“Journalism can never be silent: That is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.” — Henry Anatole Grunwald
The recent ban on NDTV, for a day, accusing it of journalism that was compromising national security, has fortunately done more good than harm. The BJP ruled government’s attempt to isolate those who speak against it’s policies has, unfortunately for it, has bounced back. And this is evident of the support that people are pouring in for the channel.
But I will not focus on the ban and it’s reasons, nor will I focus on its effects. I will rather talk about the mistake that the Govt made in the process. What Mr Modi forgot was, that just a day before this declaration and issuance of notice to NDTV, he was giving out awards to journalists. Irony died yet again? A government that has, in the last two years, been successful in turning the majority of Indian media into it’s unethical patsy propaganda machinery, was honouring some of those in the field who have done some applaudable work in journalism. But you cannot affect all so soon. Hence, the burn moment had to surface, when two of them decided to speak their minds in two different ways. One didn’t acknowledge the Chief Guest, and the other acknowledged him by some sharp skills of journalism. Well done to both. And I, in no way question those who felt honoured to be the recipients. Their rewards are well deserved.
But coming back to the topic- what was that mistake? The mistake was targeting a news outlet that has one of the most respectable and outspoken journalist in India, today. By outspoken, do not confuse him with the loud-spoken or even to the conventional definition of the word- outspoken. There are many outspoken ones in the media fraternity, especially broadcast media. It’s about what you are outspoken about. Many would argue, that just speaking against the authorities is being outspoken. No, an authority does not worry about how much you speak ‘against’ it. On the contrary, it shivers, when you speak ‘for’ the ones it affects, either by direct action, or through its policies.
Ravish Kumar is one such journalist.
The strength of Ravish, as a journalist, is not his anti-government rhetoric, but his pro-people reporting. Hence, when the government bans the channel, it forgets that the pro people journalist will hit back, not by taking names, but by speaking even strongly and with methods that people relate to.
His Primetime show is not an alien entity for most. Those who like him, know it, and those who don’t, know it too. One would say, even ‘Noise Hour’ is known to all. But the difference lies in what the two are known for. The latter’s fame, I’ve very clearly outlined, by the name itself.
Ravish’s approach seems very close to the simplest form of journalism, and to be honest, the easiest- You hear both the sides of the story, and then leave it to the people.
But here’s the catch! Does Ravish really leaves it to the people for their conclusions? Fortunately, no. Now many would call this as demeaning the understanding of the common mass. I would have agreed. But, when one thinks about it, that is what sincerity in journalism is! Journalists are one of the educated and knowledgeable lots in society, and their audience always isn’t.
Their jobs require awareness to the fullest. A journalist has to have an opinion after he or she has fully researched the story or content he is dealing with. It is unfortunate that we appreciate those journalists that are unbiased. I prefer to criticise a journalist for the side he chooses, not for having a side. What is the difference between a show presenter and an unbiased journalist then, I ask? If a journalist is a good journalist, he should know which side is right and which one is wrong. Hearing out is important, but not saying- ‘Aap bhi thheek hain, aur aap bhi thheek hain! Samachar samaapt hue, Namaskar!’ That’s not the kind of journalism that we want.
This is the power of Ravish’s journalism. He hears all out, questions with utmost sincerity- to and about both the aspects, and then presents the answers that both the sides have, casting doubts on one, other, or both. That doubt is important. That doubt is the key to knowledge, that he leaves for his viewers or readers, encouraging them to ask more, in their own spaces.
Remember, passing judgements for others, is easy. If a journalist does so, he ends the debate. The need is to keep the debate happening. That is what Ravish is good with.
Now, one would think whether Ravish has his own biases. A good journalist should always have, if he has used his expertise in knowing the maximum about his subject. I am sure, Ravish has too. That bias seems to be for the people, and hence we appreciate it.
Also, important is to mention his methods. How diverse can you be in your journalism is also vital, I believe. How many ways can you think you can report a news? And I don’t intend to focus on types of reporting, but methods by which one can present a story.
Ravish, has undoubtedly presented us with ways that are unique in journalism, be it the use of musicians, folk singers, artists, or theatre. The message has to go out strongly, even if it means blackening your screen. And these methods are not just for attention seeking purposes, but I believe what they do, is to bring in the involvement of masses who relate to or understand the method. To move them to the core. Remember, not everyone can read, write, hear or see your story. And not everyone is educated in this country to understand the vocabulary used in high level debates on policies. You have to make it simple at times.
And most importantly, be with the people, to know people. I doubt, that there’s even one other journalist, from other news channels, who are famous, and who sit in a studio to bring a story only after walking for hours on filthy streets to meet and hear people.
Lastly, I would salute Ravish for bringing forward stories that have, informed us, moved us, motivated us, and brought the voices of the neglected to the forefront of the nation’s discourse. When others shout at the neighbouring country’s army men, or insult men and woman for just being accused of something, passing comments and warnings and threats, declaring people terrorists, anti nationals, here is a man who stands with a farmer and asks him if he has eaten Daal recently, and if so, why not.
I believe, that is what the Nation, truly wants to know.
To conclude, I would quote Tom Stoppard-
“I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”
Ravish Kumar, seems to be taking that aim, in sincerity, and we thank NDTV, as a whole, to be found standing firm and supporting true journalism to its maximum capability possible in these times.
Abbas Shamael Rizvi is a Delhi based Film and TV Professional, with over ten years of Media experience. He is a keen political and social observer who writes on political and social issues, at national and international levels. Abbas is a strong believer in Socialist principles. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of WTB and WTB does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.