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‘Indian media powerful but suffers perception issues’

Senior journalist Alok Mehta says it’s unfortunate that unverified info from social media picked up to put out everywhere.

Lamenting that in the race to catch eyeballs with sensational news, tabloid journalism has got mixed up with serious journalism, senior journalist and Padma Shri awardee Alok Mehta has said that credibility perception of Indian media has gone down. Yet, despite criticism, Indian media is free and powerful.

“Tabloid journalism which was very strong earlier has got mixed with serious journalism today in newspapers as well as TV channels. Entertainment and sensationalism have got mixed up with news and headlines have become sensational to increase sales. Despite the fact that Indian news media is very strong, powerful and enjoys huge freedom, it suffers from perception issues and its credibility has gone down over the years,” he said.

Mehta was speaking to with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, during the webcast of Visionary Talk series held by public policy and governance analysis platform.

Adding that it is not correct to say things are completely bad, Mehta also said today media is not able to do what it should be doing. He said editors and media owners must shun arrogance and objectively accept constructive criticism.

Mehta said that despite the fact that since independence media has grown, the number of newspapers and news channels across the country has increased and news readership and consumption has also grown, media is not able to do what it should be doing because it is competing with each other.

“As against earlier, today the difference is that media has expanded and people are able to express their views through YouTube or social media. Despite that, competition and the race to be one up against the other is damaging the media. It is not so much political interference but competition amongst themselves and criticism against their own colleagues that is damaging the media. We are not ready to accept our shortcomings but competing to be ahead of each other in the race,” he said.

He recalled many instances when mistakes made by earlier editors led to closure of some publications and problems exacerbated after with many of their colleagues and contemporaries made multiple complaints. “In spite of all of this, there was camaraderie in media. Today the mentality in media is that either you are with me or you are against me. Competition must be healthy,” he said.

Speaking on the reporting about Covid-19, Mehta, who is also a recipient of several national and state awards, said that media must self-regulate while reporting on pandemic and keep in mind the impact of their stories on the minds of children and elders at home who are facing depression watching Covid reporting on TV.

Asked if authenticity of news has come down, Mehta added, “As students of journalism we were taught that news has to be reported based on facts and should be different. Comments and news analysis should be left on editorial. News reporting has to be based on facts. People relate to brands for credibility of reporting and that credibility has been tarnished. Today in India everybody is commenting along with news. Analysis of news should be left to the editorial. But in India that demarcation is broken. Reporters are giving commentary on news and demarcation between news and analysis is broken.”

Mehta said that the mentality to grab eyeballs without checking facts and putting it out on social media, newspapers and channels has broken the demarcation of news and sensationalism. “There is no code of ethics practised by news channels. It is unfortunate that unverified and incorrect information on social media is picked up by main media and put out everywhere,” he said. Governance Now

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