Friday, August 03, 2007

From "Mass Media" to "Mass Reality"

The title of this post is plagiarised from an article by P Sainath, who, earlier this week, became another Indian to win Ramon Magsaysay Award. The award to this developmental jounalist was given for "passionate commitment as a journalist to restore the rural poor to India's consciousness, moving the nation to action."

...for reminding his audience that, in their ignorance, they may actually be becoming "Nero's Guests"

Here are some quotes from his various writings, which give a glimpse into the mind that made this transition from "mass media" to "mass reality"


  • "By official estimates, over one lakh farmers have taken their lives in the last 10 years. Not a single person has been punished for it. There have been lots of relief packages, but more packaging than relief. What sort of human beings and reporters would we be to stay silent, throw in the towel?"

  • "As for the media, there is a great and urgent need for introspection. The failure of journalism was far more predictable than the poll results. For years now, the media have stopped talking to ordinary people. How on earth can they tell their readers and viewers what is going on? There are 400-plus journalists to cover Lakme India Fashion Week. Almost none to cover the agricultural crisis in any informed way. The labour and agriculture beats in newspapers are almost extinct. The media have decided that 70 per cent of the population does not make news. The electorate has decided otherwise."

  • "Embedded journalism is a state of the mind. You don’t have to be travelling with an army to be an embedded journalist. Between 1965 and 1975, there were 5,000 American journalists in Saigon, and they still didn’t get the story right. Not one of these unembedded guys managed to tell the true story of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident for about a decade. So ‘embeddedness’ is a state of mind, you can sit right next to your PC in your office in Oklahoma or wherever and be an embedded journalist.... that it is possible to have the world’s largest media and the world’s least informed public.

  • "In war, the hypocrisy of media sometimes stands naked, so we are all ready to condemn and criticize. However, the same media does that and much worse during peace as well. It does so when it covers the WTO, when it covers the disputes over economics, when it covers markets and market fundamentalism and neoliberal ideologies, when it covers so-called “success stories."

  • "...however much I might support... alternative media experiments, I am not willing to give up my space in the mainstream media. I think that has got to be liberated from the embedded hierarchies of neocolonialism. And to liberate the media from the embedded structures of the global conglomerates, we need public action. We need to assert that public space has to be respected in the private fora, we need to assert that public interest must prevail over private profit, I think we have to recover the public space that the conglomerates have taken over in the media. If you cannot stop the march of monopoly, you will find it very difficult to liberate yourself from embedded propaganda."

  • "...I can't be speaking in the voice of the masses, the people have their own voice. What I can do is talk to peasants and workers and let you know what those conversations are like, and ask if you want to listen. I'm looking at the human condition in this society and telling it the way I see it."

P Sainath's Writing on India Together
And if you can get hold of his book "Everybody Loves a Good Drought", don't miss it!

4 comments:

Santhosh said...

He has been covering the Vidharba suicides, especially the state-govt scheme to provide high yield cows to poor farmers:

http://www.hindu.com/2006/11/23/stories/2006112305660900.htm

And the quote on embedded journalism - quite true not just with the Vietnam war, but even the recent Iraq War!

bhupinder said...

Thanks for the excellent selection of the quotes. I particularly liked this one:
"that it is possible to have the world’s largest media and the world’s least informed public."

gaddeswarup said...

I admire Sainath and as the Magsaysay citation said "the board of trustees recognizes his passionate commitment as a journalist to restore the rural poor to India's consciousness, moving the nation to action." But I have been wondering whether somebody like Glenn Davis Stone provides a more nuanced presentation of farmers' problems.

Madhukar said...

you are right, Prof,
from whatever little I have read of Glenn Davis Stone, he is certainly more nuanced and thorough.

Sainath's contribution, as a jounalist, has been to inform a wider segment, and mobilise action and policies... which Glenn Davis' work would not be able to do