Tunguru Tamasha 2: Gloomy Times For Odisha’s Media

Tunguru Bhola is a celebrity of sorts, and if the smile on his face refuses to fade these days, there is reason for it. It is not always television crew chase a 20-something nobody for bites; it’s not always ordinary people make it to primetime news; and it’s not always a minor controversy involving a personal matter opens up opportunities for people. Tunguru has achieved which few of his ilk can.

In hindsight, he is a sharp young man with a keen sense of the media. As the media, particularly television and digital media, kept hounding him for juicy, salacious details of his alleged affair with an elderly woman, he did not run away embarrassed; he kept enjoying the limelight, burnishing his new-found status with a swag. All the attention have spurred his ambition to be in the world of entertainment, and perhaps already opened the doors for him. Good luck to him. But what does the whole episode tell us about our media? A lot. And most of it not charitable.

To begin with, anyone with a story that could be sensastionalised can make fools out of media people. For all we know, such stories could be faked, staged for the camera. Since it is already known that reporters are not really looking for facts or the truth, obsessed as they are with gossipy, malicious and vulgar angles to such stories to attract eyeballs, any smart player can use them for free publicity. It’s a classic case of tail wagging the dog. The media might be boasting anything, but the fact is that they are being manipulated instead of the other way round. Tunguru and the woman in question may have drawn all the media attention unintentionally, but given the trend to trivialising news through sensationalisation in television and digital media someone clever can easily take journalists for a ride.

How do such stories pass several filters in newsrooms to get aired or posted? Surely in all organisations there is enough journalistic competence backed by years of professional experience to judge what is fit to be telecast or posted. Content not fit to be carried, mostly those that carry no news value or of little use to the content consumer, is supposed to be weeded out. No such filter appears to exist anymore. Or perhaps the decision to go ahead is deliberate, involving the top management. The revenue argument kicks in here, and does so emphatically. Journalistic ethics and the sense of self-worth as reporters or editors goes out of the window. The message: sensationalise, find garbage, the more the merrier, and dump it on viewers. They love it. Never mind if it makes you look silly. Eyeballs are what matter.

The broader sinister message to journalists is not even thinly veiled. Forget self-respect or dignity as a professional. Forget whatever nonsense they taught you about ethics, principles and sense of morality in institutes. Intellect is irrelevant. Doesn’t matter if people laugh at you or at the media in general. You are supposed to be dancing monkeys on strings. The control is elsewhere. You are paid to dance, not to uphold journalistic values. Create Tungurus if you cannot find them. Don’t be surprised if we get more and more such stories in our media.

Somewhere things are seriously wrong. Senior media professionals would know exactly where. It’s not the political inclination of media outlets or their proprietors; it’s the reluctance or inability to challenge trends with interesting, cerebral content. It’s easy to go with the trend because it is easily justifiable. But expect no correctives anytime soon.

Despite the overall gloomy scenario in Odisha’s journalism, it was heartening to note that some media houses resisted the temptation to jump unto the sensationalist bandwagon. They conducted themselves with dignity. The journalists there spell hope for the profession. But they could be a dwindling species.

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Comments are closed.