The print media is full of stories about Egypt, particularly the international western press. Hosni Mubarak has suddenly become one of the worst rulers in history; and analysis about the future of Egypt without Mubarak is in vogue. The question is where were all these analysis prior to the riots in Tunisia, and even before January 25?
There is little doubt that the western print and electronic media is better than ours, and there may a number of reasons for this. They have access to superior human resource; have better financial resources; better-quality information; an educated class of readership, and a finer work ethic. Despite this, the media is time and again caught napping, and it starts to act as a sage after the event.
The weekly TIME’s story on the events in Egypt written a day before Mubarak resigned did not allude to his resigning. This is unbelievable. A leading magazine of the world, with every possible resource at its disposal, failed to discern the cracks in the system. All that the writer, assisted by four correspondents, could do was to quote various protesters from the anti-Mubarak camp participating in the Tahrir square. A balancing view was presented with both for and against Mubarak but this anybody could have done. We at the receiving end expect better from both the print and electronic media, and from both national and international one. Incidentally, world’s supposedly most important paper, New York Times, fared no better in this respect.
I have my own personal analysis to explain this phenomenon. Firstly, someone decades back came up with the idea to support stories with quotes. Resultantly, all major papers and magazines refuse to carry a report without such quotations. All the energies of the reporters and the newspersons are accordingly spent looking for quotes, which they then end up trying to thread together, through a faulty analysis. In other words, instead of the analysis preceding the quotes, the latter precede everything.
Secondly, analysis always requires courage. If you look at the Indian publications of the late nineties and even early this century during the heyday of the BJP rule, there was hardly anybody writing to praise Sonia Gandhi and there appeared to be a virtual stampede to down-grade her as a foreigner who was totally alien to the Indian political ethos. Then came the surprising Congress victory in 2004 and there is no looking back, and Sonia is Mother of all Political Strategists since then. Nothing succeeds like success but why could not any of the political sages and analysts predict as to what the public was thinking about?
This kind of experience is unfortunately not a rare occurrence but usually a routine. And this brings me to my last point. The media has to come up with out of box solutions, and break from the rut. It goes for famous analysts and reporters who are part of the problem; and the cycle thus keeps getting repeated. A new line of leadership is required which breaks the ground rules. Otherwise, the fresh blood which obviously and mercifully keeps coming to the industry ends up conforming to the old rules simply to survive and be successful in the system.
It is for this very reason that one of the few writers who succeed in accurately analyzing the events, are not the usual reporters but book authors. Apart from the luxury to go into more detail, such authors are under no compulsion to conform to be conventional. What can be better than to remember what Betrand Russell said about this that `conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.’
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