Can they really change the world?

Posted: August 24, 2010 in Media
Tags: ,

There was this joke I heard about God some time back and it went something like this:
There was an old man sitting on his porch watching the rain fall. Pretty soon the water was coming over the porch and into the house. The old man was still sitting there when a rescue boat came and the people on board said, “You can’t stay here you have to come with us.”
The old man replied, “No, God will save me.” So the boat left. A little while later the water was up to the second floor, and another rescue boat came, and again told the old man he had to come with them.
The old man again replied, “God will save me.” So the boat left him again.
An hour later the water was up to the roof and a third rescue boat approached the old man, and tried to get him to come with them. Again the old man refused to leave stating that, “God will save him.” So the boat left him again.
Soon after, the man drowns and goes to heaven, and when he sees God he asks him, “Why didn’t you save me?”
God replied, “You dummy! I tried. I sent three boats after you!!”

While I would never put a journalist in His category, they face this predicament time and again. People expect them to ‘do’ everything and if things don’t get done, it’s because journalists are not doing their job. It’s bloody unfair. Why should the journalist carry the world’s burden and expectations on his or her shoulders?

I thought about this last night while chatting with a student on Facebook. She believed that it was the media’s duty to ‘change’ the world. My suggestion to all those kids who harbour this misconception is to join the priesthood, since they (as in priests) believe they have direct access to Him and we all know of His powers and what He can do when He takes it upon Himself. But as the joke proves, even He expects you get off your butt and DO something!

“You Press guys should do something” or “You Press guys don’t do anything!” I’ve heard these two comments for as long as I can remember, and I think these are really stupid assumptions. It’s NOT the journalist’s job to change the world or even attempt to. His or her job is to write about these issues and hope that somewhere along the way the people will bring about the change. A journalist is not a civic official, lawyer or policeman. It is their job to ensure that things get done and not the journalist’s. Yes, there are times that a journalist, out of his or her sense of duty, also goes to court. But that is the journalist’s prerogative and is not, as some people would have us believe, binding on them. Newspapers, time and again, highlight the corruption of politicians. So how is it that people continue to vote for these same politicians, every five years?

Let me cite a very small and common example from our daily lives. My local newspaper carries a picture, now and then, of some overflowing garbage dump somewhere in the city. By publishing the picture the newspaper expects the civic authorities to act and while pictures keep appearing and the civic authorities keep cleaning up, the garbage dumps continue to overflow.

I also sent a picture to a local newspaper, of a garbage dump strategically placed a few metres outside the housing complex where I stay, because I find the stench unbearable every time I walk past the dump. I am, like every other citizen, hoping that the picture will galvanise the authorities into cleaning up the place.

I realised after I sent the picture, that I had committed a mistake. The hard-working conservancy workers come there every morning with their brooms and diligently clean up the area around the garbage bin and put all the rubbish in the bin. A few hours later it’s back where it shouldn’t be – outside. Why? Because, people living in the area walk up to the bin with their garbage, and instead of throwing it inside, just dump it outside and walk away. So you see, the city does not need ten thousand more conservancy workers to keep this city clean. It needs people – the very people who complain that the “Press doesn’t do anything – to learn some basic civic sense.

  1. Amrita Paul says:

    Loved your blog Sir.For new-comers like us Media is a different world altogether,and because of this we tend to have a lot of preconceived notions about how this world actually functions.It might come across as a mental block but I wanted to ask you that if we are able to influence a few people out of the crowd….Don’t you think we can at least initiate a change??

  2. Sumeet says:

    A journalist’s job is to report without fear, favour or bias hoping that her story will mobilise public opinion and/or action. Period.

    Some journos, and most readers, do not recognise the difference between the words “journalist” and “activist”. Hence the confusion.

    Put it down to naiveté and ignorance.

  3. Amrita Paul says:

    Blaming someone before achieving anything would be sheer foolishness….Also I would never blame Journalists because God only knows what I would have done if I was in their position…

  4. mohansblog says:

    As Sumeet says you can be a journalist and report without fear or bias, or you can be an activist and believe you are doing this to change the world.

  5. Edwin says:

    There’s a reason why they’re called the fourth estate. They’re not expected to “fix” anything but call attention to things that need fixing.

    It’s a pity that journalism has become as slutty as it is today. Maybe it always was. There doesn’t seem to be a higher sense of mission, only agenda…(agendas?)

  6. How true!! Journalists are expected to do everything — write a report, take up the issue with an authority, if nothing is done even after writing it is THEY are blamed for not being responsible towards the society and people would just continue to dump garbage a yard away from your house !!

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