Transformative Issues Facing the News Industry TodaySyed Ali Mujtaba
In the new-era of disruptions and transformations of news, the news is no more mere information these days but it comes in wrappers of layers of sugar coatings. The stories themselves have become victim of prejudices and are subjected to various interest groups that play a major role in its generation.
India has some unique story to tell on the subject of issues facing the news industry. In the 2014 General Election, the digital media for the first time emerged as a force to reckon with in the country. The medium was employed aggressively by the winning party to woo the voters that constituted nearly 37 per cent of urban voters as they were connected to some form of social media. This new and relatively revolutionary platform created a whirlpool of information campaign that swung the election in favour of one party leaving other gasping.
In this era of digitization of news the proliferation of fake news has become a big trend these and dangerous too. There are some Websites that have made a successful business model out of distribution of false news stories with catchy and provocative headlines.
A news item that showed images of number of Hindu temples being removed from the roads for encroachment with the caption ‘temples are being destroyed in India.’ This news contents got further momentum when it was shared by some of its diehard followers. Even though later, it was debunked as fake news, the damage was done. Even today such false stories continue to be in circulation to appeal to the raw sentiments of right-wing protagonists.
Facebook Twitter and WhatsApp are the biggest platforms, in India, that plays a big role in circulation of fake news. In Jharkhand three innocent men were beaten to death by an angry mob that wrongly believed those men were human traffickers, based on a simple WhatsApp message.
Similarly, a screenshot from a local feature film showing a woman being molested as part of that filmy drama was peddled as news with the caption Muslim man molests a Hindu women. But for quick rebuttal by Tec savvy netizens, this could have led to communal tensions and violent incidents.
Similarly, when India lost a cricket match against Pakistan in June 2017 a video went viral that showed some Indian Muslims celebrating Pakistan’s victory. However, when those videos were verified all except one from Kashmir was found to be genuine. But then the damage was done targeting the Muslim community of India as anti-nationals.
In this heap of fact and fiction masquerading as news, the consumer of news is unable to separate the chaff from the grain. This is because the fake news, paid news, has proliferated immensely in the news bulletins. The biggest challenge before the news readers or news viewers is how to decipher “What Is the News”?
While this is one trend dominating the news industry, many emerging issues that are knocking at the doors of newsroom is unable to make news. Killing of news for the sake of accommodating news of sex and glamour that catches the eyeball has become a new trend both in news media industry.
In the business of news, the commercialization of news content for revenue generation is another disturbing trend. The electoral malpractices of paid news and coverage packages are a new trend in India. The press guild of India has found a few media houses engaged in in leveraging political and economic content for overt and covert revenue generation.
The rapid erosion of the demarcation between journalism, public relations, advertising and entertainment is another growing trend is news industry. This phenomenon is attributed to the convergence of news media, entertainment and telecom industry that has emerged after the rampant growth of media industry in India.
Breaking news is yet another trendy trend these days. As eyeballs are more important to establish the size of readership or viewership, journalistic ethics are being sacrificed on the alter speed and accuracy.
In the mad rush of breaking news the content is approved for broadcast without any verification and cross checking of the relevant facts doing more harm than any service to the news. In this, the method of ‘sting-operation’ has become a popular format of news gathering disregarding journalistic ethics and media norms. There is a raging debate in India that how unrestrained reporting is robbing the moral quotient of news gathering system that exists from ages.
In order to understand all these transformative issues shaping the news industry today, the East-West Center at Hawaii is organizing a Media Conference in Singapore from June 24-27.
Hundreds of media professionals are gathering in Singapore, to look at new-era trends and transformative issues in media and the news itself.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He is invited to attend the media conference in Singapore from June 24-27. He can be contacted at email@example.com