A constant value in a changing world

A reader wrote to us wondering whether discussions on technological disruptions and their impact on the news ecology are a ploy to deflect attention from the failings of the news media. He listed a set of “non-stories” — speculations at best and motivated plants at worst — that appeared in a section of the Indian media, mostly on television, over the past three months and asked how they could have been categorised as news. He also wanted to know whether Alan Rusbridger’s book, Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now, could help him understand the media better. In my previous column, “Holding up the mirror” (Sept. 10), I had written that Mr. Rusbridger poses a number of questions on the media today. Another reader wanted these questions answered with Indian examples. How I wish I had as much space as that given to reportage on ‘Ground Zero’ as well as the varied experience and the expertise of Mr. Rusbridger to do justice to those questions! Defining news The Indian news media has never been a monolith. It ranges from quality broadsheets and niche publications to sensationalist tabloids. In this era of information overload, where a substantial part of social media-amplified opinions dominate cyberspace, some look at the news media as one entity. In this context, it is very difficult to define news precisely. Mr. Rusbridger listed many kinds of information that appear as news: straight news, adversarial news, subjective news, objective news, news as public service, news as entertainment, exclusive news, commodity news, investigations, campaigns, advocacy, and explanatory news. Is it possible for us to make sense of this chaos? How do we sift through all these bytes to define news? For years, journalists believed that readers would differentiate one kind of journalism from the other. As the Readers’ Editor, I not only draw heavily from the published code of editorial values for this newspaper, but also often turn to the first editorial, “Ourselves”, to evaluate our reportage. A quality broadsheet takes pride in maintaining the distinction between news and views. The practice of classifcation and categorisation is not a marketing tool but an effective editorial device. A quality and respected broadsheet takes care to label all the pages. It shuns the idea of opinion masquerading as news. This is what distinguishes it not only from tabloids, but also from numerous websites where the focus is on views. The governing principle for a newspaper like The Hindu is to inform first and then analyse the pros and cons of any development.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/a-constant-value-in-a-changing-world/article24963541.ece

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