It was a packed year for the media. From assembly polls in seven states, the election of the president and vice-president, the churn in the opposition space in Bihar and Maharashtra, to extreme weather events, significant verdicts such as the one on EWS quota, India’s G-20 presidency, the boundary standoff, and Neeraj Chopra’s javelin gold medal – many events dominated the news cycle, some more than others.
The media landscape, meanwhile, saw major developments such as the takeover of NDTV by industrialist Gautam Adani, and the amendments to the IT rules.
As 2022 draws to an end, Newslaundry decided to know from journalists themselves, what they hope and expect for Indian journalism in 2023.
Here's what they said.
Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty, national affairs editor, Wire
In 2023, I hope the online media continues to be not only a ray of hope for Indian journalism but also succeeds in creating more and more allies in the rest of the Indian media industry, particularly in television news which has hit rock bottom in terms of following media ethics as of 2022. I also hope the draconian regulations being designed by the executive to restrict online media from maintaining its freedom to report and question the government of the day in larger public interest doesn’t succeed, else it will be a travesty to the world’s largest democracy or what our prime minister terms as the ‘mother of all democracies’. Hope it dawns on the powers that be that a free media is an imperative to a vibrant democracy.
Nitin Sethi, member, Reporters’ Collective
It’s hard to miss the spunk and inexplicable perseverance of individual journalists hell-bent on producing original reportage at a time when most media outlets do not care about intensively-reported journalism, and the few who do, find themselves unwilling and/or unable to invest in it fairly.
I will stick to conversing about reportage in India 2022. If journalism is a house, reportage is its foundation. Without it, the house may look ornate but it can’t withstand the load it was constructed for. India has had a weak substratum of journalism for quite long. Don't believe them if you have friends lamenting NDTV’s changed ownership.
We always had to deal with the supine Indian businesses operating Indian journalism in an economy where political malleability is one essential trait for success. Reportage had to struggle against the dumbing and cost-cutting studio-centric antics of television news.
Then the Internet arrived on the Indian journalism scene with a completely different business of online generation and distribution of information, coupled with a new model of revenue earning which provides more money to the distributor than the producer. Online journalism turned into a low-cost high frequency version of what was happening on television – curate and comment till you almost die.
To top the game, we got an ultra-brittle government. It made sure legacy journalism newsrooms were de-spined and left without space to even pretend otherwise (perversely, I value this).
Amidst this all, Indian journalists seem to keep pouring their energies, soul and life into reportage, directing it towards truth-telling. For the few spaces that exist, the pennies that get thrown at it and the sheer grit it takes, several Indian journalists keep producing excellent reportage. And refuse to give up till they are truly exhausted. Then a new crop of them takes over. This year was proof of it, yet again.
Could it get substantially better in 2023? I doubt it. The trouble with thinking of it like a crisis or emergency is that one thinks it will find a sudden resolution one day. It’s a hopeful thought. A more sanguine one: India’s journalism won’t change too rapidly till its political economy does.
The tiny and chaotic space of new online journalism is nebulous. It’s shown potential and its weak spots, both. It's willing to put the spotlight on those in power. But, it's miserably low on resources to fund resource intensive public-purposed reportage more consistently and fairly. And, it also spends a lot of what it does have to feed the beast called the internet with curated content and commentary.
What about legacy media changing stripes in 2023? There are few as crazy dreams to dream into next year. So follow the individual journalists you value for bringing you good reportage and thank the media organisations that pay them well to do so. Send them all some love.
Sheela Bhatt, senior journalist
The year 2023 will be an interesting year for the Indian media because it’s an interesting year for India herself. I am not a crybaby who keeps endlessly worrying over the so-called Godi media and the so-called secular media. The real India doesn’t care for such elite debates. We need developmental politics and the media needs to cover it, relentlessly.
Indian politics is set to reset or even change in the current phase and it’s a tough challenge to cover it without biases. As the Modi era has reached a new cusp of their politics with results in Gujarat, the BJP, the Congress and the regional parties are undergoing a manthan that would impact people, the economy and the country’s future.
We saw in the last couple of years how social media left the conventional Indian media behind in adding value to public debates. But, now, with better understanding of what influences public discourse, in 2023, we will see fine-tuning of the traditional media’s blending with social media to create pressure on the ruling elites in New Delhi and in the state capitals.
Aparna Karthikeyan, senior journalist, People's Archive of Rural India
I'm typing this with two days to go for a new year, and what we hope will be an annual, magical reset. But for once, I'm going to hope – and wish – it actually happens.
Not just in my personal life: where I hope to travel, report, read and write a lot more. And unlearn, so that I can learn again, from the best and the brightest.
My teachers though are not always well known. (Some are, of course; they are celebrated and write books and win awards). The majority live in small villages in Tamil Nadu, cultivating tiny parcels of land, safe-guarding their crop, earning a small income, and keeping their dreams – and that of their children – alive.
S Rani, A Lakshmi, S Ramasamy, J Adaikalaselvi, Nagi Reddy, K Akshaya, Thiru Murthy and Anadaramu: they spent hours away from their work to talk to me – for my series “ – of their travails, what the dictionary calls “work especially of a painful or laborious nature”.
We eat the result of that toil everyday – turmeric, red chilli, salt. Some we eat occasionally – ragi, jackfruit.
Yet, we know more about the lives of people in Korea and the US – thank you, pop- culture and OTT platforms – than we do of the people who grow our food, in our own state. (And no, farmers in Punjab and Panruti don’t have the same problems.)
This is the disconnect I hope we bridge in 2023. In mainstream media, as multilingual, multimedia stories (my magical reset!). The nation must ideally want to know the fair price of a kilo of turmeric. (Even if it doesn’t, the nation deserves to be informed.) The nation must debate why farmers dump onions on the roadside when prices plummet. And the nation must introspect why some of them switched from growing ragi to roses.
There are many elephants in the room – and in the last instance, I found that there are literally elephants in the agricultural fields – but we refuse to see them.
In 2023, I wish we talk more about food and farmers. Everywhere. To everybody. Not just when there’s a protest, drought or floods.
An informed debate influences policy. The right policy is transformative. For that, we need to begin with those who do the most work – women, often from marginalised communities – whose skills are unrecognised, whose labour is invisibilised and whose time is devalued.
Of course, we must talk about men. While simultaneously questioning why men control much of the business in agriculture (at the market, the mandi, they fix prices, they trade, they handle the money.)
These conversations are urgent, these debates are important, for a simple reason – all of us eat.
Rukmini S, independent data journalist
In 2023, I hope for less certainty and more questions from journalists. The era of the journalist as oracle is over, and journalists need to be much more humble about what they do not know – and that it’s OK not to know! I also hope for more collaborations between media organisations in English and non-English newsrooms: for data journalism in particular, the focus really needs to shift to non-English newsrooms I believe. I hope for less hide-bound rules around how to tell stories – we need much greater innovation and creativity. Personally, I’m also hoping to embark on new work that I’m excited about. From readers, my hope is that they will pay more attention to the excellent journalism that is taking place in India, and spend less attention – even if it is critical – on the vast amounts of bad journalism out there!
Meena Kotwal, founder, The Mooknayak
Journalism and journalists are currently divided into two groups: one working for and the other questioning the system. Those in support never question the government and are happy with the status quo. However, a journalist's duty is to always question and expose the gaps. Now, there is an environment of fear for these journalists.
If we see the marginalised communities, diversity in mainstream media is still lacking, as per the Oxfam report. I hope that diversity will be seen in both the mainstream and alternative media. Our work should be directed towards diversity. I wish Dalit and Adivasi voices also take part in decision-making and editorial roles so that their issues are also highlighted in a manner others are...they themselves should speak about them..if they are part of decision-making, they will be able to decide which issue should be presented in what way. So my only wish is that everything should happen the way we discussed...there should be equality and no space for inequality, and love should prevail over hatred…
HR Venkatesh, director, Boom Live
In 2023, I hope the movement to reform journalism from within gathers steam. To an extent, a beat journalist cannot control attacks on press freedom, attempts to censor our work and harassment that is legal, governmental and societal. But what we can control is to ensure higher standards in our own work and in helping journalists without training to improve. We have outfits like Sudarshan News and OpIndia and channels like Times Now, Republic and even CNN-News18…there are ideally a lot of people in there who should receive training to do better. There are terrible working practices. I believe we all should find ways to make our journalism better. So, this is my hope for 2023.
Patricia Mukhim, editor, Shillong Times
I see no hope because we are a divided fraternity. There is a group that is pro-government and there is a group that is still following the path of journalism. But if we are not united, how do we fight the system? I don’t see any hope unless we come together or at least some attempt to do the same. I don’t see any attempt being made to bring people on a common platform. Those of us here in this part of the world, we are at the periphery and our voices don’t carry too far. But those in the mainstream who have the clout, they are not doing anything much. So where is the hope?
Ritu Kapoor, co-founder, Quint
I think the opportunity that the current news environment presents to journalism is that it is such a bleak, compromised environment that this is really a time to seize the opportunity to do really solid journalism…when such little real journalism is taking place. The challenge is how budgets may be getting tighter for independent newsrooms. In which case, I think, newsrooms need to prioritise focusing on stories which really matter and not split this out to think and try and do a bit of every bit of breaking news. I really think while we let larger newsrooms pick every story…the opportunity for independent newsrooms like the Quint is to dive deeper to look in spaces that all other newsrooms are looking away from, and really do in-depth journalism…the other opportunity for journalism now more than ever before is to really bring correct representation and diversity into newsrooms. I think this is a work in progress...
Naresh Fernandes, editor, Scroll
My hope for 2023 is that the Indian media, excluding a handful of independent outlets, will regain the role that we are expected to play in a democracy which is to be a watchdog and not a lapdog. As the 2024 elections are approaching, it is important for voters and citizens to get a clear untainted picture of the Indian reality. I think that is not happening at this point. And it is vital as we go into this very important election that citizens are given all of the information they need to be able to make choices in 2024. So that makes 2023 and the role that the media will play during the year very crucial.
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