Specials

Guest Column: The new gods of digital newsrooms

http://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/drupal7.indiantelevision.co.in/files/styles/smartcrop_800x800/public/images/tv-images/2016/12/29/digital-newsrooms.jpg?itok=cYSzUAMe

Modern journalism began in the early 1600s, triggered, as any new vocation or market usually is, by technology, ie, the invention of the printing press. At first, a very crude community narrow-sheet was born, which was circulated to a few households in the vicinity. It took almost a hundred years of slow evolution for today’s broadsheet daily to acquire shape, with a large distribution footprint, photographs and advertising. It took another century for the next innovation in news journalism, the birth of radio broadcasting. But evolution was quicker after that, with television news appearing just a few decades after radio.

Nearly 400 years later, around 1990, internet news disrupted the whole landscape. And that was a seminal turning point for mainstream journalism.

Technology only changes the practices, never the principles of any established vocation – this was the irrefutable wisdom until the Internet turned a million axioms on their heads. Simply put, the principles of journalism – who, what, why, where, when, how, integrity of facts, stringent adherence to the truth, always giving the right of response to the accused/aggrieved – remained inviolable, even as the dissemination medium changed from ink on paper to sound on analogue waves to sound with moving pictures on electronic satellite signals. Technology could never change the principles, only the methods and practices, of telling a news story.

But the Internet did the unthinkable, forcing mainstream journalism to modify its principles. I like to describe the pre-digital era of news as “the voice of God journalism” – the Gods, of course, were the all powerful editors. Since I won my editorial spurs in that bygone era, I too belong to that Tribe of Gods, where every morning, a bunch of stiff guys would troop into the conference room, with pencils and notepads, and decide the order of news stories for the day. It was such a unilateral exercise! “Let’s lead with Gandhi, then do that parliament debate … and just stuff a bit of sports and movies towards the end”. Done. The viewer was a complete “outsider”, her interests were peripheral, because “Gods” had the divine right to mandate the run order of news stories.    

I grope for the correct adjective here. Archaic? Anathema? Anachronistic? Absurd? Perhaps all four of these, and a billion more, could be justifiably used if “the voice of God journalism” were to invade and dominate a digital newsroom today. Why? Because a digital newsroom is not a unilateral, linear, one way transmission of stories. In the nanosecond after you publish anything, readers and viewers pounce at it with their likes, hates, shares, comments, denials, corrections, updates, meme tweaks on WhatsApp, cartoon caricatures on Instagram, vociferous protests, loud applause etc etc etc … an intelligent or distasteful cacophony gets lit, and you have to respond to it, agree with it, deny it, debunk it, decorate it, ie do something, anything with it or to it, but you simply can’t ignore it. Because if you choose to be the unmoved, stoic, non-responsive “Godly” editor of the early 90s, you will be out of a job. Pronto.

Let me illustrate with a simple choice that we had to make the other day. We were dealing with two big “demonetization stories” – one was a rather complex unraveling of the tax rules enshrined in the new Income Disclosure Scheme, wherein you would have to pay X% tax/penalty if illegal cash was deposited by Y date; and if you failed to do that, you would be liable for Z additional penalties. The other was a heart rending story of a 75-year old woman, the youngest sister of five brothers.

For the last 50 years, she had kept 250 precious envelopes in her safe, containing cash given to her on bhai dooj. In her world view, that cash was a sacred gift from her brothers, not to be ever spent. Her heart was broken when her son forced her to open each envelope, take out nearly Rs 1.50 lac in notes of various denominations, and deposit them in banks. Her faith was rattled, shaken. What an astonishing human story, capturing the unusual pathos that demonetization has inflicted on ordinary people. In the unilateral, Godly days of yore, the tax rules would have played upfront, while the human interest story would be tucked towards the end, to be soon forgotten. But in today’s digital newsrooms, the story of this rudely disenfranchised 75-year-old woman would gain unrelenting velocity on social media, would whiz around cyber space, getting Facebooked, WhatsApped and Instagrammed, touching the hearts of a million people, instigating thousands of comments/shares/likes.

No God could stem the viral force of this venerable lady’s touching story, which would simply obliterate the dry prose of tax rules, and reign supreme in the world of digital news.   

public://unnamed_2.jpg The author is the co-founder and chairman of Quintillion Media, including BloombergQuint. He is the author of two books, viz ‘Superpower?: The Amazing Race Between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise’, and ‘Super Economies: America, India, China & The Future Of The World’. The views expressed are personal and Indiantelevision.com need not necessarily subscribe to them

Latest Reads

http://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/drupal7.indiantelevision.co.in/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2017/12/06/rajiv.jpg?itok=_XjLJGEq
Govt extends support to M&E sector in fighting digital piracy

NEW DELHI: The government of India yesterday stressed that it stood alongside the media and entertainment (M&E) industry in fighting digital piracy to safeguard loss of revenue and ease norms for doing business, while CII entertainment committee head and Viacom18 group CEO Sudhanshu Vats.

Specials Event Coverage Occasions
http://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/drupal7.indiantelevision.co.in/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2017/12/05/Media%20and%20Entertainment%20Industry.jpg?itok=MnCSdBVE
M&E industry to hit Rs8 trillion revenue by 2022: report

According to a report published by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), India’s media and entertainment (M&E) industry is expected to reach revenue of Rs7.5-8 trillion by 2022 from an estimated Rs4.5 trillion in 2017. Over the next five years, the industry...

Specials Event Coverage Occasions
http://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/drupal7.indiantelevision.co.in/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2017/12/01/atf_0.jpg?itok=tdmv_6Vr
ATF’s first Animation Pitch announces winners

MUMBAI: As the Asia TV Forum (ATF) draws to a close today. The event saw several activities such as an exciting round of on-stage pitches where producers from all over Asia presented their ideas, the winners of the inaugural Asia TV Forum & Market (ATF) Animation Pitch and the unveiling of the...

Specials Event Coverage ASIA TV FORUM
http://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/drupal7.indiantelevision.co.in/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2017/11/28/ATF800.jpg?itok=7d6mb_hu
Indian OTTs to be in focus on day 2 of ATF

MUMBAI: Singapore-based Reed Exhibitions’ Asia TV Forum (ATF) will commence today with 60 countries taking part. The first day will see sessions based on content, advertising and the evolution of storytelling and digital traditions and innovation Ninety thought leaders will deliver fresh insights...

Specials Event Coverage ASIA TV FORUM
http://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/drupal7.indiantelevision.co.in/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2017/11/25/Kriss_Barker.jpg?itok=vVWGtO0T
'It is criminal for TV not to think of social change' - PMC's Kriss Barker

For most programming executives and managements in TV companies today, television is all about running on a treadmill chasing ratings, viewership, and the concomitant revenues, followed by the next bonus and promotion. Every trick in the creative book and outside it is resorted to keep the...

Specials Event Coverage Occasions
http://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/drupal7.indiantelevision.co.in/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2017/11/23/atf.jpg?itok=Pv-14Qq8
ATF 2017 attracts Indian content studios, both big and small

MUMBAI: Singapore-based Reed Exhibitions’ Asia TV Forum (ATF) is round the corner and the buzz around the event only seems to be ramping up. This year, the forum will see around 60 countries from all over the globe. From 28 November to 1 December 2017, more than 90 thought leaders will deliver...

Specials Event Coverage ASIA TV FORUM
http://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/drupal7.indiantelevision.co.in/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2017/11/22/atf.jpg?itok=J8JpuLp1
Singapore's ATF 2017 promises more than ever

Reed Exhibitions’ Asia Television Forum (ATF) is back. And Asia’s leading content market cum conference which brings together Asia’s broadcasters, digital platforms, distributors, studios, content creators to strike deals amongst each other and other international buyers and sellers from ---...

Specials Event Coverage ASIA TV FORUM
http://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/drupal7.indiantelevision.co.in/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2017/11/13/MIPCOM800.jpg?itok=G89xfoU-
MIPCOM 2017 - Content Really is King!

Eye-opening, international, new content for multi-platform that fully embraced digital and VR were my key takeaways from MIPCOM 2017. The world may be going digital but content will always be king!

Specials Event Coverage Mipcom
http://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/drupal7.indiantelevision.co.in/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2017/10/16/Chhota%20Bheem_0.jpg?itok=ehNRJugd
Chhota Bheem becomes Mighty with Netflix

CANNES: The studio behind the popular animated show Chhota Bheem, Green Gold Animation has been commissioned by Netflix to make an exclusive 13-episode series on its trademark show. Paradoxically titled Mighty Little Bheem, the series is set to be released in August 2018. Each episode of Mighty...

Specials Event Coverage Mipcom

Latest News

Load More

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories