When was the last time you believed in something you saw on a TV news channel? The newspaper? An online source or even social media?
In 1956, the Press Council of India was conceived. One of its main aims has been to be a watchdog for the press and to observe those who observe the world and report on it. It is in honor of the Press Council that the National Press Day is celebrated every year on November 16th. Unfortunately, given the current condition of media in the country, not many would say that the national press day warrants a celebration.
Where It All Goes Wrong – The Explosion of Fake News
That news is not always objective has been a fact long before the concept of fake news emerged. Even the objective and unbiased individuals and corporations at the end of the day have their own opinions and interests. They want to protect and propagate as there is money to be earned.
A lot of scholars have traced the explosion of fake news to the competition created by the internet. First off, the internet has given a tough competition to the traditional sources especially newspapers. As they are usually the first to bring out a new scoop to the public. This meant a greater focus on ‘explosive’ news rather than investigative and detailed news.
Secondly, the internet has also enabled a lot many media players to come into play. With increasing competition, all sites want to generate clicks and reads, and by extension, revenue, and this the article titles become click-baits, and the content becomes more and more outlandish.
But perhaps the most prominent way in which the internet has damaged journalism . The fact that now there is no sanctity of the source. Anybody can record anything type anything or say anything and have it go viral within a few hours, sometimes even minutes. As context and facts disappear, it becomes easier for fake news to become prominent. So much so that sometimes it takes days, or even months, for the truth to emerge.
Increased political and corporate influence, especially through internet channels, has also compromised media. But are these the only ones to blame?
The Audience Who Consumes – Are We At Fault?
By the basic laws of economics, supply only emerges when demand is present. As the national press day rolls around, perhaps it is time that we reconsider our role in the media circus too.
A lot of us believe that the media is something that we consume. But we also actively produce the kind of media that comes back to us. When we fall for the clickbaits, when we enable screaming sessions on TVs to masquerade as debates When we choose to share and follow the steps of a Bollywood celebrity instead of the struggles of our farmers, we enable the media to continue to produce subpar content. Media is a critical feature of civil society, but at the end of the day, they are also companies and corporations with money to earn, profits to turn, and stakeholders to benefit. If they see that their audience likes fake news, sensationalizations, and drama, that is simply what they will produce.
What Can We Do?
Shunning off the news for good may seem like a tempting offer, but a little effort from your side can go a long way in remedying the situation. Focus on neutral sources, take information from multiple sources, and reserve judgment till all the facts are present. If a source has a history of sensationalization, don’t click on it anymore.
It might seem that you alone won’t make much of a difference, but together we can change the tide. This national press day, let’s pledge to be better and more responsible consumers of media.