from Times of India/Blogs
I have a confession to make. I had not heard of Kailash Satyarthi till the news broke about him being awarded the Nobel peace prize for 2014. I checked with many friends; none of them had any clue about who he was. All this is not a reflection on the Nobel committee but a commentary on people like us (PLU) who think that they are aware citizens but are ignorance personified. And the blame for this ignorance is on the media of the country, who are responsible directly and indirectly for holding a mirror on to happenings in the country. Of course, I am part of the media and therefore this is a reflection on my work too.
As mediapersons we spend an inordinate amount of energy in concentrating on trivia, on leggy beauties and the rantings of the neta class and what we think is news. In the process, many real things, things that are meaningful and make a difference to our life, are all neglected. Kailash Satyarthi has spent a lifetime fighting against the practice of child labour, but for the mainstream media such matters hardly make news. Nor does child and women trafficking; nor does hunger or poverty. Well, to be correct, it does make news, but only sometimes and such news is relegated to the inside pages. The front pages are dominated by the discounts offered by Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal and their likes. Of course, the aspiring middle classes – men and women – are all excited about these deals and this is what we write about. After all, the papers are brought out by the aspirants – oops people who are aspirational, I mean.
Of course, no newspaper can be complete today without party pictures and of the rich and fashionable as they jostle to be seen at happening parties. In fact for many such page 3 personages their only claim to fame is that they are page 3, which means that they are recognized socialites. But what is a socialite? Well one who is recognized in social circles. And who is recognized in social circles? Anyone, who is frequently seen on page 3. But is it meaningful what they do? Nothing really, unless you think that to be featured on page 3 is all that there is to life! In this myopic world of have-nots posing as haves, is it strange that nobody has heard of Kailash Satyarthi?
As I write a (doctor) friend messages: Kailash Satyarthi stays at L6 Kalkaji (New Delhi). He used to stay at DDA Flats Kalkaji a few years ago. Yours truly was their family physician then.
Is it strange that newspapers don’t write about Satyarthi? After all Kalkaji is not happening. Who will read about people who stay in such non-happening places: because only inconsequential people could stay there. I am sure Satyarthi does not own a Bentley nor does he wear the costliest of watches and have costly accessories. So who will read about him?
But don’t blame the media alone. Has the government recognized Satyarthi for his efforts? By all accounts, no. Though I have no means of checking, I guess the government has not even conferred him with a Padma Shri, much less a Padma Bhushan. In fact beyond the NGO circles there may not be any awareness about the man who won the Nobel prize and his work.
Many times I am called to meetings where readers ask why is the coverage in the media so one-sided? Why are meaningful things not covered? Why is there so much stress on sensationalism? Partly as a self-defence mechanism, I am quick to answer: a paper exists to satisfy its readers. We give our readers what they want. As readers you do not exercise your rights to ask for meaningful news, instead you love trivia and non- serious stuff. That’s why you get what you get. Most of the vociferous lot gets silenced by this answer and shut up. But some of them go on to ask: isn’t your duty as a mediaperson to be an educator and to provide a wholesome paper to us? I protest: can anybody say that we don’t provide a wholesome paper to you? Everything is covered in our paper – whether it is politics, human interest stories, technology and consumer trends, business and economy and even spiritualism. With this statement everybody falls silent.
As I write these lines, a colleague comes in and tells me about his previous organization, where there was a reporter who used to often quote Kailash Satyarthi and his Bachpaan bachao Andolan. He adds: but we banned the reporter from writing on this matter; we felt there was a surfeit of Satyarthi and his movement. Everybody was getting bored.
But can there be a surfeit of Satyarthis and the movements spawned by them? No, never. It is time that the media recognizes this. The reader also has a responsibility for ensuring that the media focuses on such meaningful matters. Otherwise there is no scope for progress of the country. And if the country does not progress, where is the chance for the individual citizens to progress? All you aspirational types, are you listening?
Kingshuk Nag is active in CJA India events. See the original article.