WHEN Jesus Christ was being tried by the Roman Viceroy, Pilate, there was a reference to Truth. “What is Truth?” Jesting Pilate asked and reports the Bible, he paused not for an answer. One frequently wants to ask the question: “What is News” and like Pilate one dares not pause for an answer. The reason is: there is no answer. Some weeks ago, a Kolkata daily ran nineteen pictures of Bikini clad girls in just one issue.
Most English dailies have city specials devoted to society gossip and pictures of people attending parties (PPPs) of no consequence. Who are these people? What is their social worth? In what sense are they important? In what way are they model for the GenNext? Are these ‘paid’ pictures as we have “paid news”? The truth will never be known. It is a cliché to say that the function of a newspaper is to inform, educate and entertain. The stress these days is on entertainment. The media is coining new words like cricketainment.
The rule that the media follows is: “Take it Easy”. It therefore came as a surprise to see The Asian Age (May 21) devote one whole page to a speech delivered by President Barack Obama at the State Department, two days earlier.
In that speech the US President gave a glimpse of his thinking on various issues of importance and it deserved full coverage. It is in this context one wants to ask whether our own Prime Minister doesn’t deserve to be fully reported when he covers many important and relevant points. The media these days hardly gives full coverage to Parliament.
It gives even less coverage to proceedings in the various Legislative Assemblies. A Mumbai-based newspaper ought to give full coverage to proceedings of the Mumbai Municipal Council, considering that the city’s revenues are much larger than the revenues of several states like Kerala, Jharkhand or Haryana. Little or no attention is given to these events. It is as if such coverage is of no relevance. Ask the average reader of a newspaper what he or she knows about Mamata Banerjee; but don’t be surprised if one encounters a blank face. Is it important for a citizen to know more about Didi? One might hear the question: “Why should we know more about her?” She is the Chief Minister of West Bengal, isn’t she? She has effectively defeated the Leftist forces which had been in continuous power for 34 years, hasn’t she? There our interest ends.
But The Telegraph (May 21) decided to tell its readers more about the lady and most of things said about Didi are revolutionary. One sees her in a new light. Paper devoted four full pages into her life and times, as much as to say: “So, this is the woman who has made history” Before going to Raj Bhavan to be anointed Chief Minister, she apparently went calling on her mother and sister. And when she went there she apparently wore a sari that was sent to her as a gift from Sonia Gandhi. No great news, one might say, but it reveals the character of Didi.
There will always be two opinions on what makes news. Actually not two, but two hundred. DNA (May 20) carried a story that the two sisters, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle had kept their differences aside (whatever they are) to support Asha’s grand daughter who is expected to carry forward the Mangeshkar musical family tradition. There is a family quarrel among two brothers of the family that runs The Hindu, reports DNA (April 23) again. Does anybody care?
The Times of India ( February 21) ran a three-column headed story that said that Charlie Chaplin’s grandson got married Hindu-style in Gokarna. One wonders how many people have any knowledge of who Charlie Chaplin is. But, surely, that an American gets married in a holy city in west India according to Hindu rites makes interesting reading? DNA (May19) often goes out of its way to do a story that catches attention. One of the more recent stories is about how one of India’s richest temples “is all set to go green”. It is giving prasadam in bio-degradable bags. The Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam Trust has apparently signed a deal with Greendiamz Biotech Ltd for the supply of biodegradable bags. The company will henceforth supply the temple with 25 lakh biodegradable bags every month. The Temple authorities decided to totally ban plastic bags to show their solidarity towards making temple premises environmentally clean. The bags, we learn, are made of 30-micron thick material which will not get affected by ghee, oil or moisture and will get decomposed in 180 days after coming into contact with soil. The bags have been tested and certified by various organisations such as European Standard EN 13432 and other organisations like CIPET (Chennai) and BIS (Bureau of Indian Standard). If Tirupati can go green why can’t other temples?
More than 50,000 devotees reportedly visit the Tirupati Balaji Temple daily and on weekends the number crosses the lakh mark. Just consider what a huge impact the use of biodegradable bags will make, thanks to the thoughtfulness of the Trustees of just one temple! That is one story that should have got the maximum publicity.
Even in the matter of scams, differences apparently exist among the media. The Air India strike of pilots is now history, but, according to The Free Press Journal (May 2), “not-withstanding the series of well-known scandals of the UPA-I and UPA-II, a bigger scandal which never got mentioned as such” was the one in the State-owned airlines.” The paper made a serious charge against Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel. Under him, said the paper, “the national carrier was systematically destroyed – yes destroyed”. The paper said: “Patel behaved more as an agent of private airlines than as the custodian of the taxpayer-funded Air India and Indian Airlines. Nothing that he did as the Civil Aviation Minister was for the good of IA and AI. But he did a lot for the benefit of the privatel-owned carriers… Patel used his long stint in the Civil Aviation Ministry to push state-owned airlines and the airports deeper into a financial mess”. Interesting that this charge was not followed up. One supposes that one must wait for another strike to take place, for the matter to be taken up in real interest. Public memory as we all know, is short.