Reporting in an Era of Conflict and Polarization

Reporting in an Era of Conflict and Polarization

As the world is increasingly off balance – especially politically and economically- and as conflicts assume different shapes and avatars, a sharp paradox defines the vocation of reporting and journalism: it assumes more salience and importance and yet it is perilous.  Be it the United States under Trump or India under Modi, journalism is caught in the crucible of polarities and antinomies. At another level, the nature of our conflict ridden world, and reporting from conflict or even grey zones, renders journalism dangerous. This is also an era that is characterized by the proliferation of media outlets, sources and houses. In this cacophony and plethora of news outlets—print and visual—determining the veracity of news is difficult. The “fuzziness” that ensues has been milked and exploited by Donald Trump and Co. with attempts to denigrate news from even creditable and reputed institutions as “fake news”. Overlaying these trends is the “corporatization” of news houses in the sense of being taken over by Corporations whose basic remit is to shareholders than public interest and/or public good. This makes news or the slant to news more attuned and sensitive to the bottom line. Given the value of news and its slant to the political class, mega corporations are then able to piggyback on the news houses they own and extract benefits from the political class or even governments. Narrative matters and whose narrative comes out in the public domain matters even more; it can make or make the fortunes of governments and the political class. The hazy portrait of the news landscape that emerges, given all these factors, renders more salient and significant the need for accurate, honest, credible news and reportage. This has a special resonance for/in conflict zones where the competition for narrative is more intense. In this broad schema, the tools available to powers that be are both overt and subtle. Overtly, threats and sanctions are employed to news houses to construct a narrative that is palatable to powers. Or, other subtle measures are employed. All in all the proliferation of media outlets and the availability of real time news platforms would suggest that the “burden” of reporting and journalism would have come down and both become easier in the process. But, in a polarized, conflict ridden and conflictual world, and corporatization of news houses, the task has become more intense and difficult. Amidst these conditions, the need for honest, credible, and truthful journalism and reportage has never been greater— dangers and risks notwithstanding.

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