Opinion

Lost Journalistic Objectivity

The Cambridge dictionary defines “objectivity” as the quality of being able to make a decision or judgment in a fair way that is not influenced by personal feelings or beliefs. Growing up humans learn a lot of values throughout their lifetime but objectivity often is overlooked. Someone hardly sits their child down to talk about the importance of it, however, the same people would quickly turn to anger if met with the lack of it. Looking at a situation with objectivity not only yields better decisions but cuts short the time taken to take one.

The walls of a Journalism Institution have heard the word “objectivity” like a chant, for it remains the most crucial quality of a journalist, at least in theory. A student goes through three years of graduation filled with education and training to prepare them for the real world where the tables turn. The constant emphasis on being objective as a journalist during the long lectures tend to lose meaning in the real world. Deemed as lost in translation, the practice of picking and favoring sides has filled pockets but hollowed the very core of journalism.

The Indian Journalistic revolution began with the freedom struggle itself but in recent years it has completed its transformation to merely being a business. Journalistic integrity has taken a side track while the newscasters turned hawkers sell us tampered goods while we mindlessly flock around our TV sets. History bears the witness of the shift an honest and powerful press is capable of and journalists as professionals should return to their root principles.

Before jumping to conclusions and starting the blame game it is only wise to get to the cause of it by listing down probable causes:

Expansion

Globalization is an ongoing phenomenon and with India, the execution has been slow; the acceptance even slower but it has arrived. One can see its mark with the booming media industry which is churning out content day in and day out. With an abundance of financial as well as human resources, the industry is coming up with a new media house every day, however, the content remains finite and people can consume the same truth only so many times. This situation has given birth to the lack of objectivity in primarily in the news sector, from broadcasting altered information to conducting pointless debates it has become more of a circus than a reliable source of information. The expansion has driven journalists to the brink of total unabashedness chasing after TRP (target rating point).

Digital Media

The emergence of new media has changed the game altogether, people are no longer engaging with media in the conventional sense and take their daily dose of it chiefly on their phones followed by laptops. Anyone barely gives their entire attention to a news segment airing on the television. Media has moved on to digital media i.e, websites and apps, this nonetheless maintains their visibility but unlike the conventional media online media needs little to no setup, in simple terms anyone can up and decide to start a website hosting news articles. This race of media houses has had them bypassing the purpose of reporting completely which was providing the common man with the truth. Media houses are busy in dolling out content like bait to make the public fall for it, in turn feeding them complete lies and half-truths. 

Failing Finances

The media industry is owned by wealthy ignorant businessmen, their only concern is sales which drive money to their bank accounts. Like everything else, running a company costs too and with the fall in conventional media consumption, the revenue has taken a toll, leaving journalists to either jump ship or abandon their journalistic integrity. The board meetings are less about the quality of content and more about increasing the amount of cash inflow. Media houses pick sides and glorify the political party that promises to fulfill their financial fallbacks. This results in demeaning journalism with little or no amount of substance it, which is not only disrespectful to the profession but also a matter of national shame.

Demographic Deterioration

Since the educated and skillful population of the audience has made the move to digital media the typical demographic now consists of people with low intellect. An uneducated mind can decipher and absorb only to its capacity, therefore, the quality of news is falling at a great rate. If we look at the entire television landscape, it is filled with mind numbing shows that fill the viewers with negativity, violence, and politician worship. Objectivity has become a forgotten folklore and the journalistic community is no longer the watchdog of the government like we all learned when we were all little. News channels are filled with windows each housing an individual who was simply called to put on a show which he/she is completely justifying by yelling nonsense at others. 

We stand on crossroads where either we can accept the condition of the media industry or question its redeem ability and try to work our way through it. India is an optimistic country and its only fair to browse through some solutions to fix this big pile of steaming mess. 

SOLUTIONS 

Education

Education is the most significant aspect of one's life, it not only shapes the person but also builds his or her reality. Students who are palling to pursue journalism should be filtered out on the basis of character when appearing at the various entrance exams. This must sound tedious or maybe even ridiculous but an individual’s personality traits are in fact the deciding factors of how a person would or may react when presented with a certain situation. It is essential for people to be built for the job and not the other way around. Although all the journalism institutions educate the students with the journalistic principles it's up to the student to take on those attributes. Therefore, selection of the right students and their right education is the key.

Strict Content Policies

Once at publication, news channel or even at the radio station, an employee holds the power to influence all those who are subjected to his/her body of work. It also represents the publication and therefore each media organization should be rigid about their content guidelines and restrictions. Clarity of the protocol will minimize the casualties that happen every day due to lack thereof. Ideologies of a company forge it and if they waver the entire organizational structure is in shambles.

Better Management

The top-level management sets the tone of any organization, and it is extremely crucial to have a qualifies as well as morally sound management at a media house. Positions like Chief Editor should be filled only by individuals who are willing to take decisions based on concrete truths rather than focusing on what sells. Sure the packaging matters and it should be eye catchy but the truth should not be meddled with. I guess “with great power comes great responsibilities” perfectly applies here!

Accountability

No matter what measures you take something will slip the eyes but it should not be ignored. If people won’t be objective by themselves they should pay the cost for it. It only honorable that the person at fault should face the consequences, seems harsh but examples need to be set or everything falls in the hands of unrest. Being a journalist is not a regular profession and one should understand its gravity. It is not all fun and games as people base their decisions and frame their mindset around what they read and watch.

It is conclusive that the Indian journalism trajectory is headed south but we believe a change can come with sincere efforts and it is up to us to bring it. It is possible with the adequate steps and their proper execution. A turnaround in attitude and perspective is all it would take.

Dispassionate objectivity is itself a passion, for the real and for the truth.” - Abraham Maslow