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Champaran Online: A Gandhi Model Of Journalism

Adarsh Shukla

Journalism is about asking questions. Credibility has been the key for this profession since inception. Now when the 21st century is about to turn 18 things have changed a lot. President of USA is bashing media on almost daily basis. Questions on Journalism and Journalists is being asked more frequently. Fake News and other corrupt practices are not under the carpet anymore. Presence of Media is almost everywhere now. Digital Media is spreading in a lightning pace. Then also Journalism is loosing the faith of common people across the Globe. Corporate and conglomerates have occupied the profession. Their interests have changed the idea of Journalism. In the Digital Age when Fake news, rumors, hatred is also well documented credibility of Journalism is on the stake. Social Media and fake news can play the role of rioter too. We have seen this in Britain and so many places across the globe. Truth is in danger and the truth-crusaders are to blame for this. The world need Journalism based on truth more then ever now. Mahatma Gandhi is here to help us. The great Satyagrahi was a fantastic Journalist too. The way he used this tool of Journalism is the core of this new Journalism Model.

"The rationality of Why determines the validity of What."

Let me give you the answer of 'WHY' we need a new model before coming to 'WHAT' the model is all about. I have studied Journalism in my undergraduate level from University of Delhi. I studied it at Post Graduation level from Indian Institute Of Mass Communication. I came across numerous communication theories and models during this period. Journalism was taught to us as a noble and 'revolutionary Profession.' It gave me immense pride to know the stories of Journalists like Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi or Raja Ram Mohan Rai. The only irony was that Our teachers did not have any contemporary example to give. Raja Ram Mohan Rai a great scholar died in 1833 and Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi was killed in 1931. As a Journalism student I was inspired to work for the 'Fourth pillar of Democracy'.

But Now as a Communication professional after working in three of India's biggest media houses and being trained under two more equally big organisations I feel betrayed. let me explain the reasons behind it.

  1. Academical Hypocrisy: For example if someone wants to be a Doctor, he/she studies medicine. This study comes handy in his/her practice as a Doctor. Same with other professions be it Banking, Law, Engineering list goes on. We study Journalism as a Professional course. But Unfortunately in this case the study is useless in the profession as its not being practiced. This 'Academical Hypocrisy is doing no good to the students as well as the young media professionals.
  2. Media school to make us fool: This academical hypocrisy is there for a reason. We are afraid to accept that the way media functions is not ethical(moral) enough to teach young minds. So the false glorification is a kind of intellectual fraud. Just to make sure that this highly profitable industry of Media schools is running well. Almost every news channel and most newspapers have their own media schools which charges too much money to sell their fraud. Quoting 100 years old examples won't help in a professional course.
  3. Internal Democracy is Dead: In India, the profession of communication have not a single strong union of Journalists who can dream to represent even half of the media professionals. Situation is no different globally either. There is no internal democracy in media organisations. Such a shame to that profession who claims to be the 'Fourth Pillar Of Democracy'.
  4. Big buyer =Great liar: The question of ownership is deciding the functions of any Media Organisation. I have attended call at 2 AM in the night from my Editor to drop the story about Panama Papers as one of the name was of a Very big businessman who was also 21 % shareholder in that company. We have seen globally that the position of ownership is ultimately the positioning of the media Organisation.

After Answering the question WHY let's understand WHAT is 'Gandhi Model Of Journalism. The name Gandhi has lot to do with this model. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi needs no introduction. A politician, lawyer, saint (popularly known as Mahatma) Freedom Fighter and the real solder of truth. But apart from all this He had a career as a Journalist/Editor for more than four decades. We are talking about the Journalist Gandhi. Let me be very clear that it's not Gandhian model of Journalism. It's Gandhi Model of Journalism. Even Gandhi was against using the term Gandhian Philosophy.  We are not talking about 'father of the nation'. We are talking about the editor of Indian Opinion and Young India. How he used the tool of Journalism is lighting force for us to practice Journalism. We understand Journalism is more then talking politics and getting advertisement.

"Gandhi Model Of Journalism is for the Digital age"

In the digital age communication is easier and faster then ever. The Power and sudden emergence of this date driven revolution has allowed every single individual (who has the access) to be a communicator. Even our regular conversations are documented on social media platforms and so does the hatred, rumors and online crimes too. The responsibility of a communication professional is very vital now. One way traffic can't go on now. It's not fair either. Now both sides (Journalists and Public) has the tool. A communication professional is required for connecting the dots and keep the news flow based on truth. This can only happen by democratizing the news  . This model suggests inclusion of 'Citizen Journalists' in the content creation process in the most effective way. 

Let's read what did Gandhi say about Journalism-

"In the very first month of Indian Opinion, I realized that the sole aim of journalism should be service. The newspaper press is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges whole countryside and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If the control is from without, it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only when exercised from within. If this lice of reasoning is correct, how many of the journals in the world would stand the test? But who would stop those that are useless? The useful and the useless must, like good and evil generally, go on together, and man must make his choice" (An Autobiography of My Experiments with Truth, p. 211).

The only kind of Journalism he wanted -

"What is really needed to make a democracy function is not the knowledge of facts, but right education. And the true function of journalism is to educate the public mind, not to stock the public mind with wanted and unwanted impressions. A journalist has, therefore, to use his discretion, as to what to report and when. As it is, the journalists are not content to stick to the facts alone. Journalism has become the art of ‘intelligent anticipation of events’" (M K Gandhi, See Tendulkar: Mahatma, ed. 1953, p. 247).

Objectives of Gandhi Model Of Journalism.

  1. to provide news to all the sections of society in their own language
  2. to advocate their cause
  3. to provide the information of the events happening in India
  4. to contain contributions from competent writers,experts.
  5. to cover all the aspects on social, moral, intellectual issues.

Understanding Gandhi Model Of Communication

Journalism: Journalism is a tool which uses different mediums of communication to spread correct information, Right Knowledge and healthy entertainment. It's a medium to serve people. Our litmus test will be as suggested by Gandhi. Whatever we do we have to ensure that we are doing something for the last man in the queue. Objective of Journalism is to educate with right knowledge, to entertain with good spirit and to develop rational thinking. This model does not see Journalism as a hardcore profit making business. Too much focus on politics is sign of bad Journalism.

Journalist: We think of a Journalist as a truth seeker with a sensitive mind. His Job is not just to report to the organisation. His liability is for the society first, organisation second. If he discovers injustice, it must be told loud and bold but it is also his duty to follow the story till justice is done. His job is to develop the rationality in the society he is working on. 

Journalism And Satyagraha: Satyagraha is a well defined and practiced tool by Gandhi. Satyagraha — loosely translated as "insistence on truth", "loyalty to the truth" or holding onto truth. This model includes the tools of Satyagraha in our basic principals. We do not need to redefine what satyagraha is. A journalist is a truth seeker and he can not go against Satyagraha. Truth, love, compassion must be in his basic character. 

Public Journalism: In the Digital Age Journalism should not be one way traffic. Mobile and Internet is in the acsess of common people now. This is the tool of communication now. This Model believes that If Media is the reflection of the society, then society must reflect in the system of news making too. This model will aims to reach to the public and prepare Citizen Journalists among them. they will be our Ground reporters. Their training is the duty of organisation. Any organisation that follows this model regular/Employee will be in a minority. At least by 60:40 Citizen Journalist will be part of the Organisation. This means that any Organisation which follows Gandhi Model Of Journalism can not have more Professional Journalists then the number of Citizen Journalists. 

News Cycle: In the Indian independence movement Gandhi made Spinning wheel a tool of Satyagraha and self dependence. This model gives the same value to the Bicycle. In the Digital Age local is global. As this model gives at least 60% weightage  to the Citizen Journalists. We believe news that we are covering should be in his reach. This model firmly advocate using bicycle by our journalists. Any news which we are covering must be within the range of a bicycle ride from the reporter who is covering. Bicycle is an important part of news cycle. In Digital Journalism you don't need OB vans and big cables. Riding a bicycle for the story will add the sweat and honesty of the reporter. This will also make the Journalist more people and environment friendly.

Professionalism and working Ethics: We accept Journalism as a professional and artistic craft. It is the duty of the organisation to train professionals. Professionalism  can be practiced in a peaceful and inspiring  environment. We do not see a point of misbehavior at any workplace. It is not allowed in this system. You have to become Gandhi to practice Gandhi's Model of Journalism. 

Clearing 'Modern Doubts:

Goal Of Journalism: This model believes that the first and foremost goal of Journalism is to spread truth and knowledge. If money drives your career, you should not choose journalism. We will not indulge in any kind of rat race or cut throat competition with anyone but will make sure that quality would never be comprised.

Jounalsim or Activism -

We see Journalism as an active medium. A journalist is, and should be very social. He reports injustice and works towards justice by using communication means. Asking questions, organizing discussions, poles, even encouraging people  to use satyagrah tools for the demands  of justice. (In those cases only where all above mentioned tools went in vain). We do not see a major difference apart from the fact that they choose social work as their profession and we practice Journalism as ours.

Advertisement-

We believe in a digital age it is more democratic. (The advertisement System). This model counts purity of means and the medium as our core principal. So we won't take Communal, Violent, Vulgar, Promoting intoxication advertisement and we will not associate our self with someone who has proven/known/Popular corruption charges.

On Sensitive and emotional  issues-

This model believes that truth, peace, love and compassion  is the guiding force of any society. We see God in everything. So there is no place for inequality and injustice. We do not see war as an option. We respect the sovereignty of our nation and will work for a better and empowered India. We believe in the theory of Gram Swaraj (Village Empowerment). It should be the goal to achieve for villages. 

Journalism and Government

Democracy can not function without Government. We believe in connecting dots. Journalism is not only about gathering information. It should chanalise the information to get the positive results in the society. We see our self as a very important and useful source of information for Governments to see all the flaws and get the work done. 

Associations-

This model believes that any association is just only  if the intention is right. No association is allowed if it is for Private ownership/Any kind of Propaganda, Communal/Promoting violence.

Economic Assistance:

To run any organisation money is always needed. In Digital age it is not as huge a problem as for the  other medium of journalism. We believe apart from advertisement, organisation can take support from Gandhi associated institutions, public donation (nominal), Government Help (only when any additional pressure is not imposed.) The ideal situation would be to spread the positive journalism and after that Public donation (Subscription fee) will be the only source for economic assistance.

We are starting Champaran Online with these programes. We ensure our principals to guide our journalism.

1. Our first and foremost goal is to reach to 100 villages and use the communication mean by different programs to ensure these villages become 100% Open Defecation free on the 100th anniversary of Champaran Satyagraha. This will be our tribute to Gandhi. 

2. Digital Pathshala (School): We believe knowledge is useless if it is not shared. Digital World has made life easy. Digital Pathshala is a platform to teach our audiences digitally. We believe, transfer of knowledge is easier in this digital world. The question is once again of connecting the dots. We will be working on it. We will be educating our readers with Video lessons about everything they need to know first and foremost. Audio books and Digital lessons will be part of this.

3. Public Journalism: Every village we visit, we will make sure to choose our village correspondent. By the end of this journey of 100 villages we will be having 100 Citizen Journalist with us. We will be training them also.

4. Self Regulation: An yearly online survey with our audience/reader about us will be done. This survey will include questions about our working ethics, relevance, Image and usefulness to the public. This yearly exercise will tell us if we are moving in the right direction. This survey will also include questions about the way forward. Like issues they want us to cover, things we missed and etc.

This is Gandhi Model Of Journalism.  Gandhi is for all so does Gandhi Model Of Journalism. Anyone in the world can decide to pursue Journalism by this Model. We need to restore the lost faith in Journalism. There is no other way then the Gandhi way.

Adarsh Shukla
Editor, Champaran Online

Adarsh Shukla hails from the land of Champaran Satyagraha. Gandhi's first Satyagraha in India. He is a Journalism Graduate from University of Delhi. He won more than 300 debates across India in this period.

He founded a debating society named Vedang. He did his masters from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi. He joined 93.5 RED FM in 2013 worked as an RJ and Assistant Producer.

In 2015 He joined www.aajtak.in as Senior Sub Editor. He wrote more then 100 byline stories from them. After this in March 2016 he joined 107.2 Radio Nasha of Hindustan Times Group as Associate Producer. He was in the launching team of this successful radio station in Delhi.

Now he will be working on Gandhi model of Journalism for rest of the life. www.champaranonline.com is going to be the first platform to practice Gandhi Model Of Journalism. This Website will be working in rural areas of Champaran.)

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