The role of government to create quality readership
When studied journalism in the university we learnt a good number of definitions of the word 'News'. Among them one was- 'Bad News is Good News'.
Who won't be excited to learn this? And since then as a student and as a journalist I have referred this five word verse, may be hundreds of times, on many occasions and on many purposes to establish journalistic works. And now, after twenty-five years of university days, it has become the only definition of news I can recall easily. Others I need to google out every time.
Yes! This is all about the mindset. Why Good News won't be considered as Good News? Why Good News is considered as 'no news'? Why we don't turn the other side of the coin to see the other story of the event? Because we pose a stereotype mindset.
Just googled few more definitions now again and one of them was saying 'News is anything that people talk about the more it excites, the greater in values'. This one I wanted to bring in here to discuss deep. But before that I wanted to bring you another example from a film named `Getting the Story'. The movie was being filmed at a journalists' workshop in Dhaka some three decades back.
An US journalist named Paul Salopek from Chicago Tribune brought the ribbon-film cassette with him. The two time Pulitzer Prize winner journo had been here in Bangladesh in a 3-4 month fellowship in 1993 or 1994, and was working with Bangladesh Center for Development, Journalism and Communication-BCDJC.
The film was based on three basic part of news publication- gathering, writing and editing. And in the gathering part it was showing, how a Reporter can be misled by his stereotype idea about an incident. The story began with a press release arrived on the table of the News Editor. The release was all about a river-view housing project undertaken by the city corporation. The News Editor instructed the Reporter to get some more information and make a detailed story on it.
The Reporter visited the spot next day and in few minutes of his arrival at the project site a pipe line he located which was carrying muddy water into the river. The Reporter got excited about it and was relating it as an environmental issue with a thought that a water pipe into the river was nothing but water pollution. He left the project site with all excitements. He did not forget to get a picture of the water pipe directly pouring project dirties into the river. But the News Editor was not convinced. He asked the Reporter to talk to the city Mayor. The Mayor preferred a face to face interview. And next day the Reporter visited him.
They Mayor briefed the Reporter about the dream project and told that there is no question of channeling a sewerage line into the river. He assured the Reporter that it was just a pipeline to discharge the muddy water of the project into the river and it is not harmful at all. The Reporter again visited the site and found himself wrong. In fact the pipe line into the river was nothing but a project water outlet.
This time he saw a mother and her little daughter near the project. The reporter went to them and wanted to know about them. The mother told that they were the victims of a recent devastating flood. And now they are looking forward to the housing project, which was being built for them.
"All these piles of garbage are the most attractive scene to me, because I know these are parts of the housing project where my little angel will get a house in coming days," the mother said. The Reporter got his story and he again went back to newsroom and wrote his news depicting the story of a mother and her daughter and their dream for a future home.
My apology for the long story, but it has become a very important question of present day journalism that- are all Reporters getting the right story from the venues of occurrences and the events?
Here is an example. A shelter project of several multi-storied buildings was opened on July 23 morning for cyclone survivors where nearly ten thousand distressed people are to be housed. From my all understandings of journalism, I find this project as something that excites and has a greater value.
News media were covering the event and they have published, broadcasted and podcasted good number contents on it. But, should I compare the coverage with the other occurrences like arrest of Shahed Karim or Dr. Sabrina, who fraud the govt in connection with the test of Covid-19 cases? May be, or may not be. But value wise the event of unveiling a 10000 people's housing project, which is the biggest in the world where climate refugees are being sheltered is definitely no less important than the loss that has been incurred by Shahed and Sabrina's forgery.
Then why we are talking less on it? May be, only the reason, people are not interested. Yes! People are not interested, because they are ignorant. They are lacking knowledge or awareness in general; they are lacking news literacy, they are lacking media literacy. They just go behind the crazes, they do not understand, which media is what. They are more interested on sex, money and crime and less interested on development or achievements.
Then what is the role of journalism? It is again the duty of the media to create quality readership. And only quality content can create quality readership in the society.
We all want our lives and our business and profession to be full of positive stuff and to be nice and enjoyable, but from media we will prefer bad news only?
To me good news is also good news. Only the thing we need to know to place it in a presentable and attractive manner.
When there is a bad thing, why we bring that in news media? Because we want the bad thing should be good. We write so that action can be taken and problems can be fixed immediately. That's how they'd become good.
And once fixed, should it not be a duty of the media or the journo to bring that again to the reader, viewer or listener? I must say, Yes. Because once you bring them something bad it is your duty to follow it up and bring the reader the changes happened.
But we usually do not do this. Let me bring the example of fighting Covid-19 by our government, the department of health in particular. When the pandemic broke first, there were lots of problems. Scarcity of hospital beds, Intensive Care Units, Personal Protective Equipments, masks, gloves, oxygen everything. All the county media covered the things. The government has made sure a sufficient supply of the equipments and medical facilities. All possible measures have been taken and according to latest statistics the capacity of Covid-19 hospital beds are three times higher than the existing demand, ICUs are double than that of necessity, about oxymeter the story is the same and there are huge surplus of masks, sanitizers, gloves etc.
Every day the Directorate of Health discloses the statistics of medical facilities and comparison between supply and demand regarding Covid-19 treatments in regular briefing, but as we see the news media are focusing only the information related to deaths and new cases of corona virus infection.
A good story can easily be written on the basis of other positive information, but that hardly happens.
Want to end here with an example from a Financial Times with, Oversupply of hospital beds helps Germany to fight virus, as headline.
Is it not a good report? Yes, it is. And it is wel-articulated story as well.
So all we need is the articulation. Through mode of presentation and style of writing one can attract a reader, no matter it is a bad or a good story. It must be a well written story.
The writer is a journalist