Sunday, April 22, 2012

Media: Logical contradiction between freedom of speech of the people, and the obsession for 'news value'

It is the constitutional 'freedom of speech and expression' of the people that the media utilize in their professional activity of publishing news. In India, as well as in USA, constitutional authorities as well as the judiciary did not find any need for creating separate provisions for press freedom. All of them found peoples freedom of speech and expression and the press freedom,one and the same thing. Media do not have any  special constitutional entity other than that of 'people' in this regard.  Media is merely representing people when they are engaged in the professional work of news reporting. What they are supposed to be doing is making the 'peoples voice' heard loud and clear. 

Though such a dimension was not there at the time of  inception of the institution of media, it is now stand well defined in many constitutions of modern nations.During the inception stage, media by all means originated as private enterprises, without any collective,social dimension. The new dimension was evolved gradually, and now even constitutionally in the modern age. 

The establishments were traditionally authoritarian in history, and even after the emergence of Democracy, the political system of equal men, this tendency of governments to remain a seat of power and authority has not changed. Hence, media was naturally positioned to be the 'peoples voice' to keep the much required balance between peoples rights and governments' traditional power. Hence, media's rational and constitutional position was that of representing peoples rights, mankind's overall civilizational progress, and world's openness and sense of reason. Modern day democratic governments, at least in blue print, are exclusive means to achieve the above ends. Every constitutional document vouch for this fact. Constitutions here are to be treated as expressions of the collective sense of reason and wisdom of a people, for philosophical as well as practical purpose. 

As said earlier, our age could not be fully free from the evils of authoritarian traits of governments, despite their being democratic in nature. This makes the role of media very central in maintaining the spirit of constitution, which is, as mentioned earlier, clear documentation of such open agenda of modern human civilization.

When media represents people and their rights and voice, question will naturally arise as to what section of people they should represent ? The two major division in any society historically is that of the CONVENTIONALISTS, and the LIBERALS, or the ones who always want to stick on to the old ways and systems, and the ones who move ahead with changed perceptions and realities. Every clash in human society is between these groups. 

Despite intermittent outcomes, the ultimate winner is always the latter, as obvious from the various ladders human civilization has climbed during its course. It was clearly a journey from darkness to light, non-freedom to freedom, exclusiveness to more and more inclusiveness and tolerance ! 

The America under Abraham Lincoln had to fight a fierce civil war with her own people to liberate the country from the evil of SLAVERY. So, the direction of human civilization is distinct and clear, and there need not be any doubt as to what sect of people media have to represent ! They have to be with the open, the civilized, the progressive and the rational section of the people. 

The contradiction of media priorities and spirit with the above hidden direction of human civilization 

But when one analyse the professional concerns, priorities and existential motive and spirit of modern day media profession, the logical contradiction with regard to their professional existential role,priorities, concerns and spirit is well evident ! Media is all about collecting and reporting news and stories, and nothing else ! They are in the society for the very specialized purpose of making news and stories out of the world, and reporting it  for its own sake, and nothing more or less ! Taking a rational, moral or pro-mankind stand, which is directly in tune with safe-guarding of the rights of people, or in tune with the above direction of human civilization is no where near their professional goals and priorities ! 

They are here only to be story tellers and news reporters ! They do not belong to the 'peoples' class in this meaning, as people have nothing to gain from having news and stories about them ! They have nothing to gain by being mere 'objects' for media's stories. Their plights do not have any special relevance under their definition of 'saleable' stories!
( News value) 

Even under strict logical analysis, they do not represent any one's 'voice' or concern, if analysed vis-a vis with their specialized professional 'vows' !  

Their chief criteria  for choosing news and stories are : ( as per Journalism book-lessons) 
  • conflict
  • currency
  • impact
  • prominence
  • proximity
  • timeliness
  • human interest - - -
in varying degrees of importance and relevance, as interpreted by each member of the journalistic profession in the world ! But the crux remains the same. 

Another central criterion sacrosanct for the media-men is 'objectivity', the value around the truth of the story, or news they report. It says news man's opinion is irrelevant, and should be absent from the stories and news. He is expected to be merely a passive spectator. 

The historic background of  this obsession for 'objectivity' is easily traceable when a keen observer looks at the similar attempt undertaken by every social science in the world to gain equal respectability with 'SCIENCE' .

Science, with its mind-boggling inventions and discoveries that transformed the modern world had achieved enviable prestige in the world. It was accurate in its calculations and result,and systematic to the core.  Objective observation ( ie.avoidance of all pre-notions and judgement in the path of discovering the truth of any new phenomenon ) was the key 'mantra' of science. Hence, every social science of the day like Economics, Psychology and even Sociology started claiming status of science, claiming objectivity in their approach and method ! 

Media too had followed the suit by claiming to be 'objective' in their path of finding truth. 

The miserable outcome of this attempt is in front of our eyes. When media quote 'versions' of all the parties involved in an incident for the story, everyone tries to mislead the investigator by attempting to be the victim , or the crusader. People and leaders are now professional media 'handlers', the art of manipulating versions for media ! Every government department and big corporate houses has their own 'media wing', specialized in creating 'media versions' of events. These regular media objects in modern world 'manufacture' 'media briefs', or special lies for public consumption. Thus, what people get from modern media is a 'parallel' synthetic world, away from ground reality on any matter.

The crux of the matter is that, in spite of elevating the status of media by modern state constitutions as 'people voice', and pillar of democracy, their old internal values, spirit, dogmas and priorities on 'news values' etc have not undergone any change. What should change is, media men's self image as mere 'news and story collectors'. Inspite of media- industry's commercial compulsions, they should have kept their CENTRAL RELEVANCE and CRUCIAL ROLE as mankind's self-image makers ! What they write and depict CREATE the the SELF-IMAGE of mankind!  

They should alter their self image as true representatives of mankind, and their sense of reason, wisdom and freedom. When every journalism school in the world realize the need of this self-image change, their syllabus could be altered accordingly, and the budding new journalists that come out the schools would see them selves,and act themselves as true rational entities, with a mind of their own, filled with sense of responsibility towards mankind, instead towards their profession that convert world into mere news and story commodity. 

At present, unfortunately, media act results ultimately into putting a smart VEIL over  society/mankind.  The said society today is,  without doubt, is a 'self-interest' oriented 'underworld', run/ruled  by the political and industry leaders ! Truth has become the singular casualty in the above arrangement ! Media has become a real hurdle in the way for world and mankind to naturally travel in its way of development and progress. Instead of becoming a 'medium', or a channel  for real human progress, it act like a daily dose of 'sedative' for mankind, to rock it and its people  into an extremely dangerous intellectual SLUMBER! !!! 

It muddies the world ( like muddying water bodies)  with conflicting opinions and stories, without any clear intellectual direction. Every human being is got  lost in the confusion. The evil elements in the world take good advantage of the intellectual and ideological chaos, and utilize it for their best advantage. 

Therefore, the most pressing need of present day world is 'reinventing modern media', and re-defining their clear role in society. 

Love to reproduce here, a commentary by Noam Chomsky and David Herman, on the former's concept,' Manufacturing consent':

Media Ownership—The endgame of all mass media orgs is profit. “It is in their interest to push for whatever guarantees that profit.”
2. Advertising—Media costs more than consumers will pay: Advertisers fill the gap. What do advertisers pay for? Access to audiences. “It isn’t just that the media is selling you a product. They’re also selling advertisers a product: you.”
3. Media Elite—“Journalism cannot be a check on power, because the very system encourages complicity. Governments, corporations, and big institutions know how to influence the media. They feed it scoops and interviews with supposed experts. They make themselves crucial to the process of journalism. If you want to challenge power, you’ll be pushed to the margins…. You won’t be getting in. You’ll have lost your access.”
4. Flack—“When the story is inconvenient for the powers that be, you’ll see the flack machine in action: discrediting sources, trashing stories, and diverting the conversation.”
5. The Common Enemy—“To manufacture consent, you need an enemy, a target: Communism, terrorists, immigrants… a boogeyman to fear helps corral public opinion.”