Media: A Threat Bigger Than Known Threats

-Pradeep Mathur

Being a senior, superannuated, and sidelined media person, I think it won’t be an act of grace on my part to comment on the ways of the present generation of journalists, especially so when quite a few of them have either been my student or are of the age of my children. However, I cannot help commenting on Arnab Goswami who I do not think I have ever met or interacted with. And here my concern is neither his focus nor his political preferences. My problem is with the way he conducts his programs. He has an immaculate expression in the English language but unfortunately, he does not understand the spirit and soul of the language. Moreover, the way he conducts his programs is against all good and great traditions of English journalism. He is loud, vulgar, and needlessly aggressive which is not at all necessary to derive a point home. I wish someone will tell him someday that this is not done.

In the past 50 years or so the practice of journalism has changed significantly in India. The English press has conceded its preeminent position to Indian language newspapers. Quite a few English journals have closed down, others are losing circulation; TV channels, especially those in Hindi get a much bigger TRP compared to the best English channels. However, what has survived are the traditions of professionalism – and a culture of good manners and modesty which was the defining character of English journalism. From Prem Bhatia to Sapan Das Gupta many journalists after the Independence got important positions like ambassadorships and membership of the Rajya Sabha because the government of the day appreciated their creative contribution to society but they never had to shout from the housetop that those in the Opposition are demons. Perhaps Anrab does this to catch the eye of those who are in authority. But this is not in keeping with the traditions of good journalism.

While the essential characteristics of a journalist are confidence, a high sense of self-respect, and some degree of assertiveness, ego should be no part of his personality. Almost the first thing we were taught while entering the newsroom was that while a journalist meets and interacts with VVIPs himself he is no VIP. Humility is a good quality for any human being. But for a journalist, it is an essential requirement. Unless you are humble you cannot interact with the common man who the media represents in a democracy to be called as its Fourth Estate. Moreover, the man in the street is the biggest source of news. Most of the all-time great news scoops have come by talking to the common man and operating at the ground level and not by sitting with VVIPs in their high chambers.

My friends may ask me that when I am retired and out of circulation why should I be concerned as to how Anrab functions especially so when I do not want to bother about his politics. My answer would be simple. For one, his arrogant style and brash manners are anathema to me and my contemporaries who have pursued and taught journalism for nearly half a century. And the other more concerning thing is that he is becoming an icon for our educated urban middle-class youth who like their right to vote but do not understand the basics of the culture of democracy.

Arnab Goswami
Arnab Goswami

My concern was greatly enhanced while conducting an online viva voce examination of a university student recently. I put up some simple questions for her. The poor girl was blank about the history of media, had not read even a single book on media, did not read newspapers, did not know what broadcast or digital media was but without clearly remembering the name of the TV channel wanted to be a media person like Anrab Goswami.

“Why so “, I asked her.” Because he does not listen to anyone and shouts down other participants in his show “ she replied. Like most of us, I have always thought of vested interests of business and industry, people in authority, and the mafia as major threats to the freedom of our media. Before this, I never thought that a mere anchor could be a cult figure and becomes a big threat to the very culture of news media.

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