Environment, Youth & the Media in #COVID arena

Rajeet Sinha

This World Environment Day, I recall my conversation with youth from 14 countries at the ‘TERI’s DSDS 2011 YUVA Meet’ as I spoke on ‘Environment, Youth & The Media’. I realise that Youth have even more relevant role to play today, in the present #COVID19 arena. Here is my argument

I am just an ordinary learner in media trying to understand it and I have come here to learn from your thoughts. I will say a few words, my views could be biased and hence you must critically listen to it.

Do you think media has a role to play in your life and issues related to the environment? Yes or no?

Do you think that media has delivered in line with your expectations?

Do you think that media is doing its duty to help protect the environment?

Do you know who Payal is or was? Do you know who Jessica was? I will come back to this question again. Do you think that media played its role right in delivering justice for Jessica? Then do you also think that media failed in its duty to push justice for Payal and many others like her? Payal was one of the Nithari victims, a place close to Delhi, where dozens of youngsters and women were sexually abused and killed over a period of time. My argument is that in order to push cases like justice for Jessica, media prioritises and denies space to many other victims or causes, who deserve media attention and space too but fail to get it. How fair the media’s wisdom to prioritise issues is, is a matter of opinion too. Same is the story with environment related coverage.

The point I am trying to make is that it’s fine to know that Tigers need to be protected, but do we also need to know, that how many of our citizen are struggling for bare survival, for resources like clean drinking water and does that also need due attention from the media? And should it form part of the larger debate on environment? Are these issues inter-related? For each one of us, how can we make the difference in our day-to-day lives? Who will research that and who will communicate and propagate that?

Environment related issues in general are a non prime-time or no front page content globally. I am sharing excerpts from an article written by James Painter who is head of the journalism fellowship programme at the Reuters Institute for the study of Journalism, Oxford ten days back. Painter says that Media interest in climate change takes a dive and I quote

“A year can be a very long time in the life of media interest. In December 2009, I was one of more than 4,000 journalists who attended the UN’s Copenhagen summit on climate change – probably the largest press presence for an international event outside of sport….
…One year on, and the next major summit at the Mexican resort of Cancun was much less of an attraction ……. This time, around 1,200 of us made the trip, and many of these were from Mexico, the host nation, and Latin America. The numbers of British reporters dropped to around 50 from the 200-plus there were at Copenhagen…..”

The article mentions another research by Professor Robert Brulle at Drexel University saying that in the US, Cancun coverage on the networks amounted to one 10-second clip. This contrasts with the 32 stories totaling 98 minutes generated by the Copenhagen talks
Quoting Painter again “the decline in media interest has prompted plenty of analysis for the reasons behind it and renewed debate about the relationship between volume of coverage and its effect on human attitudes and behavior”

It’s a fantastic write-up and I suggest that all of you should hit the RISJ site and read his piece.

The treatment of environment related stuff by the media is not only an issue of priority. It’s also a matter of clarity. Someone said that whenever we have a choice, try selecting what is right and not what is convenient. To select right, it depends that the source has strength and is an unbiased one. The source has to be one who clarifies values. Sadly, many of the stories that come in the media lack that source of strength, value and the clarity it should offer to viewer or to the reader. There are half-baked stories and instead of clarity, sometimes it adds to the confusion only.

You are all young and avid user of social media. While social media is turning commercially stronger, how committed commercial media is to the society, is a matter of debate. How can we harness the social media to help better the environment? And how can we push the commercial media to be more socially responsible?

I do not know but want to ask you if you feel that the page-3 material improves our lives and if there is any environmental loss in printing those sheets? Is there is anything worth gaining from that? Can we think of a supplement like page 3 on environment?

I stopped watching news TV almost 15-months back and I assume that though I may not be updated a bit, it has not made me outdated.

Good, Cricket world cup is here IPL is next and we will soon see lot of content reported out of these events.

We often hear that make things interesting, people will watch automatically. What is there that makes cricket always interesting? You watch it, so its viewership is that makes it interesting and in demand.-If you want change, it is you who will make the change. It is my personal belief, that the youth of this country will do a great favour to the nation and to the environment if they stop watching cricket-to the extent of boycotting it. If you demand and push the advertisers and media for content on issues that are of greater relevance and importance to you, things have to change. The prioritisation of content like cricket and entertainment in news media is like a dose of opium to keep the people away from realities or to invite debate on them.

Would you like the political class to serve you or to use you? Are you happy or at least content with the content of Indian media? Do you want more or different? How can you use media and not be used by media? These are some of the questions I want to put before you!

Who will bell the cat? Your environment is too serious a business to be left on the mercy of few editors and media owners. It’s your media and your environment; you have to demand and drive content. It’s your right and it’s your duty!

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