Digital media and citizen journalism the future: Rajdeep Sardesai
Stressing on the possibilities of democratisation of information on the internet, veteran media personality Rajdeep Sardesai left an aftertaste of hope for the future of media services, at the second annual M.V. Kamath Endowment Lecture at the Gangubhai Hanagal auditorium on September 10.
The lecture, on the topic ‘Media as an agent of change in the society’, raised strong condemnation of the loss of the journalist’s status as “dispassionate chroniclers and observers of time” in India, as well as praise for the way inquisitiveness and the urge to bring to light the truth still exists among certain sections of the media.
Reminiscing his conversations with M.V. Kamath, Sardesai lamented the loss of accommodation of differing views amongst media personnel today. “We disagreed on a lot of things, Hindutva politics being one. We held very different views on Narendra Modi, but it was always agreeable disagreement. Something that doesn’t happen today,” he said. “Nowadays we tend to talk at each other, and not with each other. The categorisation of journalists as right or left, liberal or pseudo-liberal, nationalistic or anti-nationalistic, has undermined the integrity of the tribe,” he added.
He also regretted the replacing of sense with sensation, credibility with chaos, news with noise, and credibility of the story with the number of eyeballs grabbed. “Earlier we asked questions first and then would seek answers, but today we feel we have the answers and wait for others to ask the questions,” he elaborated. Batting for citizen journalism and greater participation of the public in the role of watchdogs, Sardesai urged the “hopeful 50 percent of us” to learn to use the power of social media and bridge gaps between the haves and the have-nots. He cited the work done by websites like Better India and Change.org as examples of desirable shifts in storytelling and reportage media bodies should be replicating.
Not everyone in the audience agreed with the notions put forward by Sardesai, amongst them freelance writer G. Vishnu who said he did not share the speaker’s enthusiasm. “I don’t think citizen journalism can do too much at the moment, as journalism is a practise that requires intensive training. To think that any random person can be unbiased and adept at reportage is beyond me. I feel alternative media instead is where real hope lies for the future of the media,” he said.
The talk though ended on a hopeful note, with Sardesai appreciating the work done by local and new media organisations in bringing out the truth. The ‘tyranny of distance’ has to be curbed and fringe issues have to be addressed for every Indian to feel like a part of the ‘Great Indian Story’, he insisted. Exhorting that a lot of work remained to be done, he declared that the fear of exposure still remains among the powerful, and that the core truth to be remembered by those practising journalism should be that “the Emperor has no clothes”.