Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media dean Kanchan Kaur believes that the media today needs to remember it's first obligation to reporting truth without bias and go back to basics of reporting.
The #TruthSeekers Fest, which saw the launch of BOOM's membership programme, was followed by a keynote address by the former editor-in-chief of The Hindu N Ram on 'The idea of truth in a polarised India' and a panel discussion between a set of distinguished members of Indian journalism. The panel members included Newslaundry's Abhinandan Sekhri, Dhanya Rajendran from The NewsMinute, Tejas Harad of Satyashodak and Kanchan Kaur.
Speaking on a panel discussing "Reclaiming facts and the idea of an objective truth", Kaur said, "A journalists' first obligation is to the truth. The authors of 'The Elements of Journalism' say that what journalists seek is a practical and functional form of the truth and not the truth in the absolute in the philosophical sense. But when the old journalism meets the new journalism of assertion, finding the truth become difficult."
Concurring with Kaur, Harad added that sticking to the basics of reporting, which involves sticking to the facts and backing every statement with proper information remains key for every journalist.
"We might not be able to reach the objective truth philosophically speaking, but we have to follow the practices which all of us in media know about. And that is the key. All of us have our own biases, and ideologies, but we have to keep them aside in reporting. Even when you write opinions, you should be able to defend it," Harad said.
"We have to be careful when handling biases and journalism. When I am working on Satyashodhak where we publish Bahujan voices and write about caste, people might think that the views we give would be biased in certain directions. I will counter that by saying we follow the good practices of journalism that everything we say that can be backed up. Even if you are writing about caste and believe in annihilating caste system, that doesn't mean you write with a bias. Even then you have to follow the process and be rigorous in your writing and editing," he added.
Rajendran added that the need to have dedicated fact-checkers in newsrooms will be eliminated if organisations drill into journalists the basics of reporting truthfully and checking their facts thoroughly.
"Most media houses cannot afford a team of fact-checkers. Those who can, may not be interested in it because truth is not perhaps of their interest. It's not about organisations having fact-checkers, it has to be a discipline which is there in every journalist. When anyone gives you a quote, you have to go back and see whether something is correct. It has to be ingrained in every reporter that fact-checking is a discipline they cannot afford to ignore for any story. When that is ingrained in every reporter, I don't think newsrooms need fact-checking teams," she said.
Kaur believes that the emergence of technology and social media has eroded people's trust in journalism and affected the way they perceive information.
"The public mood today is to be deeply suspicious of anyone claiming to describe reality in a fair and objective fashion. The public is not reacting to the event, but actually to the way the event is being reported, described or framed. When everything is being reported, we don't need professionals to explain. We say data can speak for itself and don't need experts to give context to the data.
"Our relationship to news and information has now changed. What we are seeing right now is a collision between two ideals of truth. One that depends on trusted intermediaries like journalists and experts and another that promises an illusion a direct access to reality. In some ways, we have become so concerned with the truth that we no longer agree on it," Kaur said.
According to The Newslaundry's Abhinandan Sekhri, the giving up of truth as a desirable value by leaders has affected how the media and in turn, the general public perceives idea of truth.
"While a journalist's first responsibility is towards truth, the company's first responsibility is towards revenues, shareholders and political proxies. We have come to an intersection where revenue, journalism and political proxies intersect," Sekhri said.
"When on the floor of the parliament, you can say a demonstrable lie and face no consequences, when you can lie like Presidnet Trump did and say you could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and I still won't lose my base, what's happened is that there has to be a premium to a value. Leaders perpetuate values, they set the trend for values. When leadership has decided that truth is a value not worth giving any premium to, that is the kind of virus that spreads. We need leaders who are not afraid to support the truth," he said.
The first event of BOOM's TruthSeeker's Fest can be watched below.
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?