Has journalism lost it?

The way ordinary people consume and interact with media is light years removed from two decades ago. This shift has been so massive that all of us are still grappling with understanding it. We have never had a media landscape like this. There is a very vocal left-wing media machine that has proven to be every bit more effective than the mainstream media.

Now there is an emergence of a right-wing media machine, as effective as the left-wing media machine or even the mainstream media. What the emerging right-wing media machine lacks in terms of its effectiveness, it is attempting to make up for it through the social media. The general public has never been networked the way we are now. Unfortunately, however, both, the left-wing as well as the right-wing media machines, are building the sculptures of Networked Disinformation. The mainstream media is sitting outside of the arena where these ugly bouts are taking place.

Let us acknowledge that there have been mass media layoffs. Uncompromising media outfits have shuttered, leaving dozens of upright journalists without jobs. Reporters-on-rolls and editors have vacillated between feeling extremely energized and extremely demoralized in such circumstances. Unstable job environments have become the norm, and unfortunately, those who have stayed back in journalism have confused average for acceptable. There are now “full-time freelance” positions in journalism.

Editorial teams are shrinking, workers are forced to accept lower rates (due to increase in competition), and they are bearing the psychological impact of repeated layoffs as they navigate financial insecurity.

Journalists and reporters are constantly in a state of stress and scarcity; they are constantly working too much and fearing that it is still too little. They don’t know how they are going to pay rent, and if they do, they can never be sure the checks are going to come in on time. Health insurance is either a luxury or a distant dream; and getting sick is not an option.

The distinctions between regular, freelance, contract and outsourced labour is increasingly porous. The press and publication houses are unionising but the unions of their employees are nearly defunct.

Is journalism a vocation, profession, business or an errand? With confusion getting compounded, the losses of talent, freedom, standards and ethics are a natural corollary.

(First published 22 April 2020)


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Published by

Mukul Gupta

*Educator, researcher, author and a friendly contrarian* Professor@MDIGurgaon

One thought on “Has journalism lost it?”

  1. To my mind, the confusion is misplaced, things are quite settled. Journalism is as much business as media. Objective, honest, upright people didn’t fit in here and have been dumped aside. The content has to be in sync with business interests, so it is. Reported hold of the Chinese on mainstream Indian and US media is the latest case in point.


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