A lament for my passion

Monday Musing

[ Amar Sangno ]

Journalism has been my passion ever since I started learning the core values of this profession. I proudly drove around on my bike (a Bajaj Pulsar), distinctly ahead of others, with a ‘Press’ tag pasted on the bike’s head, and often broke the traffic rules as if I were on an emergency call.

I often argued with and accosted security officers, proudly flashing a (self-issued) press card. A press card still works as a security pass, even when security protocols state that no one is allowed inside the Lakshman Rekha (in Indian parlance, a strict rule never to be broken). In other words, journalism was in my blood. I often imagined myself as a newshound, sniffing around for information, no matter how untrustworthy it was.

With the advent of digital and social media platforms, my passion for journalism is dying a painful death, especially when I see the changing trend and the major shift in journalism. Sources of information are abundant, and the print media journalists do not need to physically attend programmes. One may be damned sure that there would be someone (social media journalist) who would offer live feed, enabling you to file a news report while pooping in the bathroom. Easy, no?

Indeed, we should thank social media platforms for making information abundantly rich, and thus making democracy vibrant and strong.

The conventional one-way process of communication (print media), which pushes information to the readers, is seemingly becoming irrelevant today with the advancement of the digital age. As many proponents of journalism view it, the digital age of journalism is a two-way process of conversation. It needs more viewers than readers.

People hardly read nowadays, anyway; they just love to be glued to their mobile phones’ screens. News content which is embedded with fast, faster and fastest USPs (unique selling proposition) have more viewers and definitely has a greater impact, no matter that the facts are willfully misplaced.

Credible and reliable news is a cornerstone of democracy. But people just love news; who cares to verify misinformation and disinformation in the contents being fed to them? Seeing is believing. In other words, people have forgotten to distinguish between real news and social media updates. Even fake news is being swallowed by the public.

Doesn’t it sound dangerous?

The fundamental trait of journalism is to disseminate credible and verified information and not just pasting unverified facts and figures on social media.

I fear I am becoming irrelevant to this profession. I would blame it on Covid-19. The global pandemic has not just hit the newsroom hard, it has made advertising revenues go down; thus, a fair number of journalists have been made redundant. In a resource-crunched state like Arunachal, where the media outlets have to entirely depend on the government for advertisement to generate revenue, contributions from non-profit organizations to help the media houses in picking up the slack is also almost nil. How would journalism survive in the future in my state?

In such a situation, since journalism is a community service, my paranoia of irrelevance is quite genuine. Nonetheless, to those of us who would be able to catch up with the pace of technological transformation and gel with the fast-growing virtual world, there is a greater scope to thrive in. Let’s hope this profession continues to thrive.