A Stimulating Conversation

ANINDITA DAS sums up The Thumb Print Conversation held at TISS, Guwahati campus

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The Thumbprint Conversations at the Guwahati campus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) held on September 21 was graced by celebrities and guests from different walks of life. The students of TISS had been very engaging throughout the entire conversation, moderated by senior police officer and award-winning writer Kula Saikia. Sanjay Barbora, Associate Professor at TISS Guwahati campus welcomed the gathering and made the introductory remarks.

The event attracted considerable number of guests in spite of the water logging all throughout the city after a heavy downfall-somewhat also proving to be a relief from the mercury rising in the last few days. “Can society change today’s media?” was the topic of the conversation. “Media has an important role to play in shaping the society and culture”, says Saikia, and “Who can change whom?” that becomes a question. The case of the South Asian Photo journalist Kevin Carter was cited by Kula Saikia to put forward the view how he succumb to the demands of his profession as well as a a social being. “When we talk of media ethics, it entails accountability, liability and social responsibility”.  He further raised the questions “Whether media is socially responsible?” “Whether society can make media responsible?” The Managing Editor of www.thethumbprintmag.com, Teresa Rehman pointed out the objective behind holding conversations. She said, "People have stopped talking to each other. We want to make people converse with each other. We also want to have a real-time one-to-one engagement with our readers.

“The focus is on media more than society”, says Kangkana, a B.A second year student of TISS. “Media shows the society, we are getting the note from the society. Media has the power to mould the information given to them” Supriya, another student adds, “it in fact depends on our perspective how we take the Kevin’s photograph. Media is presented for our benefit, influencing our mind. What is required is our way to analyse a particular situation”.

Partha, a media persona says, “Actually society is influencing media in a big way. It becomes necessary sometimes to publish a photograph like that of Kevin as it could reflect the actual situation. Had it not been taken or published, it would not have the desired effect of the condition of Sudan. Both media and society are correlative”. 

Students of TISS raised some important points. Shristi, a student says “Media is the speaker of the society and as youngsters we expect change in it in terms of its focus, which need to be more on local people, places and the issues related to those”. Priyam is sceptical about the role of media when she raises a question “is media able to say the whole truth about an issue?” Adil expresses his resentment saying “media is influencing us in such a way that we are losing our rationality, which is because the media is being influenced by corporate houses”.

Indrani Raimedhi, noted journalist and author, questions “why does media need to be changed?” She then broods over the matter saying the most pertinent factor is the “economics involved in media. There is no more crusading journalism as before which brought about great changes in the society such as abolition of Sati and India’s independence. Today media is a money-making proposition. People want glamour and entertainment — the Indians being interested more in designer clothes, Lebanese cuisine and multiplexes rather than serious issues. It reflects the light headedness on the part of the people. For media to change, we need to change the profile of the society. Media at present lacks crusading conscience, as there are short of people in media now like that of B.G. Varghese, who travelled 8000 miles to new India after independence and reported from remote areas. Such commitment is rare today. We have to hold hands to bring a change”

Photo journalist and anchor Monmoromi Baruah expresses her discontentment over the fact that as a photographer she has to provide whatever is asked by the newsroom. If she covers a dance show with very good photographs of a danseuse, are never published, rather sensational photographs of violent incidents are preferred.” A photo speaks a lot, which can be very effective. It is the run for TRP which has affected the media”, she says.

Tinat Atifa Masood, an anchor, blogger and writer says that as a conscious citizen, she plays her part by trying to bring about the small changes she can. “We cannot be nonchalant about what is happening in the society. If I see someone littering around the street, I take note to stop them at once, or when I find a young boy smoking, I try to counsel him. We must do our bit”.    

Bhaswati Khaund shares her experience of working with unreached people saying, “there are remote areas in Dhemaji where people have never seen a doctor. They do not know how the injection looks. Such positive and off- track stories are always there, which can always be highlighted”.

Sriparna B Baruah, a management professional from the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship says “a large portion of society comprises of rural people. Can they be a part in changing the media? Media has a layered role to play, including corporatization”

Eminent writer and author Mitra Phukan says “Media houses are fuelled by money. Media should be objective, but it cannot fully happen. The new media is much more interactive. There is subtle influence of the society in media. Fully independent media is not possible, economic compulsion is always there.  

Samudragupta Kashyap, noted journalist says “we need professionals like Doctors, Chartered Accountants, and Lawyers etc for specific purposes. But media affects us 24×7. The crux of the matter is that majority of people are not trained in the media. It is only when the media understands the society, it can work in the appropriate manner. The society in India has not demanded media to have qualified and trained people”. 

Manashree Bordoloi, the first ever woman biker from Assam, reflected on how she managed to pursue her long cherished dream of biking. Being the eldest daughter of her family, she had to take responsibilities, which made her ride her father’s Yamaha since her college days. “After 12 years of marriage, with the support of my husband Ashim Bordoloi, I have been able to revive my hobby”, she says. The first long ride she took was to Shillong with the group “Biker Mania”. Travelling is her passion, which make her meet new people also and she thinks that those who are interested in it live their life to the fullest. She has recently been a part of an international Bikers meet in which she rode to Kathmandu. “The media has responded very nicely to my biking ventures all throughout”.

Virginius Xaxa, Deputy Director, TISS, Guwahati campus says, “there is distortion of information in media. I am pessimistic about the issue if society can change media as there is no single homogenous media, it is multilayered. It is controlled by corporatization. Media never takes serious issues into consideration; rather it is more into sensationalism.”  

The conversation ended with a soulful rendition by noted singer Pulak Banerjee, but not before raising his objections to media's unnecessary sensationalism.