Indian: between contradictions , globalization and menace journalism

11.11.2015

P J George, Deputy Internet Editor of the renowed Indian newspaper "The Hindu", speaks at the IMC about the role of journalism in India and the digital transformation in newsrooms in his home country.


Do you have a certain quote which is important for you as a journalist?

You need to tell people not only what they want to know, but also what they need to know.

 

What do people need to know about journalism in India?

India is a nation of paradoxes. Any generalization that one makes about this country can be equally true as its complete opposite. A nation that is 80 percent Hindu, has the second largest Muslim population in the world and also has states that are nearly 100 percent Christian. It is inevitable that many of these paradoxes result in friction; and the friction has caused flare ups throughout history that have burned India's cities and towns. As a journalist in India I believe that it is my job, in fact my responsibility, to point out these paradoxes as truthfully as possible. There are constant attempts by different castes and social groups to present their side of the paradoxes as the all-dominant. And it is upon the media to constantly challenge these attempts and speak up for the other side. After the economic liberalization of 1992, these paradoxes have sharpened. Meanwhile we have an immense gap between people of extreme wealth and people of miserable poverty. There are many who say India today is an economic power, so why should we keep on highlighting poverty or keep talking about social tensions? We should better talk about how our GDP is growing or about our global excellence and power. It again falls on the media to tell people that unless we take along also the lowest levels of the population the Indian story is not complete.

 

By looking at numerous newspaper headlines it is clear that journalism deals critically with the development of the country. Are there moments when you are afraid to express your opinion freely?

 Having the privilege of being employed by an established media house, I am experiencing no restrictions. There is no institutionalized censoring mechanism in the government. There is just an archaic sedition law leftover from colonial times that the government sometimes uses to intimidate some of its more vociferous critics. However, many journalists who have gone after stories that threatened to expose vested interests of powerful interest groups have had to pay a heavy price.

 

Globally one out of five newspapers gets printed in India. The newspaper circulation and reach is highly impressive and still quite stable. Do you think the Indian newspapers can escape the global newspaper die-off? Is the media industry preparing for the market change? Which role do social media play in that context?

 We are still some years away from the scenario that is happening in the rest of the world. And we have the advantage that we can learn from experiments being carried out right now. But yes, most of the established media houses are polishing their online skills, moving towards integrated newsrooms and adopting the latest technologies. Even if revenues from traditional advertising are still much higher than revenues from online advertisement, this does not keep the media from investing in the online section. Of course there will always be winners and losers. In the online space a newspaper has to compete not only with other newspapers but with TV channels as well. And now we have exclusively online news/opinion sites as well.


You worked in Germany as a 2015 fellow of the journalism exchange program "Media Ambassadors India – Germany". What was the most interesting aspect you have learned while working in Germany in comparison to India?

The most interesting thing I noted was how little we all know about digital cross-media journalistic storytelling.

 


 


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