By Hardik Rajgor
With journalistic credibility at an all-time low, I now look at news channels the same way my parents look at my career – with zero expectations.
When Cobrapost sting operation revealed that media houses took money to push certain kinds of news stories and agendas, I was both shocked and happy. I was shocked that I found it shocking as if it was a new discovery that there was paid news. I was happy to learn that the nationís leading journalists didnít genuinely believe in the merit of covering Yogiís hair stylist and Modiís diet. They were simply paid to do those stories. Today, breaking news not just a TV phrase, itís more of an accurate description of the wanton demolition of journalistic principles. Knowing all of this, will I stop watching the news?
You see, I no longer watch the news to learn about the latest global happenings. Facebook and Twitter memes cover that. I know Iím not likely to come across a rational, informed debate on a subject that concerns me. If custodians of my tax money are throwing around chairs in Parliament in the guise of debate, I have no expectations from ABP News. However, I do expect their amazing VFX team to recreate Srideviís death in a bathtub. I now look at news channels the same way my parents look at my career Ė with zero expectations.
Iíve decided to watch the news for the same reason I watched The Dirty Picture Ė entertainment, entertainment, entertainment. Following debates on TV is a lot like watching WWE. It feels like itís real, the talking heads all hate each other, but the entire thing is scripted, and theyíre basically just playing characters. Make no mistake, it is not easy to play a character. Ask Shraddha Kapoor.
Even though you know how the whole thing will play out, itís still fun to watch. Itís like watching a Formula One crash, itís a terrible event but you canít look away. I tune in every night and ask myself, ďWill Arnab finally break the decibel scale today? Will he pay to have missiles fired at Pakistan? Will Aaj Tak recreate the Royal Wedding using Lego? Will Sudhir Chaudhary do a segment about sexting on Kimbho? Will ABP News interview Arbaaz Khan in relation to the French Open?Ē
We consume news all day now, browsing through Facebook feeds or with trending hashtags.
As I started watching the news for comedy, I realized I was using comedy to get my news. Kunal Kamraís interviews seemed to be more fun, informative, and frank than Frankly Speaking, where hard-hitting questions like ďWas the speech impromptu?Ē are asked to the Prime Minister. Newslaundry used satire to get me interested in Parliamentary procedures, something I detested during Civics class in school. Many channels on YouTube are now using incredible animations, statistics, and simple analogies to explain complex issues, from Keynesian economics to getting more Tinder matches.
The media landscape has grown tremendously, like the education system in India, and news sources arenít just restricted to newspaper and television. Social media, digital publications, and mobile have changed the game. We now have more news platform options than MDH has masala flavors.
Our engagement with the news is no longer by appointment, like the old days, where you wake up and read the newspaper with a cup of tea and watch headlines on TV at night for 15 minutes on Doordarshan. We consume news all day now, browsing through Facebook feeds or with trending hashtags. We get news in the form of memes, GIFs, videos, and text. Youíre in the train and thereíll be a notification informing you what Taimur Ali Khan is up to that day. ďOh, he called his father abba, how cuteĒ.
The more choices you have, the better position youíre in to make informed and rational choices. If I want football news, Iíll follow the Sky Sports channel on YouTube. If I want to know about international elections, Iíll check what John Oliver is up to. If I want to know a film review with funny doodles, Iíll go to Twitter. And if I want to know when aliens are going to takeover the world, Iíll tune in to India TV. Like restaurants specialize in different types of cuisine, I have figured out where to go when I crave a certain type of news.
Has the media lost credibility? Itís the question being asked everywhere these days, whether it is on debate panels, newspapers, radio, TV and social media.
Maybe, maybe not.
But I think the relevant question that no oneís asking is, ďWhat is the potential of news entertainment?Ē, a new category that combines elements of news with hardcore entertainment. Theyíve already got the prime-time slots, and the actors-sorry-anchors well versed in the art of histrionics. Iíd say that kind of potential is unlimited.
Bring it on.
Hardik Rajgor is an author at Arre.
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