On the Media and Poll Coverage...
There seems to be some disconnect between the perception by the media professionals and the reality insofar as the reportage on elections are concerned. That the media, in many instances, has gone wrong in their reading of poll outcome is a fact. And it is a different matter that they do not care to express any regrets after it emerges that they called it wrong.
I am raising this now in the context of the media reportage on the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh,
Well. A simple explanation to this tendency among the media professionals would be that they possess a sense of clarity and are convinced that the elections, which happen to be the most important aspect of political democracy, cannot be allowed to be fought on mundane issues of day to day concern and hence it is imperative to enlarge the scope and the concern to ideological concerns. This will make those belonging to sects that bask under meaningless debates and engage themselves in debates for the sake of it happy.
The point is that the media professional, physically located invariably in the national capital, is by and large immunized from the reality that marks the various other parts of the country. In other words, the culture of contract employment and the mobility that has come to mark the employment opportunities in the media industry in recent years – you do not find a reporter stuck in one newspaper for a lifetime any longer – has meant this alienation from the reality. And the rise in prices of essential commodities is not considered an election issue to the reporter because his wage levels are such that he is not seriously affected by the issue.
Hence, the reporter, begins to look for issues that dominate the discourse in the context of an election. He is, then led to think and believe that the people of Madhya Pradesh, having voted the Congress and the BJP repeatedly in the past few years, will throw up a surprise this time. He or she, then begins to look for the third alternative and finds it in the BSP! Well. The sociology in some parts of Madhya Pradesh that border Uttar Pradesh is such that the BSP has emerged a force there. The same is true of parts of Chattisgarh. And this was visible as early as in 1993 itself. But then, the BSP’s presence as a force is restricted to a part of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh and not across the States as it is in Uttar Pradesh.
The media professional, somehow, refuses to see this aspect and lands up with reports that the BSP’s march to power at the Centre can be seen in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh now! In Rajasthan, similarly, there are small parts where the BSP may strike a decent percentage of votes thanks to Mayawati’s overtures to the Gujjar community. The media professional does not point to this and simply perceives that Mayawati is not just a regional leader now and is expanding her base into the other States and can hence be counted as another contender to the Prime Minister’s job.
The irony of this disconnect between the harsh reality and the perceived reality is most pronounced in
The point is that when the media professional gets detached and disconnected from the harsh reality so much, his relevance as a pointman in the democratic scheme is lost. And when the media thus loses its moorings and relevance, it makes bad news in the real sense of the term.