P P Wangchuk, New Delhi-based editor-at-large, columnist: Any visit to any place gives one revealing ‘discoveries’. And if one happens to be a pen-pusher, people come out with more ‘revelations’ in the hope that journalists can push ‘careless and sleeping’ public servants into action. Of course, there is nothing much of ‘newness’ in this.
Journalists are the watchdogs of any society, and they do act as conscience-keepers of the careless and the work-shirkers in government and public domains. But for them, we would have been living a lousier life.
That kind of effective role demands a very conscientious and meticulous work on the part of journalists, be they of print media, electronic or the latest and the very fast-moving digital journalism. I have been calling digital journalism with a new name: Dotcom. journalism and it has gone viral.
After a recent visit to Ladakh and interaction with scholars, media people, and the general public, I was taken aback that journalists were not taken seriously. There can be two reasons: Total lack of awareness and understanding about the role of the media in Ladakh on the part of the local people; and, a failure on the part of the media to play its role in a manner that it can’t but influence public opinion. Or, is it a combination of both the factors? Maybe, there is quite a good possibility!
The media in a place like Ladakh has greater challenges than in places elsewhere in the country because of its difficult topographical location. The biggest challenge is that most of the people here can’t read; and if they can read, they can’t understand. That surely undermines the role of the media to a great extent.
There are many other challenges that have become obstacles in the carrying out a fair and balanced reporting and commenting. Interaction with the members of the Press Club, Leh, gave fresh insights into the working of the local media persons’ minds. They complained that in a closely-knit place like Ladakh, where everybody is a relative, a friend or very closely-known to each other, it becomes difficult to carry out their duty in a manner it should be done. Therein lies the big problem. They say, at times, it becomes difficult on their part to report against people or authorities known to them closely. One way, I suggested, was to pass on any ‘explosive news’ to other media people quietly if they can’t do it on their own because of whatever the reason. This, I told them, is a very-well kept ‘open secret’ and practice among journalists all over the world.
Another challenge is that the present ‘crop’ of journalists are first-timers. Lack of experience and facilities to carry out their work faithfully and conscientiously make them vulnerable to various negative factors that harm their reportage. There are about 50 journalists in Ladakh and they are all young boys and girls. Their energetic and enterprising nature compensates their shortcomings. One of my ‘revealing’ experiences every time I visit Ladakh has been the local people’s ignorance about the number of journalists in the region. Their ignorance comes forth when they tell me that they have seen/heard of only two or three journalists. That also gives one the ‘revelation’ that they hardly read the local newspapers and journals. There are more than a dozen publications in different languages like English, Urdu, Ladakhi etc. But the majority are in English. Some of them carry a ‘mixed bag’ of news and views in several languages like English, Urdu and Ladakhi. This helps those readers who are illiterate in one or the other language. A three-in-one package comes very handy and is liked even by the not-so-well-educated Ladakhis.
The ‘aam aadmi’, not used to the print media, is yet to welcome this relatively new ‘entrant’ into his/her life. They are more comfortable with local TV and radio news and programmes. But a distinct trend of more and more people welcoming print media seems to be growing quite fast.
What is needed of the local media is that they must give importance to investigative reporting, news analysis and ‘a news with views’ combination besides hard news. Only then one can hope to read a complete newspaper/journal.
Despite many shortcomings, I felt that the local media persons were ready to take on any challenge so that they don’t have to carry on with the tag of ‘secondary’ journalists. And since they are young, energetic and intelligent, one can hope they will live up to the best of expectations.
Anwar Hussain: Freelancer: The journey of media has been quite arduous from 1934 – when the “Ladakh Phonya”, considered being the first Ladakhi newspaper appeared on the scene –till today when almost a dozen weekly, fortnightly newspapers and magazines get published. However, the strides taken by various media agencies in the last decade have been phenomenal.
At the turn of the century, early effort made by Ladakh Melong, Kargil Today Magazine, Kargil Frontier, The Magpie etc. helped in providing a fertile ground for the next-gen media agencies like Reach Ladakh Bulletin, Stawa, Rangyul, Voice of Ladakh and Greater Ladakh etc. While, the concept of cable television channel seems to have caught the imagination of the people in Kargil with Kargil Today, Alnoor, STV and individual channels by the two most prominent religious organizations in the district keeps the viewer abreast with the latest happenings in the district.
Most of the media agencies today also have a sizable presence in the virtual world with dedicated web pages, mobile apps, blogs, and pages on various social networking platforms besides a commendable job in the field be it print or electronic. All India Radio has been diligently following the Sarkari style of working, delivering a constant stream of crisply edited news piece in the same monotonous news reader’s voice. Same can also be said of the weekend date with Doordarshan and DD Leh.
Media, indeed, has a very positive role to play in our region particularly because of the closely knit social fabric. Media can very well be an agent of change. With an increasingly literate population to cater, Media houses have the responsibility of influencing the general mindset of the populace for the greater good of the region. United effort by the media houses of the two districts may put different issues of the region into the general discourse. Government run agencies are doing a stupendous job in making the general masses aware of issues of social importance like health, hygiene, the universalization of education etc., the onus is on the privately owned media agencies to take it to the next level.
Today most of the media agencies, primarily in my home district, seem to be only covering events so much so that the general public believes that a photojournalist must also cover weddings and picnics. Media acts as the eyes and ears of the general public.
Comparatively speaking the media houses in Leh district have done a commendable job, bringing into public discourse issues and carrying comprehensive reports about child abuse, a politician slapping a commoner, poaching, and price rise etc. The establishment of a Press Club is an added feather in the cap of the media agencies of Leh.