Cyber sensibility on news

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The plethora of news websites promises plenty for the people. However, while articles may be in abundance, their treatment across the websites is questionable.

By R Parvathy


The trend of breaking the news first has moved over from television to the internet. With a plethora of news websites offering plenty to readers, one expects diversity in viewpoint while digesting it. However, it seems that the herd culture continues to dominate the online medium as well. One would expect the cyberspace to provide the freedom to express one’s opinion at will which, sadly, the offline world denies, ( and is bound to in a bid to reflect objectivity) yet news websites function otherwise. That the media sometimes behaves as an agent of the state is not news to the public. But the Fourth Estate appears as a standard bearer for the powerful people of the country. When the media came down heavily on a freelance journalist, Ved Prakash Vaidik for interviewing wanted terrorist Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan these gaping loopholes in the institution were exposed yet again.

Congress, now in the opposition after facing a crushing defeat from BJP, jumped at the opportunity and started questioning the motive of the “interview’”. News websites followed suit.

Instead of providing alternative viewpoints or fresh perspectives, they diligently followed the blame-game which the two national political parties were playing. Pictures of Vaidik and Saeed, and Vaidik and Ramdev started circulating on all websites. The Times of India published articles which pointed out that the meeting was sanctioned by the ruling government. The video and screenshots of Times Now’s Big Story which questioned Vaidik’s visit to Pakistan started making its way into cyberspace as well. Websites were quick to lap up the information and declare Vaidik’s actions as “suspicious”, “anti-national” and “unpunishable”.

However, the utility of the cyberspace was truly demonstrated when news of 46 nurses from Kerala who were stranded in trouble-land Iraq reached the home country. Websites wasted no time in covering the minute by minute coverage of their whereabouts and the much publicized release of the women. India Today published a special report which traced the whole event from the beginning till the time the nurses returned back to India. News also focused on their available mobile connectivity and efforts to contact the Indian Embassy. The Times of India did a story on how India had secret talks with Saddam Hussain’s Baa’th Party concerning their release.

There were numerous stories on first-hand accounts of the nurses directly from the disputed land. However, once they were back, be it The Asian Age, Hindustan Times or livemint.com, all celebrated their homecoming.

Websites started trending once again when Madras High Court’s Judge, Justice D Hariparanthaman was denied entry into the famous Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) club for sporting a dhoti. Stories ran amok as the state’s CM stepped up to address the issue.

India.com and Hindustan Times splashed J Jayalalithaa’s utterance, “insult to Tamil culture” as their news headline. Business Standard, The Statesman, Indian Express and news.oneindia.in went beyond the Chennai incident and interrogated the practice of Indian club’s dress codes and their viability in today’s time. However, it was India’s emphatic win over England after 28 years at Lord’s that saw the maximum surge in cyberspace activity. It looked as if nothing else dominated the news world. NDTV Sports broke the story, following which other websites took up from there.

Ishant Sharma’s spell-bound bowling made him the poster boy overnight, followed by hefty contributions from fellow team-mates Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Murli Vijay and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter were heavily trending on the Test win. In fact, the response on Twitter was so overwhelming that IBNlive.in.com published a story exclusively on the tweets following the match. VVS Laxman, Sanjay Manjrekar, Harsha Bhogle and others congratulated the home team on its win.

The cyberspace today is evolving beyond individual needs to cater to the society as well. While the offline mode of news presentation may have its limitations in terms of production and deadlines, the webspace does not hold any such space-time barrier.

Yet there seems to be a deficiency in terms of content presentation. It seems news websites do not make creative use of the medium and, plainly rely on replicating information from the offline to the online mode and vice-versa. In the end, there is an abundance of information but scarcity in diverse representation.