For years, smarmy marketing executives, hijacking the editorial in the media, have spewed the same jargon. “We have to target the 18-35 age group, which is not interested in serious issues like poverty. We have to dumb down the news.” To fortify their statements, they click on well-crafted surveys (read: advertiser surveys). The editors are silenced, and editorial policies are altered.
Sans any public interaction, for this tribe, which gyrates between advertising agencies and corporate houses, the advertiser is king. But as recent ear-to-the-ground surveys across India testify, the marketing wizards were way off.
The majority of the youth is neither hedonistic nor irresponsible. Barring the two per cent who dominate Page 3, many actually aspire to be changemakers, and are disturbed by the growing inequities.
Take the recent four-part series titled India GenNext aired on a news channel. The survey of youthful aspirations and solutions for India, at arguably some of India’s top B-schools — IIM (Ahmedabad) ISB (Hyderabad), FMS ( Delhi) and XLRI (Jamshedpur) — was heartening. Cutting across regions and income-groups, the key issues disturbing India’s brightest were poverty, illiteracy and health. In an impassioned group discussion, they highlighted the urgent need for inclusive growth. In fact, they coined a new term — Personal Social Responsibility — rather than the jaded Corporate Social Responsibility. Many rued the fact that corporate India’s top-down approach wasn’t working, as it left many out in the cold. The anchor of the series, herself a B-school grad, was stunned by the response. Their first reaction was: “These are issues we would love to talk about. We are sick of giving bites on reservation and the highest placements in our college. Nobody ever asks us these questions.” Sadly, the media seldom asks the right questions.
Journalism trainees in the metros are dispatched to extract scoops from bureaucrats, politicians and corporate honchos, all with their own axe to grind. Subsequently, the latter have scant respect for the Fourth Estate, using them as a publicity organ. But the youth, they are a-changing. And the sooner the media reflects their true aspirations, the better.