When he is not writing a book or collecting art and new world wine or rare Japanese malts or, for that matter fragrances, candles, paper, pencils, shirts and soaps, Swapan Seth runs Equus, an advertising firm.
Journalism in Jeopardy
I believe our journalism is in jeopardy (barring a few exceptions in print).
That is particularly true of television.
What made television unwatchable?
I think television has lost track of its basic purpose in society.
Television was meant to be the seat of discourse.
Today it is nothing but the saddle of recourse.
Every evening, it is an arena of agendas, the nest of the noisy and a place where sharp thought has been replaced by shrill shrapnel.
From a game of chess, television has morphed into a bullfight every evening.
By noon you can predict the trot of the 9 o’clock timeline.
You know which cudgels will be picked up. By which channel. And by who on those channels. You know the plot, you know the characters. It makes for very boring viewing.
I fear ours may well be the last generation that will watch the news hour.
There is nothing stimulating about the conversations that take place. No takeaways for tomorrow’s generation. No cerebral leave behinds for the day.
They say the legacy you lead is the legacy you leave.
What kind of legacy does television lead and leave?
How often, if ever, does one switch off the television feeling exhilarated by an exchange?
More often than not, one is exhausted.
Exhausted by the sheer absence of objectivity or oratory.
Funnily enough, we have some rather fine minds that are invited to the news hour.
What surprises me is how they leave both their intellect and integrity on the doormat of the studio before entering it.
It makes you even more worried.
Is the shrillness of their voices and rudeness of their demeanour, the ultimate evening walk of their minds?
Is this what went to Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and Princeton?
And the other thing that saddens me is the rank pessimism that permeates throughout television at that hour.
If Gekko lived by the credo “greed is good”, I think television’s motto is “grave is good”.
We cherry-pick catastrophe. We chase conspiracies. We stalk sorrow.
And then we make mindless mountains of it.
It saddens me when people tell me that this is what the audience wants.
No, sir, they don’t.
No one wants to be reminded night after night how pitiful our country and its people are.
No one wants to sleep with a problem.
Because there is no discourse, there are no solutions.
It is in the interest of all to make the problem pregnant and not deliver the solution.
That sadly is true not just of journalism any more.
It is true of our thinking as a society.
We are weighed down by an uninspired spirit.
So what then is the solution?
A pressing need to painstakingly evaluate. Than to prematurely judge.
To patiently probe rather than carelessly conclude.
And this can come about only when we alter the course and the cast.
Where we welcome into the discourse people with a perspective that is not coloured.
Where we can replace constant consternation with a measured conversation.
Where we bring more placid perspectives to the table.
A younger mindset.
That is television journalism’s only chance.
That is our only chance.