“What’s happening to the news?” is a more pertinent question these days than, “What’s happening in the news?” The country wakes up every morning poised to receive another outrageous bit of information about the latest in a theatre of errors, and promptly eats it all up by end of day.
What has really happened, is that delineations have completely unraveled. There is a fundamental ambiguity of roles in absolutely every institution. There is a blurring of lines, we’re mixing it all up. We’re mixing entertainment with information, we’re mixing the tabloids with front page news, we’re mixing TV anchors with guidance counselors, religion with politics, politics with the media, the military with national ideology, terrorists with victims, mismanagement with external players, and the words of crooked men with the scriptures of faith. As for the news, it is pre-ordaining national emotion, having gauged the depths to which the intellectual narratives of this country have fallen. The statements of a popular TV anchor regarding national outrage the nation was experiencing because of “blasphemous content” aired by a separate media house, are a self-fulfilling prophecy. What it resulted in was the issuance of a fatwa against a TV channel, rallies outside a media house, and public apologies to God on the front page of a major national publication. So, what is happening to the news? And how on earth do we get it back on track. How do we ensure freedom without compromising the quality of the information we receive? How do we move the content of public debate away from subjectivism to a more universal, clear-headed approach to things?
For some, the answer is time. A new democracy, a teething free media needs time. But it can’t be as simple as that. There has to be a proactive way to solve the problem. Perhaps the problem is the lack of heroes in all our institutions; a constitution of principles coming in the guise of honest public figures, a point of referral that lies in between the political constitution and Holy Books. People who can re-draw lost lines, who can separate fact from fiction and make information worth the public’s time. Get the media HR departments running. Sensationalism is old news. A brand new niche awaits for competing viewership- and its called integrity.