What is the role of a journalist in society? Is it to simply report the facts or to provide opinions? Is it to prescribe solutions to problems or to champion and protect the rich and powerful? Or is it to expose the truth and challenge and critique those in power?
In a stirring discussion, moderated by Shereen Bhan, Anant Nath, James G. Wright and Nidhi Razdan discussed the relationship between the ‘Media and the Establishment’. Anant Nath is the Editor of The Caravan and the Executive Publisher of Delhi Press, India’s leading magazine publishing house. James G. Wright is an award-winning investigative journalist and currently a foreign correspondent based in Sarajevo with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. Nidhi Razdan is an award-winning journalist and author who has worked with NDTV for 20 years. Shereen Bhan is a senior business journalist and the Managing Editor of CNBC-TV18.
In the age of scandals and exposés, James G. Wright lamented the fact that we are in the ‘golden age of journalism but there’s no gold left’ and blamed the lack of support for true journalism, from both within and without the industry, on the new business models of media outlets, which favour advertisers over actual consumers of news as their main sources of revenue. Anant Nath added that the rise of direct communication between the powerful and the masses via the internet has made traditional media redundant. Nidhi Razdan remarked that ‘PM Modi wants to engage but on his own terms’. But she raised a more worrying trend: ‘When people agree that asking the government question makes you “anti-national” then we have a problem.’
Shereen Bhan explained how the media has now been repeatedly portrayed as the ‘enemy’ and the villain of the story, with Trump and other powerful leaders attacking opposing voices in the media, thereby creating a ‘crisis of confidence’ in the media in the eyes of the consumer. Anant Nath believed that it’s beneficial for the media to ‘ally with the establishment’ and that there are many in the media who even personally ‘agree with the present government’s views’ on several issues, and therefore do not oppose the industry-wide subservience towards the ruling establishment. Nath also reminded the panel that the establishment is not only the political, but that there are established powers in other spaces as well, including cricket and Bollywood.
But despite the overwhelming subjugation of voices critical of the establishment, Wright concluded this engrossing session on a guardedly optimistic note saying that he knew that people would once again choose the ‘most accurate news out there’. He felt that ultimately people will choose the right voices. Razdan and Nath were not so sure, and expressed concern about where the news industry was headed when common people were polarised and governments across the world intolerant of critique.