Confessions of a Media Student

11 Dec

By : Shehnaz

I once strongly believed in my choice to be a media professional. I considered being a journalist as the next best profession, after that of teaching of course. Journalism was the second most creative, socially proactive and noble profession there is. I always pictured myself wielding my pen as my mouthpiece. Despite condescending glances from my relatives, who always found humor in questioning my exaggerated ambitions, I decided to enroll for a professional journalism course.

But my perceptions of the media field were almost maimed when we attended a seminar given by an associate producer of TV9 channel based in Bangalore. He said that the present media worked with absolutely no ethics whatsoever. We had to dump our ethics in turn for commercial success. Everyday content was produced based on made up stories, or disproportionately portrayed plots. You probably wouldn’t hear this from any other media student, but this is exactly how it was. I remember he was bombarded with many questions regarding his statements by many bewildered students. He just gave us a straight face and shrugged.

Social Misinformation?

When you watch or read the news, what do you expect to learn? The straight facts and the figures of an event need to be presented to you so that you may not become socially misinformed. What if I told you that prominent news sources purposely work at keeping you misinformed? And even worse, what if you don’t care about being misinformed? Your ignorance could cause you to make baseless decisions. These decisions could affect many helpless people. The media works day and night to give you biased information, to manipulate your thinking and to numb your sense of rationality.

I passed on from my Bachelors course to my Masters course under a University based in the UK. As part of my course, I had to read textbooks and journal articles. I was surprised at the amount of scholars who quite blatantly ridiculed the media for partially presenting news. I was never aware of a phenomenon like this! Concepts like ‘cultural industries’, ‘representation’, ‘hegemony’ sprang up every now and then. It was overwhelming and saddening. But it was true and the sooner I’d learnt to face the facts, the sooner I could find ways to solve my internal conflicts. Apparently, the glorious days of ‘wielding the pen’ and ‘noble professionalism’ had to be put behind me.

The Tapeworm

Concurrently, I was also awed by the power of the media. I had never imagined that the field I had chosen had so much dominance over our lives and thinking. Over the decades, the media had conveniently crept into our homes, into our bodies and perceptions. We were so unsuspecting that these changes were hardly noticed, yet they grew stronger over time. It sucked out our consciences. It changed our outlook on beauty and wealth. It infested our brains with an unquenchable thirst for ‘the lifestyle’; we were running around making the right lifestyle which we are so afraid to lose. It makes us bound in ourselves. But shouldn’t we notice and cure this cancer before it is already manifested entirely and irreversibly?   

The thing about the media industry is that it is tightly intertwined. The views of the agenda of one channel are mostly repeated and reiterated in another till it seems like the truth. It changes us drastically. It feeds our children with indoctrination and stereotypes. It aims at reducing us to audience figures (like TRP ratings) for advertisers and compliant citizens for the alleged champions of modernization. It erases our individuality and tries to can us into the same molds. And these functions, it fiercely and unrelentingly performs. Some of the professionals are fully aware; some others have the slightest idea or concern.

Social Networking

As a normal social human, I would suggest that we take the media a little more seriously, especially the news. We should never take anything that comes in our news channels at face value. I recently saw a post circulating in Facebook which read: “Whenever there’s a big story in the media, look for the story they are trying to distract you from”. This puts the entire problem concisely. The media, instead of trying to bring your attention to something important, oftentimes tries to distract you from it.

Smaller, lesser organized media like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube (though very notorious for their un-credited sources) have more chances of bringing out the undercurrents of a big event. The social media are instrumental in bringing out the voices of the suppressed, those people who need big campaigns for real causes. There are pages and groups who are incessantly trying to bring back reason and ideals into our lives. They are trying to wash down our prejudices, and ask us challenging questions. Sometimes, I feel that social media makes us more sensible, IF AND ONLY IF we are following the right posts. Otherwise, it is nothing less than fool’s gold, really.

Boon or Bane?

The debates still carry on endlessly. Is technology good or bad? Is the media good or bad? Are the advertisements good or bad? Is social networking good or bad? I say stop debating for diametrical positions, because time is running out. We keep debating over something till it turns absolutely bad. The media is like milk. The fresher it is, the better it is. It has the uncanny ability to spoil very quickly. Like the social media, make the best use of it till it turns out to be another one of the enemy’s stooges.

Look into yourselves for the good or bad, not in things around yourself. Remember those tiny lessons your parents or guardians taught you about good and bad. Maybe the snippets of life’s important lessons your teachers accidentally taught you. This is what will make the difference. I speak these words of wisdom not as a seasoned media professional (which I am not!), but as a seasoned media consumer, and a not-so-novice media student. Four and a half years of media studies have rendered me to be less naive than I was before it.

 

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