Readers of newspapers have longed for variety, and viewers of news television have yearned for seriousness for ages. Seasoned journalists acknowledge the deficit, but doubt experiments will succeed. But someone must take the plunge and try hard, we thought. The name we have given to this initiative is Sirf News. The first word in the bilingual term underscores the fact that all efforts to create an alternative media platform have had less than satisfactory results. Lack of reports in the magazines and portals run by citizen journalists owes to the absence of a fundamental idea among them that an opinion cannot exist without a fact to base it on. It’s the diagnosis of the malaise that went awry.
That people heading different newspapers and channels reflect their biases in political analyses is less of a problem. The bigger issue is that they are holding back reports that run contrary to their liking. So, how can an alternative succeed if the information withheld by the mainstream is not unshackled by the media rebels? Of course, sirf (meaning “only”) does not mean we won’t express our opinion; it points at our priority. We will react only after we have first hand information of the action.
Second, within the mainstream, justice isn’t being meted out to the few subjects that are covered routinely and passionately. India has been witnessing an era of heightened activism since 2011. Rabble rousers have been reported on the front pages and talked of in prime time, but not one paper or channel got any of the stories fully right. Reports on the national and regional parties are grossly deficient, too. Our contributors’ experience of spending days and nights on end with full fledged as well as quasi-politicians is sure to offer our subscribers unique insights into the war rooms. Then we have the Jantar Mantar types; they demonstrate, fast, picket etc — all unnoticed by the people at large and uncared for by the state. They can now speak through us.
Third, business reporting has been the most disappointing of all. A monotonous stock market page, a screen with values of shares tediously rolling beneath or predictable quotes from CEOs and corporate communication heads do not reflect the sector’s dynamism. If big-ticket corruption has occupied society’s collective mind space for the past few years, why were the wrongdoings not unearthed while they were transpiring before watchdogs like the Comptroller and Auditor General blew the whistle? We seek to bridge this gap as well.
As for variety, we ought to make it flawless for experts and useful for the lay. The best in the legal profession, for example, will not be able to find a mistake in a report by our law correspondent. A report on genetics cannot be rubbished by a geneticist. We will cover space explorations, but not fantasise it like run-of-the-mill journalists. From the popular film industry, we need stories of technicians. When dealing with music, the words must surreally create a melodic atmosphere. Students will get lessons they can use at school. Home makers will find home remedies… And we will speak in all recognised languages of the country.
This is a dream as of now. We need all kinds of ethical support from friends who share the dream — inspirational, manual, logistical, financial and political — to see it come true. Together, we will make it happen.