News Media. Credibility At Risk.

By | September 10, 2016

There is not much to substantiate, but I fear news media credibility in the second most trusted nation* has taken a beating. It may be just at the edge ready to give politicians a run for bias and distrust.

Social media is surely (not suddenly) becoming the media of trust. WOM was always more credible. Belief on review’s and photo’s by actual consumers on travel, food and other site are loud examples of impact. It is not without issues, and cross checks are definitely advised. Nevertheless, the personal touch and trust with the sources help push the trust factor.

I have been talking to people on the subject, and their s a constant voice that is getting amplified with time. We have passed or are at the tipping point. Audience now firmly believe no news media is unbiased. No media is fearless. No one is interested or has the courage to speak and bring out the truth. The era when news was objective, impartial, fair and balanced are over. News now is created, supported, sponsored, bought, biased, tweaked, skewed and saturated with unidirectional presentation. Maybe the level of trust in news media is as low as that for advertising that gets featured.

When I listen to statements like these, I get confused, where does the bias lies. Who is really biased? Why this distrust is so dominant? Is it that most of the news is not fitting into the audience approval pattern? The audience attitudinally now suspect every statement unless it is Google verified. Maybe, it is just a cumulative result of numerous incidences where trust has been misplaced. The tectonic pressure has been building for long. The day is not far, when distrust could be so dominating that trust will remain alive only as a research parameter.



Everyone in the fickle minded easily swayed audience has their favourite. Depending upon which part of the country you reside in, you quote Hindu, Indian Express, Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran, Lokmat, Patrika in newspapers as trustworthy. In TV channels, Aajtak, ABP, NDTV and ZEE keep on popping as perceived as trusted media sources. Names like India Tv and DD only lead to an all-knowing smile. The message seems loud and clear.

Unfortunately, many of the news channels are referred as comedy channels or circus. Some of the newspaper, including few large setups and brands are termed rag. Radia Tapes, Jindal- ZEE extortion case, Kashmire coverage, salacious reporting, unjustified leaks, women insensitive reporting, unqualified silence or hunt of people and parties and many more cases have been catalytic in erosion of trust. That should worry us. The trust in them has already hit rock bottom.

On the other hand, when questioned, people quote journalists, writers, presenters and columnists. They are the one, audience trusts. That too a time when ‘presstitute’ as a term has been gaining currency, social media seem to have taken up the job of the citizen watch dog and amplified voice.

This is not a new phenomenon. The only difference is that earlier trust in these individuals coexisted with trust on the titles. Now people while sharing names they trust, count in Talveen Singh, Bharkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Shaili Chopra, S A Aivar, Khaleed Ahmed, Kalpesh Yagnik and Arnab Goswami. This is in no way a representative of all journalist and writer. These are names taken by that few people I spoke with.

My personal bias does not seem to be on the same wavelength as far as these names are concerned. I know; they don’t now make journalists like T. J. S. George, Kanchan Gupta, Madhu Trehan, Prannoy Roy, Swapan Dasgupta, B. K, Karanjia, M.J. Akbar, Shekhar Gupta, and Arun Shourie. Journalist and writers I respect. I am aware that many readrs may have a differential point of view, and I respect that.

Today, in the fight of eyeballs and time before the audience, high decibel media trials and laughable breaking news happen with higher frequency. On the other side, a lot many stories lose their stream and are allowed to die on the side-lines due to lack of interest, follow-up or non-transparent decisions and pressures. Most of the journalist today seem to be in need for a refresher course in ‘norms of Journalistic Conduct’ as defined by Press Council of India.

While we are on this subject, we must understand the audience tendency to distort, delete and generalize. Their get a distinct unreasonable comfort in creating patterns of acceptable standards and biases. So, just smile, compare with your own list and move on.

These uncertainties are acceptable in the era of sharply polarised reactions. The media is also a suspect for having lost the courage to speak out or amplify a particular vice. Currently, media is happy with deliberately presenting stories in stinking neutrality, expecting the audience to triangulate with other sources.

The strong voices earlier generation has grown up erupts at puzzling rarity. Sadly, even the newspaper known for its dabang expression is losing its sheen for failing to take the stories to its logical end. The voyeuristic bastard audience is seeking new highs and suffers from short-term memory and inability of prolonged orgasm over really investigative news.

Hence, it is not surprising that only a handful of media brands makes to the ‘ the Most Trusted Brand’ list. Even if, the fieldwork area and market size skew of the field work was corrected, I am not sure how many of the strong major regional newspapers would have made to the list.

Pic sanjeev Kotnala

Pic sanjeev Kotnala

India does not suffer from direct corporate ownership of media as some of the other countries. Yet, commercialisation and t advertising dependency have impacted the way journalist’s now dreams and delivers. And sometime you worry that the dreams and ambitions of a journalist are as pure or polluted as the river Ganga.

Mr. Subash Chandra of ZEE ( one of the brands on ‘The Most Trusted Brand’ list ) has been raising the issue of funding and transparency in media ownership. No one seems to be interested in taking it to logical end.

The news industry is not a case of lack of talent or funds. However, I suspect that there is a definitive inertial in the industry stakeholders to push the agenda. I would believe that most newspapers take their credibility seriously. They have been touchy about it. It is one thing that they cherish. I know, while trying to reinvent and rejuvenate themselves, many media news brands have been experimenting with strategies to regain the lost sheen of virgin trust. Is that not like, locking the barn after the horse has bolted?

Thankfully, audience have a growing list of independent news sources accessible on the Internet. The trust needle has shifted, and it now points in favor of social media. The news media to regain the fast eroding trust, needs to be careful of the tonality of their content and more so not be willing to sell space in the guise of sponsored item or native advertising.


India in 2015 moved up to second most trusted nation in 27 ranked nations. Edelman report carried PM Narendra Modi picture on the cover. The ring of six-trusted nations was completed by UAE (84% Trust), India (79% Trust), Indonesia (78% Trust), China! (75% Trust), Singapore (65% Trust) and Netherland (64% Trust) as per the measurement scale.