Apologies for writing a long mail, but somehow 140 characters in twitter is just not enough to express a few thoughts of mine regarding the "serious introspection" tweet of yours. I will first write about missed opportunities at introspection, and then would suggest some introspection steps. I am also directly publishing this letter on my blog.
You had a golden opportunity to seriously introspect when the radia tapes were out. That golden opportunity presented itself in the form of a meeting organised by PCI and EG with fellow journalists. We were anticipating the kick-starting of a serious introspection, but instead we witnessed the charade of the the President of Editors Guild reducing the whole episode to just "professional jealousy".
Members of your own fraternity were outraged by those comments. Members of your own fraternity said "we don't want to be like Barkha Dutt". Members of your own community said "this is not expected from the chairman of Editor's Guild." Members of your own community bought out serious contradictions in the way reporting is done. Most of the points raised there were the exact same that got raised in various online forums. Barkha first rubbished them, then wrote a couple of articles saying that the matter is closed and then in a 45 minute charade on NDTV, she tried to tell us about the double standards of those who accused her! Vir Sanghvi wrote an article, came on TV once and then vanished!
The "lynch mob" mentality that journalists on twitter so often use, was quite evident in that meeting attended only by members of your own fraternity. So I ask again, why was that opportunity to introspect not utilized at all? Why was there a mud-slinging match led by none other esteemed office bearers of PCI and EG?
Paid news was a big revelation two years back. Radia tapes were a bigger revelation about a year back. Yet, not many TV channels could even devote a 30 minute special to discuss the muck in the media. Not many newspaper devoted enough print space to write about the muck in their own backyard. When the opportunity knocked at your door for serious introspection, why was it not grabbed?
And needless to say, when questioned about these things, either we are branded as trolls or ignored all together. Persistent questioning on serious issues only leads to one thing - we getting branded. In the time that I have had, I documented 18 instances of my discussions with various TV and print journalists. Most of the time I was just ridiculed (was called loser and moron by Nidhi Razdan. Sagarika wondered if "I was for real" when she found out that I actually believed Dhritharashtra was blind). And sometimes, discussions were abruptly ended. Countless chances of "serious introspection" arose in online forums - only that the bigwigs chose to ignore those opportunities.
A good start towards serious introspection would be to improve coverage on policy and good governance. A recent survey conducted by your channel ranked the chief ministers in the country. And your own channel does not even have 10 good stories to showcase the 10 best chief ministers. Isn't it alarming that channels don't have one good story per chief minister atleast? The negativity that has seeped into the public mind is partly because of the continuous negative coverage on TV. Positive stories about common people are a good watch. Likewise, positive and also programs that make one think about governance are the need of the hour.
Another step towards serious introspection would be to improve the level of public discourse in the media (TV media especially). Excessive concentration on needless and banal soundbytes of attention-seeking politicians has contributed to the abysmal fall in today's discourse. The matters affecting the people of this country are too serious to be captured in one headline, one soundbyte and in a "yes or no" fashion. We need better debates on policy, governance and politics. We need enlightening discussions with sane politicians and law-makers. We don't need debates on one-liners and then follow-up debates on one-liners that comment on the original one-liner! The "generalisation" that you folks are now complaining of, has been perpetuated by none other than you folks! Surely, if LS TV can conduct such decent debates with aplomb, private TV channels can do too.
There are multiple instances on twitter when journalists (including from your channel) banally simplify complicated issues, and try to pass them of as a product of serious intellectual discourse. And ofcourse negative feedback on those comments are, more often than not, treated with contempt; which brings me to my third point.
No amount of serious introspection is possible without gauging the feedback and engaging the viewer/reader. You could begin by advising journalists of your channel to engage more with the viewer/reader. There are many folks online who are keen to engage in decent debates. Just because folks question persistently and continue to reel out facts that contradict your (as in journalists) conclusions, doesn't mean the forum is worthless. The loss of not engaging with the viewer/reader is yours, not ours.
For any given program, there will be +ve and -ve feedback. Sometimes the criticism can be scathing too. One would assume journalists are mature enough to engage with such folks. More often than not, journalists come on twitter, throw out some platitudes, market their show, engage in flourishing rhetoric on how the medium is ignorant, troll-infested etc and leave. This needs to stop ( I can give you examples of how editors picked up on points that trolls made months/years ago). Surely, editors/bureau chiefs need to be mature enough to ignore the miniscule percentage of those who actually abuse.
Serious introspection also demands that an ombudsman be appointed. The viewer/reader needs to have a channel of communication through which he/she will be able to ask questions regarding facts and coverage. And yes, questions on coverage are very legitimate, contrary to what many members of your fraternity feel. The amount of coverage that certain topics/policies/persons/
departments/states is subject to questioning, and "don't watch if you don't like" is not the introspection one is looking forward to!
Lastly, please refrain from calling yourselves (all TV channels based out of Delhi) as "national" channels. It takes a while for you to just figure out that something serious is happening to the south of Vindhyas and the north-east. It feels depressing to seek attention to problems in our states from you folks. Either you measure up to the name "national" or rename your taglines.
I repeat again. It's been about two years since the paid news scandal broke out. It's been about an year since the Radia tapes came out. Nothing changed. No introspection happened. Rhetorical and sanctimonious tweets are a big bore. And please note that members of your own community echo the views of many "trolls". Perhaps this is another opportunity to introspect and change. What better place to begin, than at home.