Media as amplifiers during elections amid deepening disconnect

BJP election rally

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Media coverage of Lok Sabha elections strikes discordant notes

By Manish Anand

New Delhi, April 23: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on an ‘interview-giving’ hopping spree. He has gone regional in giving interviews. His sherpas engage the national television channels.

The Opposition leading lights evidently are struggling to grab the ‘interview space’ in the media. The print and the digital media too have come under the spell of the television to go chasing the political leaders for interviews.

A regional digital media platform last week amplified a short video of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, K. Annamalai, refusing to give an interview to its reporter.

Indeed, it’s the prerogative of the political leaders to decide who they wish to give interviews to and when. Also, the media exercises its discretion in interviewing the political actors.

The idea of interviewing political actors is essentially to confront them with the people’s issues. This will amount for an argumentative conversation.

Also read: Punjab Speaks: Deepening divide between politics and people

But now the idea of interview is exemplified by the US broadcaster Tucker Carlson. His interview with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin lasted more than two hours. During long sermonising answers, Carlson looked tired and fatigued.

The Putin Interview template is now a new normal. Journalists sit happy in front of political leaders that they have been given the “largess” of interviews. The job is done. Media outlet owners will be happy. They know that none expect them to interrupt the political leaders in their ‘essay form’ answers.

This partaking in the convenient journey of journalism with political actors may be annoying to many. The people look upon the media to show appetite for ground reporting, at least in times of elections.

Also read: Debating turning points of Indian politics amid Lok Sabha elections 

Indeed, ground reporting, to give space to the people’s issues, may be boring to a certain set of audiences. They may not trend on the social media platforms.

But the onus is on editors to lead from the front. Journalism gains from editors who tell their reporters, “I don’t expect you to waste your time in chasing political leaders while you go to cover elections; I want you to chase the people.”

But such tribe of editors is now facing extinction. The new-age editors show more appetite for ‘show-business’. They somehow fell for trap with thoughts that amplifying political leaders in times of elections will help them make relations which afterwards will help in getting ‘works done’. It works in miniscule cases, and the rest soon find that they have been forgotten.

Also read: Missing desirable discourse in Lok Sabha elections 

There is a growing population of single women in the country. Will this ever find dissection by the media? Will the political leaders work out a roadmap for an ecosystem that addresses concerns of single women?

Elections are also occasions when the media test the reality of the slogans aired 24X7 by the political actors. The Ghazipur landfill site on the outskirt of the national capital once more caught fire as part of an annual ritual in summer.

Even states such as Punjab are without appropriate capacities for foodgrains. But the action plan for enhancing storage capacities is unveiled by each government, almost as an annual feature.

Chasing such stories may get sun-burn. But those who chase such stories are now legends. The people quote them in their discussions.

Memories may fail to recollect names of journalists who interviewed the prime minister so far in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Mark Tully and Satish Jacob are still etched in popular memories for their connect with the people during elections.

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