Comprising of Mrs, Anjana Om Kashyap, Mr. Vikram Chandra, and Mr. Saurabh Dwivedi, the panel discussing ‘Lok Sabha Elections: Mahakumbh of Indian Journalism’ was subjected to some pressing and thought-provoking questions at the Q&A session at St. Stephen’s College on 23rd January.

Moderated by Dr. Amna Mirza, Associate Professor at the University of Delhi (DU), the panel first invited Mrs. Anjana Om Kashyap, Executive Editor at Aaj Tak, to speak about television rating points (TRPs) and political bias in journalism, among other issues. After Mrs. Kashyap’s presentation, Mr. Vikram Chandra-Founder, Editorji Technologies, and Former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NDTV– shared his insight on the changing face of journalism and transmission of news, while emphasising a solution through his news app Editorji. Mr. Saurabh Dwivedi, Founding Editor of The Lallantop, was subsequently started on a rather humorous note, and then delved into rural issues which have often been overlooked by mainstream media.

In the Q&A session, students from various colleges raised a plethora of socially and politically charged questions for the panellists. On being questioned by Honey, a Kirori Mal College student, about the intervention and regulation of news broadcasted by mass media channels like Aaj Tak by their top advertisement-providers that were companies like Patanjali, Mrs. Kashyap stated, “Aapka sawaal mujhe out kar gaya (Your question has stumped me).” She maintained that news channels had to work the best from within the system. “News is what someone wants to suppress; rest is all advertisement,” she said. Mr. Chandra and Mr. Dwivedi further added that no advertiser directly called shots on the content of reputed news channels.

The second part of Honey’s question dealt with representation in the newsrooms. To this, Mr. Dwivedi responded by highlighting the lack of representation of journalists, especially from areas like Manipur and Kashmir. In the same breath, he added that journalists tended to overlook caste and socio-economic backgrounds during recruitment, which might be the reason for such disparities in number.

“Kaunsa mudda, kiska mudda, woh koi nahi poochta (Which issue it is, whose issue it is- nobody asks that),”said Shorya, a student from the PWD category, emphasising how national issues do not matter much to common people, for ground-level issues like the absence of ramps in colleges for PWD students are not even covered by mainstream media. His concerns evoked a massive emotional response not only among the panellists but the audience as well. While no one from the panel was able to offer a concrete solution, they all agreed to his concerns, offering to help him run a Twitter campaign for the same.

The next question raised to baffle the panellists was about Kashmir. A student asked the panel about why the stories based on Kashmir began with a metaphorical full-stop. In response to the one-line question, Mrs. Kashyap responded with a one-line answer-“…because Kashmir is an ongoing story”. However, all the panellists agreed, without saying much that the sentiments in Kashmir were often different from the versions presented on TV. Mr. Chandra went on to state that certain sections of media should be ashamed of how they had covered Kashmir.

Another student enquired how anonymity could be a useful tool especially in the present-day society where one was easily labelled as an ‘anti-national’ for speaking up against the government. Mr. Chandra responded by saying that the day one feared to speak in a free country, it would not be free at all. Mrs. Kashyap then encouraged the student to not hide behind anonymity and to stand up for her views.

A student from Ramjas College requested Mrs. Kashyap to comment on the alleged misrepresentation of information reported by an Aaj Tak anchor regarding an ABVP rally during Republic Day last year, asking whether the channel should be held responsible for the same. She responded by saying that due action had been taken against the anchor and that Aaj Tak had employed an exclusive fact-checking team to avoid such incidents in the future.

Evidently dissatisfied, the student further followed up by commenting that the anchor in question had also allegedly misreported about a chip being present in the INR2,000 notes post-demonetisation. At this stage, Mrs Kashyap refused to answer, saying that she couldn’t comment on someone else’s behalf. On the other hand, Mr. Dwivedi said that mistakes often happen, and he himself had misrepresented information at times but believed that journalists should own up to such mistakes.

Despite being difficulty they may present in resolution, the need for asking tough questions was recognised and appreciated by all present at the event. As the guests departed, the students applauded and cheered with their ideas regarding journalism-its challenges, economics, and politics- appearing to be stronger.

Feature Image Credits: Leadership Cell, St. Stephen’s College.

Prateek Pankaj
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Sakshi Arora
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