Monday, December 09, 2013

Media (Un)Defined

Rare are the ones who come into this world with an obsession for justice and truth. But privileged are those who grasp the opportunity to do the world some good, to do themselves some good. Armed with a passion and longing for fairness, they strive, within the boundaries of investigative journalism to sketch a beautiful portrait, on a grey and mucky canvas, a portrait filled with bravery and courage to do the “right” thing.

But what happens when the picture goes hazy and blotches make way onto the canvas? The ink blurs and the muck and grey don’t seem to get camouflaged anymore? … Brows get raised and the eyes roll, questioning the integrity of the boastful passion, wondering what the definitions of “Justice” and “Truth” truly are.

A few years ago, a model turned celebrity barmaid was shot down at a socialite’s party. The shooter, the son of an MLA was acquitted despite there being enough evidence to prove him guilty. The Court’s decision cast a dark shadow on the very premise that it stands on – Justice. The acquittal shocked the country and triggered off a momentous outcry from the common man. What tilted the game was the support that came in the form of media. The case was reopened and the power of media ensured that justice prevailed.


Source: www.tap.info.tn
With time, Journalism has got equipped with a power and influence that is second to none. But the realist does not hesitate to wonder – Is there a “what’s in it for me?” attitude that could probably be the underlying factor for such courageous journalism? Could the high from taking a politician down be high enough to be the ultimate goal?

Jessica Lal’s family got their fair due. Journalism was soaring in the success of the moment; its power to do the “right” thing.  Unknowingly the case made the masses begin to resort to the Media for redressal rather than the Police. 

A few years later along came the case of Aarushi and the Talwar family. A gruesome murder that left the country shocked once again. Killed in her own bed, she was but 14 years old. Suspicion mounted on the live-in cook Hemraj and his friends but all of it was washed off once Hemraj’s body was found. What followed has till date left everyone flummoxed. Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, Aarushi’s parents were arrested on charges of both the murders. Purely based on circumstantial evidence which has been questioned by all, the court trial saga that ensued seemed everything but fair. Parents charged with the murder of their own offspring, could it get any more agonizing than this? An investigation dominated by suspected loopholes and unconvincing evidence presented by the authorities; the verdict was long in the making. The CBI seemed to be out on a vengeance, almost as if they had a personal vendetta to serve. In all the mayhem what stuck out like a sore thumb was the absence of investigative journalism. Unlike the Jessical Lal case where the Media stepped in when it smelt a fishy verdict, this time around they seemed to have stayed away.

Journalists were omnipresent, there was no doubt. The case was in their spotlight, which was very clear. Then what was amiss? That spark the common man saw with Jessica Lal’s case was missing. The Media fished every bait thrown out and devoured them down with extra salt and pepper each time. The general public inclining towards the same verdict seemed to add fuel to the reporting. Rather than give the case an objective look, the focus seemed to be on glorifying the juicy conclusion.  Each piece of evidence was sensationalized, every aspect of the victim and the accused was smothered across print and TV alike. Every behavior interpreted. Not even the family would have known them as much as the Media proclaimed they did.

The law declared the parents guilty and the order demanded capital punishment. It seemed like the system had staged a huge conspiracy. Finally lifetime imprisonment was the sentence announced to a stunned audience. A single tear rolled down the cheek, was this for real? Nobody cried foul; sections of the Media did spend some moments scrutinizing the verdict but not enough to stay afloat and be heard; it definitely did not gather the popular voice the way it did for Jessica. Somewhere along the line the investigation from the journalism seemed to have gone missing.

What went wrong? On one hand there was a case that inspired a passion for justice, on the other one that makes the head hang in shame. Why has the same passion not stirred for Aarushi? What worked for Jessica but not the Talwars?

Conflicting reactions makes one wonder if the action taken is only in the best interest of what suits the media house; it sure does make the “What’s in it for me” attitude seem to be for real. Was Jessica an opportunity to put down a Politician? Are the Talwars the scapegoat for sensationalizing news? What triggers such contradictory responses?

Journalism and Media seems to be undergoing a change. As they get more and more familiar with Power and Influence, a single stroke of their pen or a moment captured on the reel can make or break reputations and careers. Business tycoons and politicians are seen courting the Media; that’s the kind of muscle the Fourth Estate wields today.

While one struggles with the dilemma of defining the “Right” vis-à-vis the “Wrong”, another picture of Journalism is surfacing –One that further messes the canvas; damaging it beyond repair.They are, despite all odds considered to be a “protective” force that attempts to bring in discipline into the society. But when the Protector turns wild, faith gets fractured for good.

Tarun Tejpal, a name synonymous with sting operations and “perseverance” for justice, stamped all over it and brushed it under the carpet with his “misinterpretation” of a situation and so called bad judgment. Sexual abuse by a media person shattered the very core of the field’s philosophy. To further cover it up and declare yourself as “framed” revealed another dent in the already cracked façade that most of the Media world seem to have been living under for ages. If that wasn’t enough, the incident tumbled out quite a few bones from the Tehelka cupboard –Fishy funding, dubious share sales and a rag to riches story.

The disgraceful saga that is unfolding today symbolizes the handicap that Authority and Influence brings along - Lust… for Power, Money,Fame and now Sex. It was all that the pen and the camera pursued, only to find it taking up residence in their own house.

Three incidents; each disclosing a different facet of inhumane behavior. The media reacted to each differently – supporting justice for Jessica, being just a messenger of the system for the Talwars and engulfing itself in shame as far as Tehelka was concerned.

One gave some hope; the other two are not letting it live.

The readers are but mute spectators, watching the game from the sidelines. As the rules of the game keep changing, confusion clouds their minds and they wonder where it will all lead; what will be the game changer and how the outcome will get decided. A win or a loss, it does not really matter as long it is in the spirit of justice and the definition of right stays just that... right.

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31 comments:

  1. Very well written article Seeta.
    Media will continue to play an important role in forming opinions, it may be shamed like in the third incident yet it will be accepted, and judged by people in their own terms.

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    1. Yup, come what may it will continue to play that role.. just wish there was some logic to certain reactions they have given so far...

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    1. You have some valid points there Rohan, it is quite apparent that you hold some strong views on the state of affairs today. Thanks for stopping by :)

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  3. Very well written! The power of pen can anytime molded for individual' benefits by individuals. That's sad!

    www.numerounity.com

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    1. Absolutely, nothing today is mightier than the pen :)

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  4. You are absolutely right, Seeta! Though, it makes me happy that media is bringing these cases into the open, they do seem to cross lines and become greedy for unwarranted details. They also end up painting people as culprits even before the trial has commenced.

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    1. True, we get to know a lot about whats happening today through media, question is how much do we get clouded by what they have to say.. at times they have done the right thing? unfortunately that doesnt happen all the time :(

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  5. Super ! this piece is very well written. I love the way you related the three incidents in such a brilliant manner. The other day a friend and I were discussing the role of Media in our country. I think as a human being you would want to do good and make some money in the process as well. I am not sure if you used to watch this 2 min news which used to come on DD years ago called "Aankhon Dekhi"(it has a good Jagjit singh song as its title song :) ), the lady took on daily problems with the cops, the system etc. So I think there is still hope. A leading newspaper seems to be interested in selling copies by putting up photos of half naked ladies and always reporting negative news on the front page, but if that works so be it. The end goal as you said is to get justice. A good friend mentioned a good advice the other day, the only opinion you should have about any subject is your own, it shouldnt be influenced by anyone. You can refer to facts to formulate your opinion but don't follow blindly whatever you read because there is always another side to it.
    I loved it Seets, Thanks for the writeup :). Brilliant stuff !!

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    1. Thank you! :) You are talking about Nalini Singh, she did a brilliant job with Aankhon Dekhi.. Btw if i am not mistaken she is Arun Shourie's sister. Tell your friend, that is some sound advice he gave you :)

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  6. A very very well written article and sums up the issues really well. It's sad that a sector with so much potential for turning wrong upside down, has lost it's face of truth and it's irreparable because trust is a hard thing to come by.

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    1. a very hard thing to come by these days Abhra.. very hard :( Thanks for stopping by.. :)

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  7. Unlike the Jessica case, they made wild speculations, indulged in character assassination and transgressed every limit of sensitivity in the Arushi case. Today they pick one juicy bone and keep chewing it for days together. It seems as if nothing else is happening in the world. Good one Seeta.

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    1. Exactly... I do not know who is guilty, but I feel the case deserved a much better treatment. And like you said it's all about how juicy the bone really is :|

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  8. True, with few exceptions, media has always had the reputation of being manipulative for the best of just their interest. Don't know, how true and relevant now, I remember my brother telling me when I was a kid, that newspapers are always produced in a loss...their income is not by selling copies rather the money generated by using/ misusing the information they have against and with the big corporate houses. The ad revenue, predominantly in big cities, according to him was the secondary, legitimate source.

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    1. Given how things are today, I wouldn't want to refute what your bro has to say. But yes, since both of us have/had some connection with Newspapers we can safely claim that ad revenue is the biggest legitimate source :)

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  9. Valid points indeed, Seeta.
    It's sad when Media does things for its own interests. Remember the movie- 'Peepli Live'? Sensationalizing News & increasing TRPs is the motto. But, action is dependent on who is the recipient!

    Pl do find time to respond to my 2nd Entry where I have tagged you- http://anitaexplorer.blogspot.in/2013/12/bollywood-heroines-reel-real-pass-choice.html
    Had to tag you in a new one coz we can tag only 5 Bloggers in each Post...

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    1. Absolutely right. The movie is a good reference point .. very true. Will surely look at the tag, thanks much for it :) Do give me some time though, its been a bit busy out here :|

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    2. Seeta, Do take your time! You need to write just 1 Post & then you can tag 5 people if you wish and submit the link of your Post in BlogAdda as well.
      Do respond to :
      http://anitaexplorer.blogspot.in/2013/12/bollywood-heroines-reel-real-pass-choice.html

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  10. I have a problem with sensationalizing - treating a dead child, a family's most private moments, a man's career like a piece of dead meat. Every one turns into a vulture, some want the gory details, some indulge in idle speculations.Your life becomes a tamasha until the next big scandal that grabs the headlines.

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    1. Yeah, vultures they are... would love to hear their side of the story on this though.. given that this seems to be a unanimous sentiment of the readers.. wonder what the media would have to say about it

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  11. An insightful piece. I fear that as the business of news gets more and more corporatized, things are bound to get even murkier. As you already know, we shun ethics and morality much too readily in this country.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Rickie :) yup, those words don't exist really. The next post coming along kinda touches on that aspect.. ethics and morality

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  12. That's a very well written article. Media is like a double-edged sword and which way it swings, we know not. In Jessica Lal's case, it was very clear that justice had not been served and media played an important role in reopening the case and ensuring that the right thing was done. But in the Talwar case, media has played the role of the judge and judiciary, declaring them to be the culprits even before complete facts were known. There was only circumstantial evidence against the Talwars but they were declared guilty by elimination of probable suspects rather than real investigation. The media, CBI, the courts and the public, hence, was biased against them. I do not know if the Talwars were the actual killers but I'm not happy about the court announcing the verdict just because there was no one else to blame. I had read somewhere that this case is a classic example of human behavior to assume the worst among mankind.

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  13. I liked the way you put it "Media is like a double-edged sword and which way it swings, we know not. " :) And you are right, I do not know if the Talwar's are guilty or not, they just might be..but the way to identify that has to be more thorough and foul proof.

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  14. This post has been selected for the Tangy Tuesday Picks this week. Thank You for an amazing post! Cheers! Keep Blogging :)

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  15. Most of the newspapers and TV channels as well as periodicals like to sensationalise events for the sake of selling copies or getting more viewers. There are very few of these media agencies which do their job honestly and with a social purpose. Tarun Tejpal worked with such a purpose. Unfortunately his image stands tarnished now. A serious loss for many readers of Tehelka.

    Liked your article.

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    1. Thanks! It amazed me when I realized how many people agreed with my sentiment behind this article :)

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  16. A post that deserved a pick by blogadda....

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    1. Thank you Ritesh! That means a lot :)

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