Hafta Letters: On media and the climate crisis
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Hafta Letters: On media and the climate crisis

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :

Dear Abhinandan,

It’s been a while since I wrote to you about feedback on topics discussed on Hafta. I write today on a subject that’s bothered me in the past. As a journalist myself, I sometimes get weighed down by the fact that the news media industry’s quality is thinning away.

That’s the sense I got from what Madhu said this past week on Hafta. Good, in-depth, informative journalism seems to be lacking at most news media houses. As you would say, it’s the business model that is built on advertisers that’s to blame. Fair enough. But I take issue with Madhu when she says that there is NO GOOD JOURNALISM.

I would like to point out to some of the work being done at Quint and HuffPo India. I know it’s not coming up to her standards at Newstrack, but they are getting there. Sometimes, being a media critique show, Hafta does get ahead of itself and only focuses on the worst excesses of the mainstream news media.

Pardon the usage, but just because things are completely fucked, one shouldn’t paint the picture as so pathetic that people get depressed. I speak to people who get the sense that all news media is compromised. That makes them go into a shell and turn completely ignorant about the world. I would point to your example of how the gentleman who you met in a flight didn’t know anything that was happening in the world other than his own business. I would hazard a guess that this sense that news doesn’t matter anymore pushes people to accept complete ignorance.

There are people doing good journalism online. Things will eventually stabilise and people would be able to judge as to which was a good story and which wasn’t. I would hope Hafta would also strive to point out which publications met the smell test of good journalism every week.

Maybe you could make it a part of your recommendations each week. I don’t really know how that works. As an aside, if things weren’t so bad, the market need for a product like Newslaundry wouldn’t exist. Most of your subscribers come to you for that. I don’t think they should feel that the little they are doing to sustain good journalism doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. Don’t lie to your subscribers by treating them with kid gloves by not giving them the true picture of the news media space.

However, at least try to point them towards folks doing meaningful journalism at the same time. I don’t know the answer to this predicament, hence I like writing to you to seek the answers. Hope you have a great Diwali.

Regards,

Vivek Ananth

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Hi NL Team,

I’m a young grad student studying AI in Germany. Continuing the Climate Change debate, I wanted to contextualize Indian journalism in this regard.

I’ve listened to you guys lament the slow death of mainstream journalism for a while, but I find it surprising you haven’t managed to integrate quality climate reporting as a regular beat. Listening to someone like P Sainath and the kind of work he’s done for People’s Archive for Rural India is a good counterpoint to this. Eg – It’s raining sand in Rayalaseema

And this makes me wonder whether good journalism is just about having enough skin in the game. Rural India – all the 800 million people in it – will be among the hardest-hit places on planet earth, and we can already see signs of that happening; doing good stories from this diverse countryside can only happen through pure grit. (Although I would also grant that Sainath is one of the greatest living journalists, so it’s difficult standard to match.)

If I had to bring the discussion to a global level, the same problems persist. As someone who interacts with young academics on a daily basis, not a single day goes by where we do not worry about this existential threat. Yet when I speak to older people in Berlin, they are more educated but equally nihilistic as the Indian oldies. Climate Change isn’t something they will have to deal with in their lifetimes.

This entire ordeal – along with a complete hijack/polarization of the discussion thanks to mainstream media’s deification of Greta Thunberg – makes you pessimistic about the coming years and I wonder how the post-2010 generation will deal with this.

Interested to know your thoughts on this from a publisher’s perspective and from a moral perspective.

Cheers,

Raunak Agarwal

PS – I would recommend all of you to flip through ‘Manufacturing Consent‘ by Noam Chomsky if you’re interested in reading about media’s role in narrative-building.

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