Monday, October 10, 2011

MEDIA AUDIT: A newspaper is a legalised mass rape - 'in the interest of the victim!'

I intend to select one news item every day from newspapers as "the Best News Item of the Day" and call it "The News of the Day". The idea is to pick an item which focusses on something that is likely to have the widest , preferably the most positive impact on society around us. I won't call it a 'development news' or 'positive news' or anything like that. Just "The News of the Day." to keep its range and scope wide open.The idea is to bring out and highlight the best face of journalism, avoiding its vulgar obsession with politics, crime, sex, scandals, sensationalism etc. Media indulges in all kinds of vulgarity in the name of 'exposing truth', and 'spreading awareness', and/or 'educating the readers'. A journalist, especially in India, is weighed down by his own mammoth moralistic delusions. For the period when he/she is doing a story, the journalist arrogates to himself/herself the unquestioned and unquestionable authority as the sole unelected legislator of mankind. The way a journalist uses the presumptuous and arrogant "WE" to refer to highly personal and restricted version of truth would be funny if it did n't inflict such colossal social damage.The Readers (or the viewers in the case of the TV) have become as much a class of helpless victims of mass rape as the voters have in the optionlessness on the voting day. The press comes off no holier than the politician in their pursuit of vulgarly selfish goals ( votes and notes neatly translate into readers and revenue) The common man, who is no enlightened Daniel come to judgement, is flattered into believing that its all done in his interest, and that he/she is the soveriegn master and judge in shaping government decisions or newspaper or TV 'editorial' policy. Both the politician and the press commit this rape, and it is committed supposedly to protect the innocence and the honour of the raped. ( I know its a strong word, and one that I would avoid using given even the slightest alternative)

Recent disclosures about the way media finctions in our country have been neatly pushed out of glare, while its spin-offs --notes for votes, 2-G scam etc - continue to hog the limelight. Is there no design behind this? I would call it a case of smart media management by the press. What does not suit the press does not matter to the people. Period. --##@@!!!

I know that print media just loves making fun of electronic media for its resort to cheap sensationalism, in which a crime reporter must not only look a criminal but also talk like one -- for credibility and impact.

The term 'soft story' tells us a lot about the mindset and the professional approach of our media persons. Anything that is not loud is soft - and generally 'not news'.

The interesting part is that most of those now heading or managing electronic media houses were once print media luminaries -- editors, news editors, bureau chiefs, specials, pricnipals and staffers. What we see on our TV channels is only magnified visual versions of pet fancies of the men of eminence from the print media.

However, there is scope for picking out stray cases of good reporting -- media persons who may still occasionally be doing some good work, resisting the temptation to take the easy option of sensationalising non-news into news and news into gossip. So much good work is being quietly done by scientists, inventors, farmers, teachers, students, government officials, shopkeeprs, factory owners, factory workers, even governments, NGOs, doctors, health workers, socially committed individuals but all of it makes either no news at all for the media or is at best material for "soft stories." But there are soldiers of conscience even in the media, although their proportionate presence is as thin as it is in other walks of life in today's society. Their courage and sicnerity and refusal to buy the bait deserve as much notice as the courage of any of our heroes and heroines. But , I repeat, their number - alas ! - is so small, its worrisome.

My "News Item of the Day" effort is dedicated to them. It is my salute to these warriors of quiet competence. The item for today is reproduced below. Not only is the news story one that leaves the reader feeling realistically good but ( for a change) it is also tastefully written ( all sober and matter of fact) and has, for a change, been given the prominence it deserves -- Page One of The Tribune of Chandigarh. I am not saying that this is the best story I would have wished to read, but it definitely is the best I got to read today.

I invite friends to select their own "news items of the day" and share it with us. We can also perhaps have a "Write up of the day" from print media to include non-news items such as literary or lifestyle items, or editorials and articles -- and then perhaps we can expand the exercise to have "News Story of the Day" from the electronic media.

One request: choices may please be kept free from political or other forms of prejudice or preferences - by which I mean preference for A or B party.

I intend to call this stream "Media Audit".

( A Note and a confession: There is a loud and dliberate contradiction within the contents of this note. But I am leaving it to friends to find it and point it out. Hint: Its a pretty significant contradiction.)

Today's Choice: October 10,2011

T H E T R I B U N E, C H A N D I G A R H


$10 tablet possible, says maker of Aakash

Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, October 9

“At first, even I didn’t think it was possible,” quipped Suneet Singh Tuli, maker of the world’s cheapest net access and computing device priced at just $45. But he is talking of the old times when the idea of a cheap computer was still laughable for a world brought up on the staple diet of hi-tech devices that serve more as symbols than anything else.

Today, everything is possible. “If India can usher in a mobile revolution, why not an Internet revolution? A rickshaw puller, who has a cell phone today, can have a computer tomorrow. Our client is not the man who can afford the iPhone. Our client is the man on the street who still reveres the computer.

“We want to end that reverence by making the device as simple as a toy - that common, that easy,” said the Ludhiana-born, 43-year-old Sikh entrepreneur, who, along with his brother Raja Tuli, gave body to India’s vision of producing cheap laptops as educational tools for the poorest of students.

The government was looking for $35 bid, but $49.98 was the closest it got, with Tuli bagging the contract. “I still remember that day. I was in the lounge of IIT Rajasthan at Jodhpur waiting for the results when the other lowest bidders started teasing me. They asked me if I had done the calculations right. I was so anxious that I called my brother back home in North Alberta to check. Luckily, all went well,” recounted Suneet, whose family migrated from Ludhiana to Iran in 1976.

Few would know that their first business venture was “Witefax”, the world’s biggest fax machine which the Guinness recorded as such in 1992. Ask Suneet of its history and he says, “Necessity is the mother of invention. In 1989, the fax machine had just appeared, but it could not do our engineering documents. So we invested in a project to develop our kind of machine which turned out to be the biggest world over.”

But even with a history of invention and 18 US patents on a technology that enhances the speed of downloading on Internet, the Tulis were not sure about “Aakash”. Providence, however, ensured that they bid for it.

Asked if Kapil Sibal’s dream of $10 tablet is possible, Suneet explained, “When I got my first Macintosh, it cost $5000. Today for $45, I can take home an “Aakash”. Tomorrow, it could cost me $10.”

Ask him if “Aakash” can be called an Indian product considering it has imported parts and he quips, “A product made by Indians, in India, and one that generates revenue and employment in India is essentially Indian.”

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