Blurred Lines: Bathtub Journalism v/s Responsible Reporting

On 25th of February 2018, India woke up to shock and disbelief at the unexpected news about the sudden demise of Sridevi, one of India’s most celebrated faces on the celluloid. While her untimely death in Dubai brought fans from across the world together to express their solidarity with her family, it also brought the world’s attention to sensationalism-craving practices of certain sections of the Indian media. Hours after the news of Sridevi’s death broke out, numerous journalists turned it into a grotesque circus of pathetic and insensitive reportage, which not only neglected important national issues but also overstepped its moral boundaries.

Journalism is a medium of collating, structuring and reporting information to the masses, so as to make them aware of the issues that directly or indirectly affect them. Unfortunately, the present state of Indian Journalism is heavily plagued with sensationalism and over-dramatization. Rather than making people analyze the larger issues, it focuses on an over-exaggerated, distorted and perverted version of the lesser issues.

Insensitive and irresponsible reporting
While the insensitive and exhaustive reporting on the demise of Sridevi has brought the content-hollowness in Indian media to the limelight, this deterioration has been happening since several years. A large number of journalists and media platforms seem to be interested in just grabbing TRPs, even if it is through distasteful and cringe-worthy headlines and coverage.

A glimpse at many Indian news channels would make you nostalgic about the days of crisp and concise reporting. Media nowadays often projects insignificant topics with sensational headlines as their main stories. Rather than highlighting issues that public must be informed about, like the farmer suicides, rapes, international crisis situations or economic upheavals, there are special hour-long episodes on national news channels about how ‘Simar’ efficiently reincarnated as a housefly!

Neglect of relevant issues
During the 72-hour nonstop reporting on Sridevi’s death, Indian media outlets reached an all-time low to what is popularly being termed in counter-opinions as ‘Bathtub Journalism’; all this, while several important issues were being utterly cornered. If you look at the timeline of Sridevi reportage, we were simultaneously witnessing the massive Syrian crisis, Indian GDP’s first major jump post demonetization, corruption allegations in a major competition exam of our country, allegations in INX Media scam, bombings in Tral (Jammu & Kashmir), etc, all of which were effectively sidelined by Indian media to the bottom-most panels of their screens or front pages. Some even neglected these affairs completely, giving the entire space to commemorating their beloved actress.

Summing it up
An increasingly large section of the Indian Media breathes, eats and feeds on sensationalism. The irresponsible reporting continues to give undue publicity to less-relevant issues. As a Public Relations agency, we sometimes find it hard to convince media professionals to consider relevant pieces of information. The very same slots are happily provided to paparazzi pictures of celebrity kids’ ‘cute smile’.

The Media is popularly termed as the ‘Fourth Pillar’ of Indian democracy. If it has been given such an honour, it must truly abide by the responsibilities that come with it. Perhaps, this is the time for us to get our priorities right.

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