This is a follow-up to my previous post on fake debates by CNN-IBN about the Social Media (SM). First the TV channel grandly put out a report on the debate held on the sidelines of the Ramnath Goenka journalism awards. One shouldn’t forget that the debate was anchored by Sagarika Ghose whose hatred for some people on SM knows no bounds. The host of the Goenka awards, Indian Express, then came out with its own report about the event. Quite flattering about SM I must say. The thing to remember is most of these media celebs dismiss SM as a nuisance or at best concede that it’s here to stay. They have forgotten how they themselves arrived on TV. But before we move on, people should recall Sagarika’s famous Look-Live debate that featured Sri Sri Ravi Shankar back in November 2011. Seems their parent company in the US, CNN, is the inspiration for Sagarika and CNN-IBN. Someone pointed me to this hilarious Jon Stewart video. Just watch the stupidity of CNN and how they fool audiences:
Stewart calls it CNN "News slaughtering". That’s right 2 correspondents reporting from the same “parking lot” and delivering the “illusion” of reporting from separate locations. That’s news TV for you. They keep on delivering illusions in the hope that others will be fooled while they can live comfortably in their fake TV-lives. So after CNN-IBN it was the turn of Indian Express (August 4) to deliver some fake story. The IE reporter was in the same parking lot, or should I say the same hall as CNN-IBN where the SM debate was held. So let’s read what their report said (excerpts in blue):
Who's afraid of social media? As the applause for winners of the sixth Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards died down, this question took centre stage. Less than a year after messages on social media spread panic in the Northeast and two girls in Mumbai were arrested for views posted on Facebook, it was a compelling question, with no easy answers…. I&B Minister Manish Tewari called the Internet "the most audacious experiment in anarchy", a "vast, ungoverned space" teeming with individuals who had multiple identities. Democracies and governments had to learn to accommodate voices from this "virtual civilisation".
Anant Goenka, head of New Media at the Express Group, felt that the influence of social media may be overstated. "You just have to look at the numbers," Goenka said. "Twitter reaches the influential. But it reaches less than 10 per cent of the people that conventional media reach." But it could help improve stories, Goenka felt, and it could help journalists find sources online.
So what did you make of that? Now, if you aren’t careful you are likely to miss some lies and some lack of prudence in some of the sentences in the report. Anant Goenka (wonder if he’s a descendant of Ramnathji) reflects a terrible lack of foresight and vision. Oh… but he’s the head of New Media at IE. Any surprise that IE is doing so badly in sales? Those who don’t learn from history are likely to repeat silly mistakes in the future too. Technology doesn’t wait for anyone. It forces change on those who are unwilling to adapt. The typewriter is mostly gone. The concept of “stenographers” in offices has largely disappeared. But we have “stenographers” in the media who report stuff like a box of parrots.
Anant fails to understand how TV itself grew when he claims that Twitter reaches only 10% and that you have to look at SM numbers. Fine! He should remember that TV itself grew from a modest number of lakhs in 1982 to over half the population now owning TV sets. Some states have over 90% TV penetration. While there is no accurate figure for the number available, a fair state-wise estimate can be seen at Wiki. What about mobile phones? When it arrived around 1995-96 people were still dealing with the tiny pagers. Pagers have disappeared. From as much as Rs.16 or Rs.20 per call in 1996 mobile phone-calls are now less than a rupee. Currently estimated at 696 mobile connections, mobile penetration is expected to touch 72% by 2016. Smart-phone users are already 27 million says Nielsen. These estimates are not very off the mark. So why does Anant Goenka believe that the same 10% will remain for SM or Twitter? This is living in a cocoon and unwilling to accept that there will be millions of SM users in the next 2-3 years and it may grow to the mobile-penetration size too. Either this worries the MSM to hold frequent debates slamming the SM or provoke regulation of SM. That is the problem they face.
But the bigger LIE is in the very first paragraph of the IE report. And they expectedly believe that most people will overlook this and move on to the rest of the report. It says: “Less than a year after messages on social media spread panic in the Northeast…” Is that so? How cleverly IE passes fake reporting and one has to wonder what the alleged editor, Shekhar Gupta was doing with such lines. The NE panic wasn’t spread on SM or Twitter. On the contrary SM was helpful in clarifying many of the rumours that were being spread on SMS. Yes the rumours were being spread through SMS and one Anees Pasha and four more were arrested for sending out over 4000 SMSes. In the wake of these SMSes the GOI also banned bulk SMSes for a long time. So why does IE get its kicks with a fake report that SM created the NE panic? Well, if you’re in the same parking lot as CNN-IBN anything will go as long as it helps to slam the SM given the nature of their debate.
Once again, it looks like the only ones really afraid of SM growing are those in the MSM. Ideas whose time has come cannot be stopped or throttled by fake debates and reports. This is more so when technology can make many redundant. I haven’t seen Shekhar Gupta being on the SM (unless he has some alias) but he likes giving lectures about SM. No problem! That’s like a guy who still uses a typewriter commenting on the evils of computer. Anything to survive.