Tale of Two Democracies and Media in Illusion

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Philadelphia – Two largest democracies, America and India stand-alone on their own characters, one in the new world and the other representing one of the finest ancient cultures, remain continents apart. Both have powerful media at home and abroad as a common denominator to represent individual nature with a reasonable degree of transparency. Then element of anomaly enters the media representation on both sides of globe and a brand new comparison gives new perspectives to the scene.

First examine the case of India specifically with the scenario on grand election of a new parliament looming over for next few weeks. Since the election is declared for month of April in 2014 on the largest playground of a democratic exercise, mega volumes of reports can be filled from 543 battle ground constituencies every day. This theater with total of 814 million voters has plenty of actions to report in a fair and accurate way, if press finds a choice of preference.

Press in India never played a kind of role with neutrality in balance in their political analysis which we see in many pluralistic societies. They keep revisiting to the ghosts of past riot happened in state of Gujarat ten years ago. After so many inquiries justice systems conducted, chief minister of state Narendra Modi was exonerated as chief minister from any direct involvement. Now he is a prime ministerial candidate from an opposing party to the currently ruling government. It threatens the almost uninterrupted reign of ruling Congress party.

Nothing sort of such tragic events should ever be forgotten without fixing the root cause as a guarantee for the future. Healing process must be set up simultaneously. When press neglects participation in both processes and plays an active role in total polarization instead, it could prove fatal in earning trust to reach ‘gold’ standard in the line of business that media has invested itself.

Ironically press chose to hold Narendra Modi accountable for what has been erred in Gujarat, but never opened their big mouth for so many big riots happened so many times on clock of Congress rule so many times around nation in the past. Never had they ever paid attention to so many scandals and scams mushroomed in the cesspool of corruption during past decade of Congress rule. Elites of media kept talking about activism in journalism from TV studios and ivory towers, but forgot that real McCoy exists only in the field work.

Not only Press forgot to ask serious questions to ruling government regarding plight of average citizens in past decade, be it corruption, education, inflation; they forgot to investigate any kind of scandals so badly that they had to rely on leads given by foreign press and government on corrupt practices of their own government at the highest level. VVIP Chopper scam is case point here where Italian Company called Augusta Westland paid bribes to officials in Indian government including retired Air Marshall SP Tyagi to win $750 million deal. Indian media still talks about activism but never came to dance with it on real floor.

It is time for media to realize that not only political parties must be scrutinized for their performance in election campaign, press is under the cross wires for what they ask on behalf of people and what they skip in their inquiry, more so and even for longer time well past election. Media should open floodgates of questions revolving around subjects pressing daily lives of average citizens to all candidates fearlessly and without any reservation. Grilling the candidate would test skill of media in public eye. Even conducting few debates between major candidates would not be a bad idea. Press needs grilling of politicians in this campaign with one eye on their own drilling simultaneously.

It is time to put American news media under microscope with single event which unfolded in news recently. It has all elements of daily news drama which we observed in India’s case, but in a little different order of packing.

It was March 20, 2014 when Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott decided to announce the news on satellite findings on two partial images of Malaysian airliner MH 370 missing 12 days ago over Indian Ocean. It was more like a grand standing on declaring “Who’s first?” even without any physical evidence in the hands and also, circumventing Malaysian government in monitoring the whole scenario on unfolding tragedy. As for retrieval of ill-fated airliner even in fragments is like chasing a mirage today if not a short of a miracle.

A lot of pragmatic people already concluded that it will be a Herculean task to recover ant wreckage of MH 370, if the airplane disintegrated over southern Indian Ocean. But media thought otherwise, especially all major news channels including CNN, MSNBC, Fox etc. They saw green dollar sign blinking on the wall even in such misery.

They opened the desk shop only around ill-fated flight with all window dressing like hourly breaking news on flight with no direction to reach, 24×7 coverage on the topic with one full time reporter sitting in a simulator giving a touch of technology without touching any button, loads of so called experts no better than average Joe in any given profession, a band of lawyers ready to rip apart which does not walk or talk like American by their definition.

Add to that reporter like Don Lemon with a band wagon of twitters, you see just a confetti salesman to boost TV rating instead of a news anchor reporting real news genuinely. Missing in the mix are real faces of victims and their families mostly of Chinese and other Asian origins. They did not get a fraction of all coverage CNN and company put forward 24x7coverage for three weeks.

So what’s the end result of Tsunami of misinformation? When the news of satellite images of wreckage found in southern Indian Ocean, was given to the victims in China, only reaction they gave: “Don’t bring any piece-meal items on this news to raise our hopes because there’s nothing – but all lies we have heard on the news for past two weeks. Just Go Away!”

It just inflicts pain to the psyche of victimized families and audience alike.

Real news is not a part of a reality show or a number game in the war of ratings. Natural disasters don’t discriminate nationality or the origin of people – be it MH 370 lost in the air or Washington State’s killer mudslides where so many already dead and almost 30+ people still missing after almost a week. It is not job of media to berate any entity as a scapegoat, except to report natural calamity as it happened at home or abroad.

It’s an absolute job of journalists to observe doctrines on Fairness and Accuracy all the time without relying on misinformation. They must report fairly and squarely without becoming selective or even initiating debate on opinions. Leave it to the readers & critics only.

Benjamin Franklin was a witty and wise man, otherwise he would not have said as shown below without keeping media man of today in his mind. Amazingly it rings true today as it was 250 years ago!

“Either write something worth reading or Do something worth writing.”

Kirit Desai
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Kirit Desai  had post graduate degrees from India & USA both - in multiple disciplines. After spending almost 30 years in R & D (as Research Scientist) and research management at a prestigeous Ivy League University, moved into Financial field for past decade & enjoys reading/writing in international business, politics, sports and science/technology. He lives in Delaware valley near Philadelphia.

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