Speaking at the session on 'Can Activist Media be Responsible?' at the CII National Conference and Annual Session 2014 here on Thursday, Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Indian Express and the Express Group of Publications Citing some examples, "Journalism is a profession of patience, of scrutiny to arrive at the truth, not activism.
"Activist media is irresponsible media, which must be avoided. The stress should be on being 'active' to get to the bottom of the story, verify it and then put it out for public consumption," Gupta said.
Talking at the same forum, Aroon Purie, Founding Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, The India Today Group said, "there is 'good' journalism and 'bad' journalism and that journalists should not worry about the consequences of their stories – if it leads to some positive consequence or activism, that should be a by-product, but "not the agenda." Activism, he emphasized, should be completely separated from media."
Adding a spin to the discussion, Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, IBN News Network, added "there is a difference between 'activist' journalism and 'supari' journalism, which is an agenda-driven from of journalism designed to go for the 'kill'. He said while he had no issues with 'activist' journalism, 'supari' journalism was totally unacceptable to him."
While the lively discussion on the definition of 'activist' journalism continued, Jawahar Sircar, CEO, Prasar Bharti said, " what one needed to establish was how 'capable' media was of being 'responsible' given the various pulls and pressures that it was subjected to. Its degree of capability would determine to a large extent the degree of 'responsibility' that it could display."
Speaking on the pulls and pressures that media houses are subjected to, the panelists spoke of the changing face of media owners, where several people or organizations with deep pockets often entered the media business to acquire 'voice' and 'clout', and push their own agenda. In such cases, the definition of 'responsibility' became ambiguous.
However, Aroon Purie felt that, by and large, mainstream media (as opposed to that owned by fly-by-night operators) was 'responsible' as was often seen in examples such as the coverage of sensitive issues like sectarian violence where names of communities are not mentioned.
However, they all agreed that there was a pressing need to focus on the quality of journalism and journalists and mentor and groom young journalists to practice the profession as it was meant to be, with a focus on verifying the truth, even in the current scenario of stiff competition and the rush to be the first out with the news.
The panelists were of the opinion that editorial interventions and the role of the editor acquired greater importance in today's world of social media and citizen journalists, where unverified news sometimes fanned rumours, often with disastrous consequences.
Striking a positive note at the end of the session, Rajdeep Sardesai stated, while the need of the hour is better quality media and the challenge is how to build it, he remains optimistic about the media and the role it plays.