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Not fine print

The fine line between journalism and sensationalism is not new, writes Swapan Seth.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2007 21:12 IST

They say journalism is the first draft of history. If that were indeed the case, responsible journalism is quickly becoming history in this country. Indeed, the fine line between journalism and sensationalism is not new. Its everyday erasure in this country, however, is.

Newspapers have gone over-the-top with the recent ‘Hurley burley’. It has occupied our front pages, filled with irrelevant details. It has heaped on us details of expenses that make a nation like ours look paradoxically silly. I have nothing against lavish weddings. To each his own. But I do feel cheated when I am subjected to intellectually annoying details that do not concern me as a reader. Yes, if I were reading Hello!, it would be all very well. But a mainline daily? I expect some more purpose out of its prose.

Usually, television is the culprit in such shenanigans. But as far as ‘Hurleygate’ is concerned, I think print was more in the dock.

In a democracy, the media are the traffic constables of content, guiding their readers towards that which is more relevant and responsible. They are the lighthouse to learning, a compass to understanding and consequent action. We look at the media as the voice of reason, not an echo of the flavour of the season. And yet, the media continue to disappoint. Today, some of our finest journalists are reduced to Reporters of the Ridiculous.

What have the media reduced themselves to? Of course, there is a market for this trivia. But the supply to meet this demand cannot be through our national media. I would give more marks to a magazine like Page 3, which makes no apology for its editorial enzymes.

We rely on our national media to alert us on atrocities such as the rape in Colaba that invariably didn’t find mention within the mounds of Mouton that flowed during the wedding. The media must put their foot down. That’s perhaps the only way they can hold their heads high.

Write what a nation expects of you. Or else, you may well be a write-off. Another of those weddings could well be your funeral.