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Fake news is now a formalised industry: journalists

Jul 24, 2017

Meeting at a discussion forum in New Delhi, journalists pointed out that media itself is responsible for their lack of credibility.

New Delhi: Journalists feel that digital media cannot survive on hits alone and called for a strong relationship with the readers. They also cautioned against increasing space of fake news that has spread its tentacles right from the media scape to the government zones.

Mediapersons were speaking out during a panel discussion on the topic ‘False News in the Post-Truth World’ at a two-day news forum, The Media Rumble (TMR), organised by Newslaundry and Teamwork Arts.

The forum featured engrossing sessions on the media speaking truth to power, the might of the Lutyens’ media, the plague of fake and fictional news, the media-government interface and the viability of subscriber-funded media.

Discussing the evolution of digital media Diksha Madhok of Quartz India said that digital media could not survive by relying only on clickbait. “It has to get into a long-term relationship with the reader,” she said. Senior columnist Ashok Malik added, “News is now a service to be delivered to the consumer and not a sermon.”

Deputy editor of HuffPost Shivam Vij believes that fake news is now a proper formalised industry. “These days even what the government puts out is fake news and what we are seeing is just a trailer.”

Discussing the entrenchment of fake news, Editorial Director of Swarajya R Jagannathan said, “We need many, many more fact-checking sites.”

A session ‘Speaking Truth to Power’ discussed the role of journalism in taking on establishments and bringing about a change in the relationship between media, politics and business, and its impact on government policy, it also had journalists sharing the threats they faced. Suki Kim, an award-winning writer who went undercover in North Korea to report on the country’s current state of affairs said, “Not only has foreign policy, but also journalism has absolutely failed when it comes to North Korea.”

A panel on, ‘The Power of Lutyens Media’, discussed the credibility of mainstream media and the problems facing Lutyens’ media, to which Senior Journalist Kanchan Gupta said, “The problem with Lutyens’ media is that you decide what is good for your reader, you set the agenda.”

Gupta also said that media themselves are responsible for their lack of credibility. Following a critique of the Lutyens’ media’s coverage, Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta said, “If you wish to do away with Lutyens’ media mindset, you have to do away with Lutyens.”

A session, ‘The Relationship between Media & Government’, dwelled on the quid-pro-quo relationship between media and the government and how there shouldn’t be one. The session was moderated by Madhu Trehan of Newslaundry who objected to former MP Pavan Varma saying, “The relationship between government and media is of cooperation and adversity, with all governments trying to influence the media to project them better.”

A session, ‘News as Investment’, spoke about media as a classy industry for innovation and investment. Chandrasekhar, a two-time Member of Parliament to the Rajya Sabha and prime investor in Arnab Goswami’s Republic, spoke about news as a source of revenue and the need to get out of the mindset that news is not profitable.

Another session, ‘Talking Investigative Journalism’, discussed how investigative stories are stifled to which executive editor of The Indian Express Ritu Sarin said, “I can say with pride that at The Indian Express, I have never been asked to kill a story.”

One of the sessions was a conversation between Michael Rezendes and Abhinandan Sekhri. The two discussed the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer prize-winning investigative reporting on the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse cover up which was made into Academy Award winning film Spotlight. Rezendes talked about reporting under Trump, the importance of financially sustaining months long reporting and the role of the reporter in exposing the truth and ensuring no ‘collateral damage’.

There was also a session, ‘The Tyranny of Distance’, which discussed the failure of the mainstream media to cover protests and other news events in the northeast and south India while every ‘nukkad protest in Delhi’ receiving prominent coverage.

A session on, ‘Humour: The First Line of Defence and Offence’, featuring stand-up comedian Anuvab Pal, All India Bakchod’s Ashish Shakya, comedian, filmmaker and author Radhika Vaz, discussed the role that humour and news have in bringing out the truth and pointing out the absurdities of the lived experience.

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