Western Media Texts
The digital revolution of old media into new media has taken shape very rapidly. Old media has seldom been given its due recognition. Traditional sources of information like newspapers and radio have sustained their quality in truth telling for ages. Its comparison is unparalleled when it comes to new media, which is why it still has a wide market and is almost irreplaceable. On the other hand, new media rose to power because of its instantaneous quality to connect and communicate. News became easy to deliver as new media defined its timeliness. It has definitely changed the dynamics of public consumption of news, heralding a phase in humanity where everything can be reported, by anyone, and at any time.
However, this has caused a severe decline in the ethics and philosophies of news providers. The power of creating news and gathering information is privy to distortion. Popularising preconceived notions as news is an emerging norm. This leads to misrepresentation and unfortunate consequences. The multiplicity of perspectives, opinions, and beliefs, entailing even factual wrongdoings, mixed with propaganda, has corrupted what was once considered an industry full of good samaritans. It is now a blotch on the entire concept of truth, information and news. Even traditional media faced this deterioration. The downward spiral of media credibility first footed at the advent of selling sensational news. The entire concept of ‘tabloidisation’ in garnering an audience, for the sake of business growth by corporations, led to a complete dilution in the way the public’s sensibilities allowed them to evaluate news.
While the media’s very history has dictated cultural behaviour throughout the course of time, it has become a core part of our lives. From newspapers to television networks to the abundance of information disseminated on social media, different types of media have both evolved and learnt to coexist. Thus, understanding the people and corporations behind these media networks, and the faces that decide news value, will further provide transparency in this respect.
Television is a writer’s playground, and online platforms only widen this space. The artistic freedom and the creative liberty that comes with it, was hitherto unheard of. So what would earlier be written for network audience traction is now developing into its own qualitative entity. All shows based on varied walks of life, using diverse plots, and being highly representative, have a loyal audience. Film and television also influence us in the most impactful ways. Therefore, the story and the way of storytelling employed is imperative to the niche audience it targets. When we talk about journalism and media, it is easy to assume how its machine functions. However, we hardly know the works behind the scenes. That is news nobody can tell us. We are oblivious to what goes into reporting a two minute segment, or a five page article. It always varies depending on the story, the source, the journalist, the editor, and the thousand inbetweeners that it takes to put a story out there. There have been innumerable assumptions around what a media workplace should be or how a journalistic practice must work, usually tied around speculation and hearsay. There’s seldom any representation within media texts portraying the media itself. Let us analyse two stand out accomplishments that tried to do it right, and well.
An Aaron Sorkin original, HBO’s The Newsroom revolves around the dramatisation of a fictional news broadcast media network - Atlantis Cable Network. The name itself suggests that it is a fictional, idealistic world of the media elite. It is essentially a newsroom drama, a tale only seen panned out in movies before. Therefore, the scope for incorporating real time journalistic stories is high. And Sorkin knows how to merge that plethora of opportunity through witty dialogue and righteous ethical commentary. The plot revolves around some passionate workaholic journalists who only live by their virtues of delivering the unfiltered truth, without being bothered about the network ratings or audience commands. It is representative of what every journalist wants to be - equally intellectual and ethical - despite being held back by outside forces. The show reiterates that the value of journalistic integrity is above all else. It is a stark contrast to broadcast networks in real life, which are constantly required to entertain rather than provide information. In this day and age, ratings and viewership is highly important for a network to sustain itself. Thus, this show posits itself as an ideal of how every journalist wants to work and does not delve into a practical solution for how broadcast may allow its journalists to change that.
The show tends to remain positive even during the darkest stories that have plagued the United States of America, by the up and coming celebration of democracy that the nation prevails to be. Its coverage of real time political events and serious stories, is not only well written but amazingly performed by the ensemble cast. While the show does not accurately portray broadcast networks in the West (and is especially inaccurate in doing that), it sure lives up to the narrative it is trying to convey - that which every network must strive to achieve. The show also satires and ridicules networks that have different ideologies and functions. Its constant snarky digs at Thirty Mile Zone (TMZ) for exploitation, and Cable News Network (CNN) for false reporting, is well-handled and brave.
Sorkin’s masterful writing aids him in articulating some narratives within the media industry that need to be heard. For networks not just in the US, but even worldwide. Even if it’s not an accurate representation, the technical representation and the chaotic nuance of a newsroom workplace is on point. With some admirable takeaways from beloved performances of some truly heroic characters, the show does its job and does it well.
The Morning Show
An Apple TV+ venture, The Morning Show represents a morning broadcast media show and what the happy rosy environment actually masks. Its script originally dealt with a common plot threading various stories in between, but it ended up changing to accentuate the overarching common storyline due to its relevance. Entailing the #MeToo movement, the show focuses on the alleged sexual harassment cases that women at the media house workplace suffered at the hands of a powerful lead anchor. The anchor is fired and denies the claims. While fictionalised, this premise is taken from what happened to Matt Lauer at the Today Show.
It shows the complicity of the workplace environment in perpetuating the harassment. This is representative of not just media organisations but of any working environment. Through its complex characters, and dramatic plot twists, the first season does justice in representing the consequences of such unfortunate workplace incidents. It humanises every character involved and doesn’t judge through its writing. It’s everything that is expected from a gripping drama. The story explores the nuanced details of the #MeToo movement, but leaves the audience in suspense about the actual truth until the end.
In its course, the show is riddled with characters that are dayside journalists, so the media premise is naturally different. Everything from the type of stories covered, to the positivity that it propagates, it is accurately representative of that broadcast niche. The lead anchors are shown being vain and self absorbed. But the entrance of a righteous journalist who enters this feel-good world, shakes the flow of the show. She has doubts about the kind of journalism this media group stands for. She has constant outbursts of journalistic integrity (much like she’s plucked out of the Sorkin universe), is absolutely apprehended by the overly narcissistic environment, and continually calls out the hypocrisies of the organisation. She acts as a conscience trope for journalism as a virtue. The news producer, and the owner have their own tensions and roles at the backdrop of the story. They show is well-balanced in its media representation that way and does for the media industry, what was long overdue. Gearing up for its second season, the show can further elevate or deteriorate.
These were some of the representations of new broadcast media in the West, and of the West, that were worth analysing due to their brilliant execution. The developing countries of the East, like India, are still short of well-made media representations. Recent releases like Paatal Lok have stirred this conversation in a much-needed direction, by accurately representing the dichotomies and hypocrisies of Indian journalism and media. Being a fourth pillar to democracy, we mustn’t infuriatingly bash our media sources. A way of portraying gratitude is through such media texts, and encouraging that is reinstating our belief in journalism and truth-telling.
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