Maybe I am losing touch with reality, but I am saddened by the news – that’s what they call it now. Maybe I am just getting old. Maybe it is what they call generation gap. Newspapers are the conscience keepers of the nation – if this be it – then we sure do have a trashy conscience.
A long distance away from home, when I log in to see how my city is doing, the second piece of news is about how a reporter posed as a beggar and discovered that Mumbai is a generous city.
I am saddened because this is not news. Mid-Day sent its own reporter, Prashant Rangnekar to pose as a beggar, and this event was then covered as news. News, according to the dictionary is, “Information about recent events or happenings, especially as reported by newspapers, periodicals, radio, or television.” Here I see that “news” is being created – more for the purpose of entertainment than for information. I recently read Digital Fortress by Dan Brown and, while the book is a work of fiction, he seemed to agree that it was more entertainment than information. This may still be information – that Mumbai donates generously. Frankly, do you relate? Undercover reporting has brought great news to the fore.
While being the beggar, did Mr. Rangnekar feel the need to find out the cause of so many beggars in the city, did he attempt to find a solution to this problem? Did he create awareness of the indifference of the government to this shameful sight in the city? I am near paranoid that this is a potential career guide for the slightly insane and the immensely failed.
And it’s not as if the newspapers don’t know this. They do this with extreme awareness. They even advertise, questioning what trash we read. The recent DNA ads in Mumbai and a few radio and TV spots were all asking us what news means to us. Newspapers and TV channels do surveys of how well informed the youth is about the country’s history. They poke fun and laugh at the ignorance of the youth. Sad – they don’t realize they are ridiculing themselves. They obviously haven’t done a good job of informing the youth. I am sure the youth knows about which celebrity wore what for the last Friday’s bash and who is breaking up with whom. They are well informed about this. It’s almost as if getting a question paper out of syllabus! I’d love to do this same survey of the radio and TV hosts – check if they knew who our first president was and why we celebrate Teachers’ Day, before the producer hands them the cheat-sheet.
Forget the ability to answer, we have lost the ability to question.