Just as I was about to start writing this post, Abraham George's strongly-worded opinion piece on India's media was uploaded to our site's homepage. Many Indian journalists might squirm with discomfort after reading what George has to say, but on a number of points we really have no choice but to agree with his scathing assessment of the state of the press here.
And he’s clearly not alone. For its 15th anniversary issue, currently on newsstands, popular news magazine Outlook has chosen (I think bravely) to look not just back, but inwards as it explores the state of the Indian media through a number of guest columns and op-eds. Titled ‘Media in Crisis’, the special issue also features celebrated intellectual Noam Chomsky's interview with the magazine's senior editors.
According to Chomsky, who many regard as one of the most fearless voices alive, we have a lot of soul searching to do: ‘The media in India is free—the government doesn’t have the power to control it. But what I saw was that it was pretty restricted, very narrow and provincial and not very informative, leaving out lots of things.’
And he added: ‘Media subdues the public. This is so in India, certainly’.
I read the magazine cover to cover Sunday, but I didn't think every one of the problems critiqued in the issue would manifest themselves within 48 hours of me reading about them.
In both The Times of India and Hindustan Times, unarguably the country's most influential English dailies, pictures of recently married cricketer M S Dhoni and his young wife Sakshi's day out at the beach in Goa adorned the front pages. Anyway you look at it, this isn’t news.
Meanwhile, Tuesday was also ‘Karwta Chauh’, an annual festival celebrated across large parts of northern Indian where wives fast the entire day for their husband’s long life. The fast is broken at the first sighting of the moon and, for much of the evening, the Hindi news channels went on ad nauseam about the whole thing, including showing the skies in different cities. Star News went as far as to say that this was the day's biggest news.
Chomsky was right. I felt subdued after seeing all this triviality. On most days, being a journalist in India comes with an incredible sense of pride as you feel you are part of a robust, critical estate that’s supposed to help keep this democracy functioning. But today was definitely not one of those days.