I wonder if there was hardly a single morning which passed without concocting our faces in disgust after seeing the front page of a newspaper. Well, on what basis do you rate particular news? Keeping in mind its credibility or its prominence? How do you think a newspaper should be like? Just serving the protocol of providing information on what’s happening near and far or also educating the general public? When a country is trying hard to restore diversity in spite of suffering differences that defines its society as comprising of subclasses like literate and illiterate, men and women, poverty and opulence, Hindus and Muslims what do you think is the role of press?

As we would have studied in school that the democracy of our country is upheld by four pillars namely Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and Press. The press plays an influential role in a democracy. It is the backbone of a nation’s development.

In India the press plays a remarkable role. Infact sometimes the government here does not look into issues unless the media makes it an issue! It is a great medium that lays a bridge between the government representatives and the public. The newspapers help a lot in exposing crime and speeding up the legal proceedings. It is known for its investigations into matters and delivering the facts to the public.

Media enjoys a great freedom of expression. It exposes the wrongdoings in the state and country. Citizens who are not being heard by their representatives choose to come forward through the press to express their dissatisfaction. With the advent of technology and high speed internet people express their opinions by taking into activities like blogging, social networking, forums and chat rooms. The number of sources of news has increased.  Media plays an important role in speeding up court trails of highly offending cases like the terrorists attacks. In the case of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks which has just been a series of legal cases and nothing else has been able to proceed in the investigation due to extensive coverage of media and conducting live debates in news channels. Another significant example of the media making a change is the 13 year old Ruchika molestation case. After nineteen years of the actual occurrence of the incident, the story was brought into limelight in 2010. The minor girl, who committed suicide when she was 15, was molested by a police official and the media played a key role in obtaining justice for the girl. The press is an extreme critic of politics and frankly the ministers in our country are too cautious while addressing media. There have been controversies over the freedom of press and other media. Some elites feel that there should be some restrictions imposed on what the media can or cannot publish or telecast. Specially, the media is not allowed to defame any person or institution. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke in his recent address to the editors, “I say with all humility-the role of the media today in many cases has become that of an accuser, the prosecutor and the judge.” Any matter published in the newspapers or shown in the channels is considered to be the ultimate verdict regarding that particular issue. Once written the newspapers, it cannot be washed away and once broadcast in the television, it cannot be denied.     

“Information is Wealth”, everybody believe that the newspapers are reliable source of information. Through the years the newspapers have enlightened the citizens, helped us to develop a lateral thinking and form our own opinions on issues. It has played a major role in the development of the country specially the rural areas where people develop their general knowledge by reading newspapers and updating themselves with the current affairs. Similar to other media, television and radio, newspapers do a great deal of marketing of consumer goods, business and social announcements. During the struggle for Independence the print media played an unbeatable role in spreading the message all over the country and provoking them to revolt.

In the 21st century the role of media has taken a hit! In contemporary India, with a new news channel popping every second day and increasing number of newspapers, the ethics of journalism have been lost. Reporters work towards high TRPs rather than producing genuine news to the public. The Media Industry contributes a good share to the per capita of our country. It was 9% last year and growth of 13% is expected this year.  It’s a race in getting the news first. They try to attract attention of the viewers and readers by sensationalizing things and creating unnecessary hype. This type of news which is cooked up for commercial gains is called yellow news. It is against journalism ethics.

How did yellow journalism come into being?

Late in the 19th century in America there were these two newspapers, The New York World, run by Joseph Pulitzer and The New York Journal, run by William Randolph Hearst. There was a rivalry between the two about publishing a comic strip called “The yellow kid”. The cartoonist used a special yellow ink to draw it. Following this incident, the name “Yellow Journalism” became popular.

When there is a lot of resource for broadcasting news, there is not much news to present so, the news is being generated. The journalists are the first to gather information and it is totally their onus to produce credible matter rather than misleading the public for their commercial interests. Editing the facts and manipulating data is undesirable. Even gathering news that is not of much use also comes under sensationalism. Most leading news channels telecast at least a thirty minute slot a day on gossips related to the personal life of film actors and cricketers. Too many programs on cooking, makeups, singing and dancing. The newspapers publish a separate supplement altogether which contain news related to pubs and night life. The media can influence the public to a far extent and naturally people will become more curious to know who would be the next Miss Universe rather than about who would be the next Prime Minister of India.

“Money and glamour excites Indians!” The fault is not totally on the side of the media, partially it is public’s fault too. Though today we are industrially strong, financially stable and heading towards becoming a superpower, our people are still not socially responsible. All of us want to win the competition, all of us want to grow fast and want our work to be done faster by hook or crook. We are not bothered if anybody is backward or oppressed or deprived of education and basic rights and we are not bothered if anybody is homeless, hungry and poor. We are least bothered if anybody is dying for us at the borders. We expect every movie to be a master piece just because we spend fifty rupees from our pockets, but it would have taken them so much pain to make it. We expect every cricketer to play well in all the matches because we spend so much energy, time and money in watching them. This is our attitude! We want to escape from thinking about children who deserve a good education, but forced to work by watching cricket highlights day and night. We want to escape from worrying about inflation by watching movies and reading gossips about actors and forwarding crap messages.

Any commercial organizations produces goods keeping mind the demand from the consumers. Same is the case with media. They show what people wish to see. If people feel that they need to be dragged to the news then the shows have to be made attractive. Unless we don’t change, the quality of news will not change. The media should participate in eradicating poverty, child labour, communal riots and develop a civic sense in the citizens. The present day journalists should understand that a weaver or a farmer or a daily wage labourer has absolutely nothing to do with the royal wedding of a prince or of a tennis star. The opposition puts a check to the government but the press is a universal judge and they should not degrade themselves by giving importance to worthless news.