June 4, 2007

Whose money is it anyway?

Who can thrive on chaos, and make money out of destruction?

Can you think of someone who can make money on someone's sheer existence? Whether you did or not, I guess you want to include the ‘Media companies’ to that list. Ever wondered how the Media industry has evolved? I am no journalist, but I’m sure they must be teaching some stuff in college.

A rich and famous person gets divorced and her life is in turmoil, media has news. A kid has fallen in a manhole, it’s sensational. Someone has got killed, the family is emotionally devastated, and media wants quotes, news… Whatever is the sanctity of this profession, it baffles me to look at various newspapers, magazines and realize that they’re trying to make money even out of the dying and billions of others who are either happy or weeping o’er their tragic lives (both rich and poor). When nations are waging wars, media houses are concerned about making money about it. Oh, and there’s who wanna argue about its usefulness—Media plays an important role, it creates awareness and blah blah blah…

No, let’s not discount the role of all the journalists risking their lives to bring news of wars, people at remote locations, get shot and killed for nothing! My journo friend Surabhi wouldn’t want me to sound so very negative… But unfortunately, that’s the greatest paradox today… journalists at the bottom keep running pillar to post finding and breaking stories and file them, but unfortunately, the decision of what goes for print, and what doesn’t is not theirs to execute. Pity, when honest stories might sometimes be tampered with to give them a unwanted facelift, and change the whole meaning of it. All the sweat, blood and efforts… flushed at one decision of the editor.

Having said that, do we really believe that today’s media is only about revealing facts and breaking stories… I believe those values have got buried long ago till people started minting money out of it through public relations, advertisements, add to that powerful people wielding their influence over the media. The situation today is… people don’t even know if what they get to know is true… “You never know,” remarks one of my associates. “Nevertheless,” says another one, “students get benefited, as their communication skills get honed, depending on what media they’re reading/ watching.”

Television channels are interested in TRP ratings, so we have all the unnecessary ‘Flash news’, foolish sensational stories; and the print media's more interested in readership. So, some newspapers in India go the extent of, I quote one of my professors ‘making their supplements equal to pornographic books thrown at your doorstep early in the morning’. Huh! Some heights there! What about all the researches about Top brands, Top Celebrities, Top This, Top That… Some Bull**** they’ve got to offer there. What else, they also have a lots of buyers to it!!! Let me share a secret (if it actually is) — You can be clear of all doubts that these ratings and rankings given out by almost all publishers are (at least a little) fudged.

Says Joy Suchitra, a research consultant, “Refer to the recent madness on television about celebrity weddings like that of Abhi-Ash… the media went bonkers overdoing their coverage… wonder how many days media ignored the rest of important happenings to cover that private affair.”

There’s still a great trickery adopted by media which not everyone discusses openly. The presentation of truth and lies on the same platter, it’s like the Da Vinci Code recipe; you give few facts, add loads of fiction, and bingo, you've created an illusive story… So media houses have sections of handpicked letters to the editor, wanted, unwanted, deliberated and forceful stories, articles and other messages to create the packages called magazines, newspapers, tabloids, and of course, not to miss all those innovative titles given by various news channels. What more, they’re a hit!!!

Tampering, Fudging, Fraud… they’re all so common in the media… I wonder if we could do a sting operation on key media personnel. Cos, it’s become a vicious cycle, controller of media, the ministry of information, politics, the other authorities, and people in power join hands to make a complete mockery of it (of course, there are exceptions always)… But one thing is certain—they’ll never cease to cash-in the most bizarre event or people, ‘cos that’s where they make their big bucks from. Making money out of everything, anything! Coming to serious issues that affect you, me, the society at large, this question still remains unanswered—will we ever know the truth?

If the media industry is just evolving now in India, wonder what’s the state of media industry in developed and underdeveloped nations is like!

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