Covid 19 and several other crises- from Amphan and Nisagra cyclone to locust invasion to Chinese incursion- have brought a peculiar kind of condition for the press. Never before in post-independent India, media faced this kind of situation.
It is the biggest pandemic in our living memory- and therefore a big opportunity for the press to disseminate information, make people aware, educate them- in short play all the roles media is supposed to do.
Ironically it also almost spells doom for media, especially print media world over as newspapers can hardly be distributed in this locked down period. This might have a domino effect. Once a reader unsubscribes a newspaper, he may not again resume it, as by the time he is used to read the digital copy, which is largely free.
As circulation plummets- so does advertisement revenue, the life line of print media. Digital news consumption is increasing. But it is not bringing in money to run the business. Indian Newspaper Society (INS) in their letter dated 24 March 2020, sought two-year tax holiday after “triple whammy” of Coronavirus, falling ad revenues, and customs duty on newsprint. Other media platforms have also been impacted.
Several media houses resorted to salary cut, lay off and retrenchment. Livelihood of hundreds of journalists is in jeopardy.
Already news-media is passing through a rough phase. It is made worse by the spread of Corona pandemic. On 3 May 2020, Press Freedom Day UN Secretary-General AntónioGuterres said in his message:
“As the (COVID-19) pandemic spreads, it has also given rise to a second pandemic of misinformation, from harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories. The press provides the antidote: verified, scientific, fact-based news and analysis.”
The Press has to fight ‘infodemic’. It has also to fight for its survival. Media as a whole is fighting for survival. And look at the irony: this is happening on the centenary year of media education in India.
However, there are silver linings:
- People have understood the menace of fake news and the importance of getting credible news, which the traditional kind of journalism with old values- press- can provide. Therefore there has been and will be a demand for credible news and news that contextualize and explain, makes a meaning out of the mass of data.
- Small screen is replacing the big screen. OTT platforms are growing at a fast pace, even as movie halls remain shut. Television is reinventing itself.
- People are increasingly gravitating towards the digital duniya (either by choice or by compusion or a combination of both) and content is increasingly being monetized.
Will print media survive the crisis? Will television be able to reinvent itself? Will digital media bring in enough money for the media house to earn a decent profit? Will news media continue to have a moral universe and be concerned about the poor, downtrodden and the marginalized? Only time will tell.
Chiaroscuro. The word means the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting. Photographers also use this technique to create uniquye pictures- like the one you see. This photo has been clicked by National award winner photo journalist TabeenahAnjumQuereshi. She also organizes visual story telling workshops in various institutions in the country including Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi and Dhenkanal and abroad. This is a photo of a Chinar leaf in Srinagar, where she hails from. Chinar trees have been an important part of Kashmiri tradition. A Chinar tree is found in almost every village in Kashmir. It characteristically grows in Eastern Himalayas and other places too.
Chinar(botanical name: Platanusorientalis or oriental plane) is a majestic tree. It grows as tall as 25 meters, with girth exceeding 50 feet. Its leaves are beautiful. In fall its deep green leaves may change to blood red, amber, and yellow.
When my first PhD scholar JyotiPrakashMahapatra got his PhD degree I was in Manali, Himachal Pradesh with family. Incidentally we were lodged in the Forest Department Circuit House which had a huge Chinar Tree right in the campus. When I got the news I asked Jyoti what would you like me to take for you from here. He said, Sir get some Chinar leaves. I took some from Manali, framed one and presented him. It now adorns his drawing room wall. Another is pinned on the board in my office room along with a peepal leaf from a tree in our IIMC, Dhenkanal campus. It has now yellowed. Tabeenah has promised to send me a fresh one soon.
Tail piece: Choose your options wisely
1. If you watch NDTV, Quint, Wire and Print or read Ajay Shukla and Brahma Chellaney – You will think India has been taken over by Fascists and there is going to be civil war soon and that China is about to reach Gurugram.
2. If you watch Zee TV, Republic, News X, Republic Bharat, India TV and Bharatvarsh – You will think India is the new major Military-Economic World Power under PM Modi and we will soon take over Islamabad.
3. If you read newspapers, you don’t know whether God or the Govt. is running the country.
4. If you watch the stock market, you don’t know whether the economy is sinking or reviving.
5. If you read Whatsapp messages, you will find that the world is facing every conceivable problem, but there is an expert to provide a solution for every problem.
6. If you read/watch all of the above – You will be a confused man, will be posting garbage forwards and will not know whether to panic or chill.
So don’t read/watch anything – spend time with your wife – listen to her sermons, follow her advice and do whatever she says – you will be happy, at peace and in nirvana.
You will certainly be able to take care of yourself and your family and be happy…
Please choose your options wisely.
Tail piece: Boycott
Yesterday at the airport, two pretty Chinese girls and an Indian girl were sitting opposite me.
But I was looking at the Indian girl only.
Boycott means absolute boycott…
(Courtesy: Social Media)
Journalist turned media academician MrinalChatterjee lives in Dhenkanal, Odisha. He also writes fiction and translates poetry. An anthology of his translated poems has just published.