Can TV replace the newspaper? The contrast between the news that can be broadcast in a fixed time slot, as against page after page of newsprint, is striking.
The newspapers have earned their place in the history through the impact of detail in document. Television simply cannot render the crucial service, but the television is easier to take than a newspaper. Once you have bought the set, the news is free.
You do not even have to walk to the door, or to the shop to get it. Once you had switched on the set don’t do anything. The machine doe; it to you as you sit there like a blotting paper, absorbing what is flashed on the screen. Thinking becomes a spectator sport.
People prefer a medium of information that under-informs while seeming not too. Despite the network reporters and commentators, the vividness of the camera’s witness testimony and the revealing documentaries, TV shuts us off much of the world.
We do not even know of the existence of most events and condition; much less their origins and details, the conflicts involved, the meanings inherent them. The result is that the people, after having been entertained by the news, think they know what happened – but they do not. All the news that fits between the commercials is a starvation diet.
Can television make an informed citizenry possible? The question becomes barbed when one considers that what seems like and often 3 the immediate, overwhelming reality of an event on television can also be, and sometimes necessarily is, distorted. What appears to be the visible, self-evident truth is not necessarily the truth. Did the endless TV snippets of explosions and jungle grass during the Kargil war reproduce the subtle realities that made the tragedy that it was?
The interrelation between mass man and mass media points that if democracy is to be saved, print media must do it. The reason is: We surround ourselves with electronic images and sounds. Our preference for them over print keeps us starved for information as well as understanding.
Thus, despite appearances, we have actually not gone beyond the surface. Only the newspaper can put the same thought into thousand minds. A newspaper is an adviser that does not require to be sought, but that comes of its own accord and talks to you briefly every day of the common weal, without distracting you from your private affairs. Newspaper is too valuable to be allowed to disappear. Facts, ideas, emotions, and meanings, fixed in print, are therefore unlikely give way entirely to idiot – box.
True newspapers are suffering economically from inroads made into their advertising revenue by television. One wonders whether generations brought up on electronic images will make the effort of reading.
The paper and ink record that we can hold in our hands, ponder individually and at leisure, and save for reference, must continue to be widely available and widely read if the people are not to become a herd of sheep. This puts a heavy burden on newspapers, on magazines and books. Those in the command post of journalism will have to work harder and more skillfully, and spend more money than their predecessors did, if they are to lure mass man into reading the stuff he ought to read and ponder, for his own good.
Newspaper can make contribution as a social antidote to the mesmerizing of mass man inherent in television. There is impatience with the newspaper as mirror of the world, and desire to transform it into a weapon with which to conquer the future. Truth wears many faces. Thus, we continue to need editorials. Effective editorial writing is a matter of opinions and of competence, integrity and determination to get needed things out in the open, and their meaning made clear, no matter how much sacred cows bleat.
In today’s world of mass man and mass media, communication has become so powerful that, ultimately, one who controls communication controls the world. Communication is a power in a sense even deeper than this. For no matter who uses it, or is used by it, communication in itself can be power, changing us as it washes over us.
However one problem remains to democratize communication. Journalism, print journalism, must fight those who use and misuse communication. It must also fight the mechanics of communication; just as in past; journalism has helped fight every other form of tyranny.