Monday, May 2, 2016

Objective reporting of news by Media: Content relevance to people

( This paper was attempted per advice of a top Journalism School at Chennai, South of India, after this author shared some of his ideas about Media-reform to them. But, after sending this paper to them, they stopped communicating with him !)

Every one may not be aware how difficult a task it would be at this late stage, to look into the content, or other relevance of JOURNALISTIC NEWS REPORTING to people, or to the world at large, or to the human civilization itself. The institution of Media has grown into such gigantic proportions in the world, and to peoples lives, that it would be like debating on the relevance of other similar conventions, or institutions like, say, marriage !  

Media act, or to be more specific, reporting of news, can not be treated as any other genus of human activity other than as a human convention. It certainly had originated to cater to some need of man at some stage in the history.

Modern society abandoned many old  conventions like Sati, ( a tradition of wives jumping into the funeral pyre of their husbands in India ) and child marriage, when its ideological fundamentals clashed with man’s improved sense of Reason. Human society classified the genera of such conventions into that of ‘evil practice’ before legally banning it. 

There are certain similar conventions like prostitution, or say alcoholism that modern society is in constant dilemma as to whether legally ban it  or not ! Society’s sense of Reason could not yet find any rational ground to abandon these practices permanently like they had banned Sati, or child marriage.

But there are certain conventions like ‘education’, or ‘medicinal practice’ that society had constantly revised on the fundamentals from time to time, and kept it as alive as possible, in line with the dictum of man’s Reason. The purpose of this part of the discussion is to see why news reporting also couldn’t follow the example of the conventions of ‘education’, or medical science. They also had got converted into pure institutions of business long time back. Media also has developed, but the development could not touch its fundamental motivational spirit a bit. Development was confined to its technical aspects, like printing, distribution and communication heights. Its reach into peoples lives also has heightened to never before levels !

The motivational spirit behind the birth of news reporting ?

It is still unclear to modern society, what was the motivational spirit of the early stage media men. There are many accounts and stories about how and why the profession emerged. Such stories might be very familiar to every media student. But one thing seems to be clear, that unlike the convention of education, reporting of news was not purely for the purpose of sharing knowledge. News catered exclusively to the inborn ‘story’ need of every human being, and news was nothing but a story in every respect. It was an irresistible emotional need of manpossibly linked to the special features of his mind organ. Mind, in its surface meaning, it is the means of Ego to build its realities from external sources. Like birds building nests, Ego builds its entity mostly from the inputs of mind. 

Whatever may be the story of motivation at its inception stage, without doubt, the profession certainly shifted to the genus of ‘business’ soon after. News become means to cater to the emotional need of stories for man, and on this vehicle, the printer- publisher catered to the need of the other genus of his customers -the business class- who was in need of publicity for their merchandise.

Was ‘content’ ever a matter of relevance ?

As reporting of news was only a vehicle for the printer-publisher from the beginning to this day, more than the content relevance, the ‘story appeal’ factor was more relevant than the content for him, and for his trade. It is not a different  fact even today too- - -the ‘news worthiness’ is nothing but the degree of its ‘appeal’ to the old story need of man. Content was selected based on its ‘appeal’ value for the senses of readers or viewers

Hence, there was no logical or moral motivational factor in the convention of news reporting, to compel the media men to be selective about the content aspect of their themes in the past, or even today. The appeal factor always determined the content

For similar other conventions, say, education field, they had compulsions of compliance with very old traditions and mythologies around teacher-disciple relations to guide their growth. In the medicinal sector, there was the oath of Hippocrates etc. to act as a strong moral bind. But media had none of such traditional or mythological forces to bind them, except the examples of few outstanding media men who set certain examples for others to follow. This may probably be one of the reasons why there was no attempt for a total review of the spirit, or motivational energy in the news reporting profession ever. Its directive spirits remained on the strength of the old convention alone, without much relevance to the content relevance to people.

Another reason for higher level of growth in other similar sectors like education  might be the need of the mother sector of industry, for experts in fields like engineering and management, to fill the need for work force in factories and offices. Whereas in the news reporting sector, it benefited them the way it was, with its priorities on the ‘news appeal’ factor alone ! Like political states always prefer a police force less educated and intellectually submissive to the state, industry preferred the news reporting industry to remain on the old, well worked, ‘convention’ level itself.

Hence, we may have to believe that the news reporting industry did not attempt any research on the ‘relevance to people aspect’ of their profession in any manner.

The unique ‘image building’ and ‘visibility making’ capability of the new (electronic) media has greatly improved the magic attraction of the institution in the minds of public, as well as its new custodians, the political leaders. Hence the ‘content’ aspect was naturally adjusted to suit its new reach and grandeur. What was the need to shift to people oriented, or civilization oriented content, when something without any relevance on content had worked very well for the industry ?

The old 'convention' of news reporting has, thus, developed into the ‘institution’ of new media of today, as a convenient weapon for political parties, as well as industry, to improve their own institutions to greater heights. Once a convention has turned into an institution of a sort, its logicality becomes out of any relevance. Its benefits to the stake holders become the sole criterion to judge the relevance (to them).

A very similar story can be seen behind the development of the institution of Democracy too, though unlike in the ‘news reporting profession’, the fundamentals of it were pious and noble. When it became a convenient means for the professional political class to access the throne of governments, pious fundamentals were ignored , or discarded, and democracy has turned highly institutionalized today, beyond the reach of any introspection, or genuine research into the lost fundamentals. Its beneficiaries will never want any such probing. Media was the only accredited agency in the world to undertake such tasks in their ‘assigned’ (by whom ?) role as ‘watch-dogs’ in democracy, but the game is unfortunately run in close partnership between both the parties today.
What is unique about media that separate it from all other human institutions ?

Hope we have delved enough into the reasons as to why mere lack of ‘content relevance’ is not the sole issue with media act. We have seen that ‘content’ was never required to be relevant for people in the institution, as the motivational spirit had nothing to do with the content, but only with its ‘appeal to people’ factor.

This does not mean here that ‘content’ factor in news reporting is always irrelevant for people. It has the most life defining effect on people, but the meaning here is that media never had to bother for its relevance to people because of their over relevance on the ‘appeal’ and ‘news worthiness’ factor.

But can we ignore these lapses, like we were forced to ignored the twists in the spirit of Democracy ?  No. Because, unlike the political institution of Democracy, Media act is, life and mind defining for the people of an age, as narrated below: 

1) Creator of world institutions and myths :It is the one institution that can help to create other social institutions, and even common myths for societies, because of their special image building role. What is ‘expressed’ would only counted as reality. Media is the sole institution with the exclusive function of EXPRESSING THE WORLD. Hence, it creates the very face, and the very reality of the world, whether they accept it or not. 

Like a giant black-board fitted on top of the world, people infer their truths and non-truths from the edicts written over there by media every day !

While politics carry a routine negative image in the society, media carry the most noble image in the minds of people, as just mentioned above. People feel that, Media will represent, and stand for, what people want in the community. Media is there to represent their voice, their sense of Reason and Justice ! This SLOT has great centrality in a democratic society. But when media keep their highly dogmatic professional vows of reporting the goings in the world without taking any ideological judgement, above referred CONFIDENCE of people naturally stands misplaced ! Peoples' belief that media will direct the world into sensible and rational directions is totally misplaced, because, their professional vows are against offering any direction to the world. Their act is like lighting a torch at world events; NOT at all events, but only upon such events and people, that they think are relevant. Here, the subjective world view of Media as a community play a big-role in making this choice. This 'subjective' choice factor is the most crucial-point that defines world's color and her general picture !

People will see only such a world,where their light of the torch falls. This discretion of the media, as to where all the torch to be directed, and what all events and people to be brought to the mainstream attention, is the most crucial deciding factor of the media role.

The myth of media objectivity falls apart at this point - -above discretion of media, a very subjective choice, makes the whole difference of  what kind of a world picture people ultimately get from their act of reporting !  

Hence, there appears to be a wide gap between what media believe their role in the society is, and what impact their act create in peoples mind in reality. While the rule book of journalism stands only to report the world like an impassioned spectator, people falsely hope that Media is there to offer them rational directions, and intellectual enlightenment !

2) The creator of the 'self' of man: Media also has a very special role in defining the very EGO entity of individuals - -under close observation of this process of self-making, one can notice that, world acts like a canvas for individual to draw his self-image from. It is like a canvas which is essential  for a picture to exist.  It is like ‘space’ that is essential for a physical object to exist. 

Ego is a notional, subjective entity, hence it needs a notional space to exist. Hence, individual first create his notional image of a world, and place himself at an appropriate location in it.  This is the way the usual ‘I’ factor for majority of men is created.  Media is the exclusive creator of this notional world ‘space’ for today’s men to define themselves. It creates ‘selves’, by virtue of the ‘belongingness’ factor. ( those interested to have more details on this phenomenon of reality making may visit our blog site: One's entity is defined by what, and where he belongs to. Thus the quality of the world naturally goes into making the quality of the lives of the individuals belong to such worlds. 

Besides acting as the ‘canvas’ for egos to create and define selves, this world product also act as the collective ‘other’, against whom the individual reacts to.  One’s personality, basically is one’s defense mechanism against his immediate environment. This general environment image is provided by the media, as the personified 'collective other'. Hence, whatever the world image media projects, men’s personalities tend to evolve around it.  Such world becomes his immediate reality against what he should equip himself to react,and then respond to.  This is one of the latest factor in 'human-collective', wherein serious studies and research is called for. This author's study is shared herewith, which is at link: 

While this phenomenon push someone to be active players and members in such synthetic worlds, it pushes some others into isolation, and alienation. They fail to create belongingness the popular world around them. Their personal values and the values of the collective world clashes. They feel inadequate for the world around them.

Yet some others are pushed to its dark corners, as its custodians ad agents - -they make best use of its impersonal spirit, and internalize its  wilderness aspect. For them, world is forest of a sort. While most men walk ‘lost’ in its wilderness, these smart ones feel at home there ! They form the lumpen, and the underworld elements in the modern world !

3) The category of ‘impersonal’ : This world men ( as described above) soon ceases to be ‘individuals’ in its traditional meaning. He has no 'inners', and its associated rational spirit. The pattern of the world becomes his source to evolve his 'logic'  from . He adapts to the practicality of survival in such worlds. It is a dangerous trend. This trend achieves just the opposite of what the civil society,and the very civilizational process had intended to be, by the introduction of peoples own political system of democracy. Democracy had intended to create the atmosphere for citizens to become self-respecting, dignified individuals.

4) The spirit is the deciding factor: The ‘content’ of the reported news has nothing much to do with the above described turn out, and calamity of the modern world. It is all about the general world view of the news reporter, and his spirit behind his act that makes the difference ! It is the spirit, or the motivation of the one who dealt with you affects your relation, than the actual content of what he has said. It was Kafka or Albert Camu who said, words are used in today’s world more to conceal the truth than to reveal it. The language media uses serves the purpose of concealing truth than its revelation ! It is mostly a reported world of indirect information. News reporter as a person with ‘live’ Reason is absent in the act.

Hence, it is the spirit, or the values that the media represent that affect and influence the world, and peoples mind, than the content of their news reports. As seen in the above paragraphs, media  have no clear people friendly, or civilization friendly spirit or value to represent in the world.

5 ) The passive educator : It is from the media that present generation learn actual facts of life, as against the book knowledge they had learned from schools and colleges. Real world is what is depicted in the media ! Even cinema gives only fictional stuff.

In a recent survey conducted by a leading news paper  about the likes, ideology and political leanings of today’s youth, it was found that though they are mostly family oriented,( keep parents as their role model) majority were found keeping rightist ideologies. Almost 90% found to be religious too. Most of them were found disinterested in active politics. Director of a leading news channel wrote an article in a leading news paper recently commenting on this finding, that the survey is pointing towards a grim future for the world. She said the chances of rebels and dissidents, a must for a healthy society, evolving from these lot is difficult. The chances of great scientists, or literary figures or even daring entrepreneurs emerging among them also would be doubtful !Because youths are indifferent to the external world. They tend to be secluded within their small worlds, enjoying the best what it gives, like trendy cloths, expensive foot wear and exotic food varieties ! Let the world move wherever it want !

But she failed to find the role of media as the passive educators for these youth in what they 
are ! Today’s youth’s world view is exactly what media project, and they stand for ! Do media ever attempt to project icons in society other than in sports, politics, cinema or under world? Intellectuals or literary figures find it extremely difficult to find their due place in the media. Except the senior journalists, media is reluctant to share rights of opinion on world affairs to any other sector. Even human right activists are projected scornfully in the media, as possible threat to their world ! 

6) Always at the side of the establishment :News reporting, or media profession in general, show a tendency to project the world view of the masters of the then establishment, of each age. In the old times of slave trade, media used to carry advertisement from slave owners for the sale of their ‘merchandise’ ! Even today, when the main pages carry stories about police crack-down in flesh-trade cases, back pages openly display scores of advertisements from 5 star and 7 star ESCORT SERVICES, which are surrogate offers from brothel owners ! 

The role of the press in suppressing the communist experiment in the war weary Russia after the 1st world war is described by the great historian H.G.Wells in his book 'A short history of the world': ' a propaganda of abominable and disgusting inventions went on unchecked in the press of the world;the Bolshevik leaders were represented as incredible monsters glutted with blood and plunder and living lives of sensuality before which the realities of the Tsarist court during the Rasputin regime paled to a white purity . . .' The press was clearly with the reigning establishments of the day , that of the European allies. 

The role of the world press during the Holocaust is under heated debate lately. The most shocking incident in the history of the modern age was almost blacked out by then media. The chief complaint is about the low relevance accorded by the media about holocaust - -every report was tucked in the inner pages of the newspapers, including that of  NYT. 

This has stopped  the US government and the general public from reacting meaningfully to the world calamity. Latest debates argue that  US could have even curtailed the number of deaths if the stories were presented by the media in deserving relevance, with front page coverage of the stories ! 

7) Confusion about causes and effect :Finally, this is on the plain psychological confusion media creates about the probable causes of the reported events, and peoples failure to make sense out of world around.  Famous Russian psychologist PAVLOV had conducted an experiment using Dogs, about the effect of confusion with regard to living being’s failure to assess probable cause of the events they experience. Dogs were trained to choose food, or a mild electric shock, from the size of circles drawn on two doors. After a few rounds, he gradually reduced the difference in the radius of the circle, causing confusion for dogs as what door leads to food, or shock. Dogs started getting shocks more often, leading to total mental breakdown in many cases.

Un-directional news reporting causes the same effect on people. World becomes a place without any rational sense to people, in the process. 

Can Media adopt a rational direction in the profession, and still remain in business ?

When the traditional political institutions of the day, Democracy, stands deformed  due to the twist between the fundamental values and the opposite priorities of the professional people who are into the act of governance, world stands really ORPHANED in the world. Media, as we have seen, are drawn in to the game as passive partners. This leaves the world without any agency to lead them into the path of Reason and enlightenment.

Fundamentalism is nothing but the reluctance to open up to reviewing of one’s bottom premises on life and profession, from time to time. Whether science or social institutions, complying with  nature's inevitable need of periodical change is simple OPENNESS. Hence there is no harm for the media fraternity to assemble nation wide, and adopt the course of Reason as their bottom directive principle, in the act of news reporting. It would definitely be a better representation of world than being a passive scavenger for every one's 'reported' truth, in the name of 'objectivity'. 

Media representing the plain human reason and wisdom in the world !

 World can expect nothing more from this institution ! It then would become peoples voice, and watch-dogs in democracy naturally. They  can also adopt the self-evident course of human civilization as seen so far - - - -a sure and certain journey from the old exclusiveness  to more and inclusiveness and mutual tolerance and acceptance of human dignity, for taking mankind on the same road further ahead.( see our blog on the hidden direction of civilization at link:

After this voluntary adoption of a bottom directive course, there won’t remain any confusion for content selection, or news worthiness. It would be like a business house choosing ‘quality of  product’ as the singular bottom line for its business promotion. Time will tell the difference in due course, and such strategies has never failed in any field. Hence, when media adopt ‘truth’ and truth alone as their bottom line, replacing ‘news worthiness’ for stories, people will develop taste for it soon. Truth is that, even the appetite of man for ‘stories’ from child hood is nothing but the urge for 'reality' ! Human faculty of Reason is basically a ‘seat of order’, and truth is nothing but the ultimate‘order’.  Logical syllogism depend on the quality of its ‘major’ premise, the universal. When media adopts a healthy ‘major’ premise at the bottom, for inferring their world view, and developing their stories,   world always would get correct conclusions ! ( see our blog on the new perspectives of human Reason at :

Every other institution in society will fall in line of Reason and common sense when the defining agency stand for the root direction of mankind. Political masters will think twice before  playing their games with people and their rights. Mankind will get its guardian in the reinvented media institution. Industry also will not loss anything, as an enlightened people will make better customers and consumers.

Abraham J. Palakudy 

He is an independent seeker and researcher in fields like man's faculty of Reason, Mind, Spirituality, polity, especially the relevance of a Reinventing democracy.
Twitter: Voice of Philosophy@jopan1
His profile and other blog-posts: