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Wed, 21 Aug 2019

Northeast Today

The Upscaling of Media Reception

The Upscaling of Media Reception
May 15
13:16 2019

Realizing the clamor of fake news, Suman Das discusses about the importance of media literacy among the people in today’s polarized environment.

 

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” – Joseph Goebbels

 

Joseph Goebbels might have served Hitler under the Nazi regime but he sure knew about the art of using media to spread fake news and propaganda. The role of media is to strike a balance between the ruler and the ruled because no democracy can survive without media.

Unfortunately, the fourth estate of our democracy is in shambles and with horrifying mortification it continues to do so. Media is supposed to be the guiding beacon for us but of late it has been feeding us either fake news, mis-informed or inaccurate facts, biased opinions, propagandas or manipulation. It has become a common trend to create a spicy content to garner audience which is generally wrapped in drama and delivered with message of hate and mistrust with an agenda to create hysteria amongst the masses.

For instance, it was barely a day after the deadly attack of Pulwama took place, when the media frenzy people and social media fanatics took it upon themselves to spread fake videos of the attack and the attacker on social media. Meanwhile, a few of the print and electronic media barons already declared war on Pakistan. With the elections round the corner, televised media used their platform to create a sense of nationalistic euphoria and would term anyone unpatriotic if they denounced war. Moreover, when the Surgical Strike 2.0 took place, they even got the exact number of people who were killed, what and how much explosives were used from their “sources” without any confirmation from the competent authority. And when this hyperbole was over, we had another set of news awaiting us with a special coverage followed by a debate on who’s going to be a better “chowkidar” of our nation and who can tweet more in a day. Of course we also have ancillary shows on either Taimur’s growth story or a celebrated Vicky Kaushal’s break up with his girlfriend!

This kind of unhealthy journalism, irrelevant and bogus coverage of news items and spread of disinformation can prove fatal to our democracy. With the general elections right around the corner, we shoulder the greatest responsibility we ever had since 1975 i.e. safeguarding our fundamental institutions from a potential breakdown if it falls into wrong hands. But it will not be possible without our fourth estate guiding us by asking the right questions and delivering us the accurate facts.

The evils plaguing our media are varied and they can range from dissemination of paid, biased or fake news, sticking to only sensationalistic coverage or poor and inaccurate coverage of important issues, spread of propaganda and manipulation and most importantly their failure to cover themselves.

We as the audience can easily fall prey to any of the above mentioned evils and as mentioned by Goebbels, start accepting the false news as true. If this dubious trend continues for a little while more, we might start losing faith in this esteemed institution. Yet, we should not give up and instead fight back by learning to be “Media Literate”.

In 1992, Aspen Media Literacy Leadership Institute came up with the definition of Media Literacy which was later expanded to the following:

“It is a 21st century approach to education. It provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.”

‘Media literacy’ is a term we use quite commonly in the 21st century. When we live in a world that’s connected globally we tend to send and receive information in a flash. Without a proper judgment we might fall prey to messages that can harm us as a civilization. Media literacy works by helping us to critically analyze facts, decode information, have an objective mindset keeping aside our own pre-conceived notion and come to a conclusion that is devoid of our biasness. It helps us to identify what we are receiving and what is the goal of the author who is imparting such information.

The goal here is to develop a critical thinking and give up our own prejudices regardless of our political affiliations and preferences. We cannot tame media or put restrictions on them or expect them to change as one can’t be lured off a lucrative profit making business but we can be smart enough to learn and teach our children how to detect irrelevant news. For example, if we want to know the authenticity of a particular news item we should go through 4-5 sources of the same news and figure what was left out of the story and why.

We need to learn to be vigilant all the time while soaking information. Often, in order to gather audience, newsrooms telecast or publish contents that try to evoke an emotional response from us or cause distress. Under such circumstances we should learn to question ourselves as to why a particular news is being hyped and what value are we gaining from them?

Media literacy is an exercise which should now be included even in school curriculums as well. One can’t be blind to the fact that our children aren’t open to the clutches of the evils of media. The up-scaling of audience reception can be possible only when we educate ourselves with media literacy.

 

(The author is a practicing advocate at the Gauhati High court. She has a strong voice in fighting the good war for justice and human rights. She admittedly is deeply in love with the Constitution of India!)

 

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