Has anybody heard of ‘Impact Journalism’? What is it, in the first place? According to the founder of Sparknews, Christian de Bolsredon, ‘Impact Journalism’ is reporting stories that bring hope and concrete solutions at both local and global levels, alerting the reader of difficulties ahead while simultaneously suggesting solutions. As the founder of Sparknews concedes, stories such as these “are often hard to find”. What is painfully also to be admitted, the average reporter does not think that it is part of his job to suggest solutions to problems he has covered.
Take, for instance, the first rape case in Delhi that commanded so much attention. In reporting it, what ‘solutions’ could a reporter possibly suggest? That young women should not travel alone at night? That they should, if they have no option, carry a knife with them? Such solutions would invariably invite negative reaction from women themselves. Offering ‘solutions’ no doubt is a decent thing to do. But making them acceptable is a hard nut to crack. The Sparknews story made news in The Times of India (22 June) Mangalore edition. It would seem that the organisation invited editors of major newspapers to give more space to “inspiring initiatives” and twenty two papers agreed. The names of these papers are not provided nor did The Times of India provide the address of Sparknews. But the paper revealed that only a month earlier, in May, it launched a new initiative called “I Lead India”, to urge the youth to be the change that they want to see around them. As it said: it hopes to “facilitate action on important local isssues by young leaders in 26 cities”.
What is more relevant, so far as any newspaper is concerned, is the role of the editor – and his relationship with the publisher/promoter. As early as 21 January 2003, The Hindu carried an article by Sandeep Bhushan, a former TV journalist who teaches at Jamia Millia Islamia. Bhushan noted the “growing intervention of owners-r/promoters in determining the news content in TV broadcast news networks, while condemning” the growing micro-management of newsgathering operations by promoters”. Bhushan emphasized that “editorial control is tight with regard to reportage involving private corporations”.
Meanwhile, one may ask whatever happened in the Zee Extortion Case in which the news network was alleged to have demanded Rs 100 crore in return for rolling back its campaign against steel tycoon Navin Jindal’s alleged misdemeanours in coal block allocation. Who is keeping developments on the case away from readers? Again, in the matter of the Ishrat case, how many newspapers have provided appropriate background information? The Hindustan Times (8 July) has provided a part of the conversation that Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Pakistani commander Muzammil had with two of the men killed along with Isharat Jahan. The police claim they were LeT operatives plotting Modi’s assassination”. Question: Is this sufficient justification for the police to enter into a fake encounter and kill Isharat and her three male friends? What is more, when one writes about this alleged fake encounter, shouldn’t one refer to all alleged ‘fake encounters’ that had taken place in the past and were conveniently forgotten? Why should the government take cognizance of only the Ishrat case and not similar instances in the past in other – and Congress-ruled – states? Will the UPA kindly answer?