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BW Businessworld

Media Man: Oh For My 30 Seconds Of Prime Time!

News has ceased to be about knowledge and information as the editors have disappeared and now the news channels are all about networking and relationships

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When the mighty USSR had fallen as 15 scattered states in the early nineties, the famed Time magazine editor wrote in his editorial that “such an historic event that will shape the world in the future has happened and all it gets is 30 seconds of prime time on national television”.

Well, that was 25 years ago, and a lot has changed since then. The satellite revolution beamed the Gulf War into living rooms all over the world. This was followed by the new whiz kids on the block, who became the quickest knowledge currency billionaires, all in the electronic digital space. The world was soon to become a completely different place, and the original blue chip companies in soft drinks, beverages, fast foods, automakers, electronics, etc. stood by just watching. So the technology disruptions had happened; and the after-effects were touching millions of lives. The way the digital revolution has touched people’s lives is a matter of joy, but also a matter of big concern.

News No Longer Surprises
News has ceased to be about knowledge and information as the editors have disappeared and now the news channels are all about networking and relationships. Relationships need not be credible but connections with powerful people are key. So it’s not about reporting or analysing, but about who gets it first, and correctness always comes second. As a result, the digital space and social media have been dictating content on national news television. So when a gentleman sitting in London tweets about how a politician made money from an IPL team it becomes breaking news, and gets its share of prime time for no logical reason. Its credibility seldom gets checked as no channel can afford to be second.

Consumers, the New Media
Anybody can be a Hero. All it requires is a controversial tweet. Social media has redefined the rules of the communication game. Twitter is the biggest editor for all news channels. It has created split personalities and new personalities with unknown behavioural traits.

Comments by celebrities and by commoners about celebrities are amplified instantaneously and result in massive audiences. Massive audiences are big money, as we are talking about serious money being parked. So, when a writer returns his award, a series of tweets are made by aspiring and wannabe writers, and whoever has made the most controversial tweet will become famous today and rich later.

The reverse happens when social media displays a ruthless mob mentality. A tweet after a film star says something controversial about a ‘religious Qurbaani’ in India and its likely implications; a series of abuse follows the same path and finds itself on prime time television. Again big money.

So, when an unknown starlet in Bangalore tweets that “Pakistan is not hell” she becomes a national celebrity, with hordes of news channels chasing her. I do not think she has ever had so many journalists chasing her in her entire movie career. Similarly, when an unknown political leader tweets about how Sindhu needs a better coach than Gopichand to win a Gold medal, the entire media fraternity goes berserk.

Does News Have A Future?
The way things are going at present the future seems bleak. No sane or conscious youngster with reasonable mental faculties will venture anyway near a news career. It’s sad, but that’s how it is. In spite of this negativity, I feel there is still hope. We will need editors who have the ability to look at the story and the story behind the story. Editors who are not armchair specialists and actually go out and feel the news from ground zero. Editors who have the knack and expertise to create viewpoint from a story. This will help breaking views to be greater than breaking news and this will be a milestone.

The learning as of now, is that opportunism comes from using and abusing media; and sadly, the TV channels either do not realise it or are helpless about it. It’s entirely our call to create the world we want to live in. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to be.” Hence, editors need to put this up in their plush cabins and take a vow never to borrow from twitter.

The author is a Delhi-based business strategist

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Gopinath Menon

The author is a Delhi-based business strategist

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