The fourth pillar of democracy: Is it collapsing?

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Today, I am going to mourn the demise of the fourth pillar of democracy – media. Being from the media fraternity I am appalled and ashamed of the entertainment show being put up every day and night in the name of news.  This was not the media or journalism that attracted me to this field. I remember a young me entering it brimming with idealism – of changing the world, to keep the world informed and to tell the readers right from wrong. Sadly, not much of that is left in the journalism world. Today, I am sad at the collapse of this pulsating, ethical and noble fourth pillar of democracy.

Print journalism the real journalism

With the arrival of electronic media, the print lost out but I would like to say that the printed newspaper and news magazine still has the punch to check on governments and administrator’s plans and policies. I started my career in the print medium and have been loyal ever since.

From the time first newspaper in India which was published on 29 January 1780 by James Augustus Hicky under the British Raj named ‘The Bengal Gazette’, which was also called as ‘Calcutta General Advertiser’ and people simply remember it as ‘Hicky’s Gazette’, till now the print media has more or less remained credible. But yes, these days being in direct competition with electronic media it has devised news ways to earn revenue which I don’t completely support. But then if your newspapers don’t sell then how will a journalist be paid for their work.

Having said that, I will say I miss serious discussions, opinion pieces and interviews on policies in a newspaper these days. Bollywood star and style news have taken over from serious reporting and senior journalists. When a star – whether Bollywood or sports star says something it grabs more eyeballs than an editor of repute. The ruling governments of the day too have converted the media into their mouthpiece. It’s sad but true.

Yet, I am loyal to print journalism;I prefer a newspaper op-ed to a TV debate any day!

Arrival of electronic media

From the time when daily transmission of TV began in 1965 as a part of All India Radio (AIR) to the service later being extended to Bombay and Amritsar in 1972 to until 1975 when only seven Indian cities had television services to now when we have approximately 850 TV channels with almost 197 million households in India who have TV sets we certainly have come a long way. And let’s give it to the reach and spread of TV, its unprecedented. This is why it makes the responsibility of the TV channels of televising ethical and correct information all the more important. But today, is it doing so, sadly, no.

There is a clear divide, now there are pro and anti-ruling party media houses. Choose whichever side you are on and listen day in and day out of the virtues of the political parties they are supporting. Whatever happened to unbiased journalism and reporting?

I hope television media houses and journalists realize where they have landed the field of journalism and try regaining their credibility soon if that is still possible.

Frankly, I have stopped watching TV, for updates on the news or even entertainment. For news, I prefer online news sites and for entertainment, I go to OTT platforms.

The TV news channels better wake up before all their viewers start switching off their TV sets for good.

Technology the enabler

Amongst all this gloom, there’s a ray of hope.

Financial reasons have shut down many newspapers and magazines and we are told the days of holding a printed newspaper is numbered so people from the field came up with e-newspapers and online magazines. They are popular and credible today.

So, we have a number of news and lifestyle websites that have the freedom to put out unbiased news and opinions without the pulls and pressures. I hope it remains so; otherwise, we may not be left with much ‘correct’ reporting and information.

Also, social media has changed the way we receive ‘news’. Just scan through any social media platform, look for trending threads and you would know what’s happening in the country and the world.

Passing thought

It’s urgent that we discuss whether the fourth pillar of Indian democracy is collapsing. The legislature, executive, and judiciary are the first three pillars, when they function smoothly all is well but when they malfunction there is exploitation, corruption, crime, confrontation, and extortion at all levels. In such a scenario the fourth pillar has a vibrant and important role to play, but when it joins hands with or turns a blind eye from the malfunction than our belief in a democratic nation will become a dream.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own)

Smita Singh is a freelance writer who has over 17 years of experience in the field of print media, publishing, and education. Having worked with newspapers like The Times of India (as a freelancer), National Mail, Dainik Bhaskar and DB Post, she has also worked with Rupa& Co, a book publishing house, and edited over 30 books in all genres.

She has worked with magazines like Discover India and websites called HolidayIQ and Hikezee (now Go Road Trip). She has also written for Swagat (former in-flight magazine of Air India), Gatirang (magazine of MarutiUdyog), India Perspectives (magazine for Ministry of External Affairs) and Haute Wheels (magazine of Honda).

After turning freelance writer she wrote on art and architecture for India Art n Design. She also worked for Princeton Review as a full-time Admissions Editor and then IDP Education Private Limited as an Application Support Consultant. Smita has her own website called bookaholicanonymous.com which supports her love for books and reading!

You can reach her at: [email protected]

(Collage with images from the net)

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