It is distressing to learn that a few print and visual media managements have closed down some of the editions, sacked a few of the employees including journalists and reporters and have asked a number of them to go on leave without pay, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
A few of the print and visual media managements that have resorted to this “strategy” have reasonably healthy balance sheets during the last few years and have good reserves. Certainly, they have the financial strength to manage for a period of a few months during the COVID-19 crisis.
While some small outfits may have reasons for reducing the number of employees or delaying the payment of wages, this cannot be so in the case of medium and large media houses. In this scenario, one gets an impression whether the media managements consider the journalists and reporters as “disposable items”, obviously implying that they have least consideration about the welfare of these people and their families. Some may even suspect whether a few media managements have used the “Covid-19 opportunity” to get rid of surplus staff or inconvenient staff.
In such circumstances, one wonders whether the media would have the same image and prestige again after the COVID 19 crisis.
It is widely recognised that media is one of the strong pillars of democracy and an independent and self-respecting media is absolutely essential for the survival of democratic traditions and practices.
Journalists, reporters and editors are generally believed to be sacrificing their personal interests for the sake of the cause that they espouse. Several journalists and reporters have suffered in the past and even faced violent attacks and court proceedings due to their independent writings and observations.
In such circumstances, if an impression would gain ground that media has gone under the control of the profit oriented business houses, which would resort to closure as a knee jerk reaction for a temporary problem, without commitment to the cause of journalism, then inevitably media would lose the credibility in the eyes of the public.
Already, we often hear about what is known as paid news and motivated campaign by section of media depending upon the ownership of the media . Whether one likes it or not, it has to be admitted that readers often express suspicions about the credibility of some writings and publications in the print and visual media. This is not a healthy development.
In the aftermath of the COVID 19 crisis, a few media managements seem to be adopting the functioning style of commercial enterprises and dispense with the employees at the stroke of a pen, due to business losses. In most cases, this appears to have been done without adequately evaluating and implementing alternative remedial strategies, in the face of a temporary problem created by COVID 19 crisis.
Certainly, media houses could have taken loan from the financial institutions to overcome the financial crisis faced by them just for a few months, if necessary.
One gets an impression that, probably, some of the media houses that have resorted to terminating the service of journalists and reporters lack confidence in their ability to overcome the temporary financial issues after the COVID 19 crisis, which would pass away as the time would move on.
As said earlier, the essence of journalism and media houses is the readiness and capability to withstand pressure, make sacrifices if required with deep and sustained faith in the journalistic ethos.
When media managements readily resort to sacking employees and closing down editions in the face of a temporary crisis, it reflects the fact that section of media houses have become solely profit oriented with other glorious aspects and objectives of journalism being given up on flimsy grounds.
The result of the panicky reaction of some media houses would be that media managements can not any more count on the loyalty and confidence level and independent investigative method of the journalists and reporters who may be forced to change their approach to journalism due to job security issues.
One cannot be blamed, if he would think that section of media houses have lost the glorious opportunity to prove their mettle in standing up to the COVID 19 crisis and instead they buckled under pressure, with monetary benefits getting central viewpoint.
It is admitted that print and visual media cannot be run when they incur losses for a length of time. But, a few months of COVID 19 crisis cannot be a justifiable reason for “thinning down the media”.