I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
The task of bringing news to the public does not consists of mere acting as a medium of communication between the masses, nor is it anymore just a straightforward job of gathering information and conveying it to the people. Journalism, in the present world, has become much more complicated than simple storytelling. It includes not just deciding what to tell, but more importantly, what not to tell.
So, with all due respects to the brave journalists who strive to dig out the truth and present it as it is, here are 15 things some of their colleagues would not want us to know.
1. Front Page Headlines are not always the ‘Issue of the Day’
If it is written in large capital letters, we tend to believe it. Some times “Headlines” are distractions to remove focus from the subject that matters.
As Hillary Clinton said, “If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle”
2. Not all crimes are drastic enough to make the news
People mainly watch/read the news for consumption, production or entertainment purpose. To make space for crimes, one needs to portray them as appalling enough to the readers. For example, journos prefer crimes in major cities or metros, as everybody has already heard of those places.
3. Some reports are made intentionally imperfect
We’ve been told that what we don’t know doesn’t hurt us. Sometimes journalists choose to share information that is incomplete or unverified, not just to be the first one to bring the news, but also to shape and manipulate public opinion in the process.
4. Controversies sometimes are a way to keep readers/viewers interested
Things are not always as twisted as they are shown to be, but journalists know that people prefer their news extra spicy, and that they are addicted to conflicts. Be it movie stars, politicians or even sports, people just love controversies.
Journalists’ conclusion – Give them what they want.
5. If it sells, it is Breaking News
Ever heard this? –
“…this just in, a leopard has been spotted inside the city in yet another crazy instance of wild animals invading the human populated area!!!”
Sure you have!
Ever heard this? –
“…once again humans cut down acres of forests to meet the residential demands of this ever growing populace!”
Most probably you haven’t.
The first one is breaking news; the second, most of the times, is not even news.
6. Even though technology is expanding, free media is shrinking
Media is now able to communicate more easily and swiftly through technology. But the plight of online content is that the government can just as easily control it. Basically, they can hear everything you hear, or say. And then choose what to filter out.
7. Sensationalism is being studied, demanded and being produced
Just reporting the news cannot generate ratings as effectively as reporting news items with an emotional twist. Media, today, depends on sensationalism. Because the more they sparkle, the more sponsors and ads they get.
8. Investigative journalism might be nearing its inevitable end
Gone are the days when journalists would go out of their way to investigate a report and help authorities determine truth. It’s tiring, expensive and not even nearly half as rewarding as covering stories that entertain.
9. Some of the most publicized stories are actually means to propagate hidden agendas
It’s not like journos aren’t allowed to have preferences in matters like choosing political parties, or taking sides in debates related to government policies. But they opt to let public differentiate between facts and their personal points of view. It’s a one way communication after all.
10. Sometimes journalists know more facts than police or the administration
“I became a journalist because I did not want to rely on newspapers for information,” said Christopher Hitchens.
People feel more connected to journalists, and that’s why some facts are shared exclusively with them. Journos can then choose what to show and what to hide in order to make the stories more appealing.
11. Convention governs journalism, not innovation
Even if you don’t like the way it’s happening, you will have to learn to do it that way. There is always someone waiting to take your place and at the end of the day, it’s your job that comes first. So, with little to no incentives, taking risks is not an option anymore.
12. Bias is safer than objectivity, as people prefer to take sides
You are either for the government, or against the government. You are either supporting Team India, or Team Pakistan.
Newscasts, headlines, stories, all over the world are modeled to the tune that the public likes to hear.
13. TV newscasts are choreographed like a stage show
A flashy title, lots of music, visual effects, and dialogues that make you wanna cry. That makes 90% of all news specials. They don’t need to bother with a conclusion, they just want you to stick to the screens long enough to watch the commercials.
14. Journalists don’t always employ legal methods to get a story
Let’s face it. If the media starts caring about what’s legal before going behind a story, we’d never get our daily dose of masala news, nor would we ever be able to look into the personal lives of famous people.
15. And once in a while, they need to invent a few stories
Thomas Jefferson was right when he said “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”
If it means increased viewership, do it. No one will remember who said it anyway.
But, is this new system really necessary, or even acceptable? Are we really selective about the truths we want to know? We need to contemplate, and raise questions the journos must answer.