What you say is not what they report

There have been innumerable instances in which, in their obsession for eyeballs, the news media tends to sensationalize news reports. If you dig below the surface, you’ll realize that in most cases, it’s a deliberate attempt to manipulate news in order to grab the reader’s attention. Take the issue of Modi being the BJP’s PM candidate, a topic of media obsession these days. Pro-Congress or anti-BJP sections of the media find this issue a perfect target to discredit and widen fissures in the BJP. Recently, there were headlines across the media that said, “Narendra Modi fit to be PM, says Sushma Swaraj.” The headline implies that Sushma Swaraj is now backing Modi for PM and has set aside her personal PM ambitions and stopped backing her other colleagues in the party who might be equally interested in the PM job, should the BJP come to power. The truth of the matter is that a reporter simply asked her if Modi is fit to be PM. As a senior party official what would you expect her to say? “Sorry, Modi is totally unfit to be PM. He is an extreme right-wing nut-job. Like many people in this country, I can’t stand the sight of him either!”

What this news report does not tell you is that if she was asked if Advani or Jaitley or any other visible person in the BJP was fit to be the PM, she would most certainly have said the same thing. In the media’s obsession for catchy headlines, there is very little due diligence or responsible, editorial review that seems to be going into such reports.

Picture a scenario where you interview someone living in an affluent south Mumbai neighborhood. You ask this person, “Could your house be burgled?” The obvious answer most people will give you in response to such a question is, “Yes, it’s possible.” Imagine if you twisted this interview for a headline that reads, “South Mumbai no longer safe from burglary, says long-time resident.” This headline is bound to grab reader attention, but it gives the completely wrong impression that a once plush neighborhood is now on the decline with rampant burglaries.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

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