newspapers there would be an editorial page that kind of aligned with the overall ideas of the news group, but still didn’t sound biased. I miss those days. I miss being able to look at the newspapers just to know what happened, as it was. I miss editorial columns that were written by mostly sensible people and so helped me think, whether I agreed to the views or not.
I don’t know when the Indian newspapers (I don’t know about international ones) changed the job description of their reporters and made their core job “Provide a write-up on your views and feelings loosely based on something that actually happened”. It isn’t even like an entire newspaper being changed to an editorial page; it is more like developing an entire newspaper that does not cater to the core journalistic responsibility, or what I used to believe was core journalistic responsibility based on all the good newspapers I used to read from my childhood – “Report things that happened. Period.”
I mean, where else would you see a leading national daily slapping their entire front page with a huge, rather absurd picture of the HRD Minister for the central government with the caption “Aunty National”? My problem with this headline and front page has got nothing to do with what I think of the events. My problem with it is that this headline seemed totally unprofessional and not in good taste, especially coming from a reputed newspaper. What I used to believe was that there is a way in which even someone’s official conviction would be reported. It would be just that – a report about how someone was convicted of something. Even if they had to report of someone being accused of something, they had to put it down in words which clearly conveyed “this person is accused of so and so by so and so, and an investigation is scheduled”. But to side with one group of people and bring out a front page airing a derogatory comment like this was in no way journalistic ethics. No, I’m not saying it because I am a “Bhakt” or because I think it is sexist. So there is no point in trying to pick an argument with me on those lines (fair warning). Even if a daily slapped its front page with a stupid photo of Rahul Gandhi with the caption “Pappu” in bold, I would still say it is wrong, whether I feel the same way or not. Because while trolls and memes in Twitter and Facebook are personal opinions that are shared by people who feel the same way, a newspaper has no right to be bringing in the word “personal” to their reporting standards.
I guess journalistic ethics is something we should not be worrying about anymore, because it has been gone a long time now. I remember subscribing to the trashiest newspaper in India unknowingly when we moved into our first home in Hyderabad. I just had the habit of skimming through the newspaper in the morning to see what has happened around, and Hari was the kind of person who would read through the entire thing word by word. Three or four rather patient months of waiting to see if there would be at least one piece of real news in the self-proclaimed “newspaper”, we gave up. We were just so tired of seeing an entire newspaper, from the very first to the very last page I swear, covering multiple “news pieces” on the wardrobe malfunctions of celebrities across film industries – Hollywood, Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood and every other wood possible. If there weren’t enough wardrobe malfunctions to cover the entire space, they would “report” possible extramarital affairs happening in the celebrity world. We tried out another daily and failed, and researched online to see which one we should subscribe to and failed yet again.
I am happy to say that we don’t pay for someone to drop trash in front of our house everyday anymore.
But yeah, I still get to see the front page drama of that esteemed newspaper through shared posts on social media – day to day update of how an actress was ousted from the Whatsapp group of her ex-boyfriend’s family, cleavage measurement and all. And I literally had my mouth wide open (out of disgust of course) when I saw the last big outing of theirs – Kate’s Marilyn Moment. Sure, the prince and princess of a country which ruled us for more than a century have paid a visit to us to strengthen ties with our country and better relations apparently, and what better tribute to the visit than a day-by-day coverage of her wardrobe and a “steamy” climax in the form of her wardrobe malfunction – ON THE FRIGGIN FRONT PAGE!!! I’m sure this has made headlines in other newspapers elsewhere in the world too; the only difference is that not many of them claim to be “A reputed and leading daily”. They proudly acknowledge what they are – trashy, paparazzi tabloids.
And on the very same day, another “Reputed media house” had their ‘Opinion’ column for their online space written by “an established writer, columnist, opinion shaper and social commentator, who is considered an authority on popular culture” (Their words, not mine). And the supposed representative of empowered ladies in the modern day, who started her ‘Opinion’ in what seemed to be a mockery of everyone’s obsession with Kate’s wardrobe and not what the radiant Duchess had to say and how people dissected her wardrobe and her hemline and fit, took us for a royal ride by doing exactly that in the next 9 whole paragraphs!! Making comments on the “chaka chak outfit” that seemed to be from a “galibehind Taj Mahal Palace Hotel”, her “patli kamar” she had “shown off”, her dress that any “take me seriously working female professional would opt for when she goes schmoozing with the boys to the local pub”, to wishing “her dress was more flirty” and how can we forget, thanking almighty for not making Kate wear a saree as she doesn’t have “the curves” – oh yes! Just what an empowered woman in the modern day would write about in an attempt to “shape opinion” apparently. Probably the opinion that was shaped was this – “Being elegant and classy, so old-fashioned! Giving fashion advice to the Duchess of Cambridge in cringe-worthy words – so empowering and hip!” Way to go Ms.”established writer, columnist, opinion shaper and social commentator, who is considered an authority on popular culture”.
I guess I have rambled on enough about the “brand new journalistic ethics”. It’s not even like there is any point in me rambling on. After all, I am just one among a billion people who can be taken for granted. In an age where our media houses are busy competing to give live updates on just what exactly our soldiers are doing in a combat situation so that heads of terrorist groups can watch the updates on TV in another country and pass on instructions to their ‘boys on the floor’, do you think ‘one among a billion’ really matters?