What drives the media, journalists debate in Kolkata



Notwithstanding spirited arguments by the likes of veteran journalists Rajdeep Sardesai, Sreenivasan Jain and Rob Hopkin, an international debate here labelled the media objectivity as a "pretence" where "sensationalism ruled the roost.

Organised by the Calcutta Debating Circle, the debate saw a dozen experienced journalists and media professionals from India, Pakistan, Britain and the US Sunday speak in favour and against the motion - 'Objectivity in the Media is a Pretence' - which at the end was carried both by the house as well as a jury comprising students from various city colleges.

Speaking in favour of the motion, chartered accountant A.P. Singh contended that the media was getting increasingly commoditised where coloured opinions were only served. Speaking on the same lines, famed actor Victor Banerjee opined 'sensationalism was the only reason that media worked'.

"Sensationalism is the only reason that media works. Everyone is in this for the money. You produce, we publish. You manufacture cars and soaps, we manufacture consent. And the only way you can manufacture consent is by sensationalising every little iota of information that we have," argued Banerjee.

Even as he conceded that he was 'defending the indefensible', India Today group's consulting editor Sardesai asserted that credibility was intangible and no money in the world could buy it.

"Simply because you sell doesn't make you truly credible. Sensationalism might get you television rating points, but it will not bring the trust of the viewers.

"Credibility is intangible; you can be the richest man in the country but you cannot buy credibility. Of course, we have our biases; of course, we have our viewpoints, but at the end of the day what matters is credibility, which like Rome, is not built in a day," debated Sardesai.

Defending the motion, veteran BBC journalists Jill Robinson and Rob Hopkin harped on the 'foot soldiers' rather than the owners and argued that it was the pursuit of objectivity or the attempt to achieve it what drives all good journalists.

Against the motion, NDTV 24X7 managing editor Sreenivasan Jain contended that a media - being in the business of truth - cannot sustain for long if it deviates far too much from objectivity and authenticity.

Pakistani journalist Mehmal Sarfraz claimed that the media in her country was entirely taken over by sensationalism where the owners dictate terms mainly from the viewpoint of saleability of news.

"There is sensationalism in every media in every country. Crime shows get far better ratings than talk shows or shows on education or health care or other serious issues. Re-enactments and vigilante journalism like raiding somebody's house or an abortion clinic get far more ratings," contended Sarfaraz. - IANS