‘No viable business model yet for good journalism’

N. Ram, Chairman, The Hindu Group of Publications; Esther Enkin, president, ONO; Tarmu Tammerk, Ombudsman, Estonian Public Broadcasting; A.S. Panneerselvan, Readers’ Editor, The Hindu and Mukund Padmanabhan, Editor, The Hindu, at the inauguration of the ONO conference .  

Nobody has figured out a viable business model for quality journalism and a distinction has to be made between the state of news media and the state of journalism while critically assessing the performance of news media, according to N. Ram, Chairman, The Hindu Group of Publications.

“The two states tend to get conflated in public as well as media marketing,” Mr. Ram said in the keynote address at the annual conference of the Organisation of News Ombudsmen & Standards Editors (ONO) in Chennai on Monday.

As the newspaper industry in India went through several changes in the recent past, he said, “There is a need to critically reflect on and rethink the implications of the buoyant growth story.”

While the growth has also slowed down for the printed press, the situation of news television was quite complex.

Though the huge readership of the Indian language press was recorded by political scientist Robin Jeffrey in his research, the “buoyancy and implications of the print media development need not be romanticised,” warned Mr. Ram.

'Coverage of rural India on the decline'

“The social reach of the Indian press is still not impressive in relation to the population and this has implications in the news coverage.”  The coverage of rural India was on the decline unlike 15 years ago, he said.

The economics of publishing newspapers in India had hardened while news televisions didn’t pay for itself, he pointed out.

Menace of paid news

As for the illegal practice of ‘paid news’ that surfaced in the 2009 parliamentary polls, Mr. Ram said it was an endemic corruption, which was present even after the elections. Though the Press Council of India did come up with a report on the issue, it did not name the culprits.

The Press Council, Mr. Ram contended, was “infested” with representatives of the media, “overwhelmingly populated” by proprietors, managers and working journalists and had no teeth, which was an “unsatisfactory state of affairs.”

As against the The Guardian’s former Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger’s observation that journalism was changing at the speed of light, Mr. Ram said it was changing at the speed of sound in India, indicating the change was slow.

Engaging with readers

In the welcome address, ONO president Esther Enkin referred to the reported statement of the President of the United States wondering why reporters can write what they want and said, “We know that there is something serious going on.”

While contending that there was a “singular lack of trust”, she insisted that the journalists’ work should be a vanguard of restoring that trust.

Mukund Padmanabhan, Editor, The Hindu, said the introduction of the corrections and clarifications column in any newspaper generated an “enormous amount of goodwill.” Readers reacted very positively to a publication that owned up its mistakes, he noted.

He hoped that in the days ahead The Hindu’s Readers’ Editor A.S. Panneerselvan would be persuaded “in helping to draft guidelines on a range of issues such as the use of anonymous sources, social media policy and a whole slew of other subjects that touch on the ethics of the journalistic profession.”

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 1:24:07 PM |

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