Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Software You will copy with risks to penalties and criminal procedures.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Yellow Journalism

In a Whatsapp group, one of my batch mates reported how some newspapers printed photos from a raid on three restaraunts by the police in Agartala. One of the couples were legitimate, engaged and to be married soon. Some were obviously not working girls, but seeking to have private time with their lovers.  Is that so bad? Where in an otherwise repressed society would you be able to do that? Do you seek blessings from your parents to gain carnal knowledge of your partner? That would be wonderful, to be able to communicate and learn about safe sex from your family. But we’d rather you had half-baked ideas and set to explore on your own, and ended up in the lock-up for the night.

Though we all agreed about the need to shut down shady businesses in our hometown, we debated the necessity to publish those pictures for public consumption.  Scandal-mongering is an old tactic used by media houses when there is no substantial news to report. But there is another reason too- sensationalism sells. Period.

For instance, The Statesman (headquartered in Kolkata) was considered a good, clean English daily newspaper while we were growing up in Agartala. The Telegraph, on the other hand, had supplements every Thursday called Telekids which had cartoons and articles for kids, a Friday spread of movie celebrities, and a Sunday magazine, Graphiti, with articles on food, art, and lifestyle. Since the later was more entertaining to my elder brother and me for different reasons, we tried to convince our parents to start subscribing to The Telegraph instead of The Statesman. Though the editorial section of The Statesman was one of the best in the country, we pleaded to stop our substantial diet and feed on junk. I don’t remember reading one single news article in The Telegraph after the subscription changed. All I read was Telekids and Graphiti.

I am not saying that one is better than the other, but every time we pick up entertainment instead of news, we are breaking the pen of another honest reporter. The scare headlines with no substantial news live on.

When checking out at a grocery store in the US, I often see magazines with celebrity gossips lined up. The cover page has the most outrageous claims- from promises of revelations of murder and blackmail to lurid details of the divorce of a celebrity couple, who cheated whom and so on. Pick your poison. Tom Cruise? You will find a series of cover stories: (Suri) Abandoned by Daddy, Tom’s Secret plan for Suri, Why Katie Left Tom, 30-year gay secret (with John Travolta and their weeklong getaway) and Inside his(Tom’s) life alone. With $2.99, you can peep into the private lives of glamorous icons. You can be a part of their misery, happiness, wedding, bereavements. You can reach out and be a part of something influential, beautiful and unreachable otherwise.

Now, I have no issues if People publishes celebrity gossip. But if Time starts to follow suit, I will be very, very uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the articles on the Times’s page in Facebook has some of the most substandard articles with clickbait headlines. Then there is always something, ’You will never believe…’ even for the lamest facts.

The primary duty of a reporter is to report facts, without personal, moral or political bias. But they are humans too. And they have mouths to feed. If you don’t want to be served the same recycled bullshit, you have to say it out loud. You have to demand something intellectually more stimulating, social issues that matter to your community, etc. But that doesn’t happen overnight. Is our education system failing our younger generation? Is community service a compulsory subject at school? Are you taught to value your leisure and trained to utilize it for the greater good? Or a pack of tissues and a nudie mag is all you need for the weekend?

The whole system is intertwined. We can not expect moral stalwarts when the precedence is set very low. Parents can manage the microenvironment of home. But once kids step out into the real world, they will see friends either wasting time loitering in the mall or taking extra language courses for higher education in Europe. Of course, they are free to choose, but there have to be some solid examples of those walking on the right path.

I am no one to judge the mechanisms of a functional society. I wasted a good amount of time at the mall as an undergrad until I started taking the extra coaching for a foreign language. But I don’t want the future generation to make the same mistakes. I want them to be wiser than I was at their age. I want them to know what is important and come up with innovative solutions to the problems that ail us.

The women in those pictures will obviously end up being social pariahs. In a small town, a reputation is very important. The press has to be more responsible for what it chooses to report. But the responsibility is also with each one of us. Our choices build the society.


Sutapa said...

Recently I watched the movie " Massan" and was awestruck. I guess one of the best movies of the year. Here they touched that sensitive cord that you discussed here in the first paragraph. We grew up in a repressive society and going for carnal adventure before marriage is considered sin, anther taboo made to maintain some bullshit social sanity. I don't understand what so wrong with that if two grow up adults want to spend some private time with each other. The society aka. Police has no right to intervene their privacy. They are doing raids for so many years, have they changed anything other than corrupting themselves and the country?

Aparna Ganguly said...

Thank you for your comment Sutapa. This kind of moral policing is just a gimmick to prove that the police is doing its duty, while perpetrators of violent crimes like rape, murder etc go unpunished. These also serve as distractions for the public when they think the state administration is not efficient. The spectacles also increase around elections to serve political agenda- for or against the ruling party, depending on how the public opinion is formed. One of my friends mentioned 'Massan' in this context too. I am looking forward to watching the movie now.

Sutapa said...

That's very true. Well not in this context, recently my parents went to Agartala for a general tour and my father was saying it's a very clean, well maintained city. He was surprised to see how other than the market place a city can be that clean. I know you are from Agartala and there's always a happy feeling to hear good about our own place.And if you want to watch "Massan" check this link