Timeless Values for Testing Times

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Journalism in India was once a profession. It has now become a trade. It has no more moral function than the manufacture of soap. It does not regard itself as the responsible adviser of the Public. To give the news uncoloured by any motive, to present a certain view of public policy which it believes to be for the good of the community, to correct and chastise without fear all those, no matter how high, who have chosen a wrong or a barren path, is not regarded by journalism in India its first or foremost duty.” — Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Ranade, Gandhi, & Jinnah, Address Delivered on the 101st Birth Anniversary of M G Ranade on January 18, 1943

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After each transition, a question about the relevance and future of the print medium is asked. For the media world, this question has always been pertinent as we moved from the weekly to notification pop-up news consumption pattern. Earlier also with the commencement of radio waves and later with the aggressive entry of electronic transmission, the similar concerns were raised. Many communication experts have been saying for a long time that the digital revolution will finish the existence of traditional media soon. The COVID19 crisis perhaps has advanced that process. Like all other sectors, it is necessary to overview the challenges Media world is facing and what are the values that will make it sustainable. These questions become all the more relevant when the nation is celebrating Narad Jayanti and journalists are still trying their best to tell the unique story of Bharat's fight against Corona in this particular situation of lockdown.
Ultimately, whether print, audio-visual or digital, all these are mediums; it is the content and role of media that is more important. It is the evolutionary process based on eternal values that makes the so-called revolutions possible. The New-Media also had to struggle to find a niche and become a challenger for the 'old media'. Eventually, the social media platforms started dictating terms for a content generation not just because of their technological strength but also because of the weakness of the so-called traditional mainstream. The monopolistic tendencies in media started dictating the narratives that were disconnected from the ground realities. The digital platforms riding on technological innovations grabbed this opportunity and established better acceptability and connectivity with the masses. In the future also, it will be the stories that will resonate the pulse of the people will find acceptance.
Unfortunately, some digital-media platforms have adopted the path of blatant lies, and fake narratives as a norm. Instead of value-based journalism, agenda journalism through the opinionated news is creating artificial binaries and dividing the public opinion. The real credibility crisis for the media world is because of this tendency of 'imposing truth' by monopolists. Pessimism, hypocrisy and self-serving attitude are the last attributes that people expect from the fourth pillar of democracy.
Ultimately, verified and unique information that intends to attain the common good makes the media reliable. Shaping the public opinion and questioning the existing government are just means to practice these values. With the emerging scenario, new instruments will come to present the content; individuals will integrate technologies and skills, new structures of organisations will evolve with necessary financial sources to create the quality content. Whether we try to be 'responsible advisor' of the public as expected by the virtuous journalists like Dr Ambedkar or continue with the irresponsible behaviour at the cost of 'public', is the most pertinent question that will decide the future of media.