Journalism and Ethics in India

By Steve Byers

I recently spent a couple of weeks teaching a Marquette University Diederich College of Communication-sponsored journalism workshop in Ahmadabad, India, so I was struck by this story from Bloomberg View concerning journalism at the two top —and growing —print newspapers in India. Together they sell more than five million newspapers a day.

Basically, the story attacks the journalism of the two, the Times of India and the Hindu, finding it lacking in much of the basic integrity as well as professionalism seen in journalism around the world.  I talked with executives from the Times of India, and both in informal and formal speeches they echoed some of the concerns about how journalism is practiced in their country.

Further, Father Vincent Braganza, head of St. Xavier’s College, which promoted the workshop we taught, was quite open in his disappointment concerning journalism in India, which he said was shallow, lacking in ethics and rife with errors — all elements of the Bloomberg story.

My view after reading the Indian papers for two weeks, is that the criticism is quite true. The Times of India would be considered sensationalist by American standards. Word choice is atrocious, and errors are common. Frankly, the Hindu is dull.

Father Braganza’s solution is the teaching of journalism, which is rare in that country. Only a handful of journalism programs exist, he said, with most journalists trained in English departments. Father Braganza says that means they lack grounding in ethics and philosophy. That would explain the shortcomings seen in the Bloomberg piece. Despite growing sales, that lack of professionalism bodes ill for India’s future.

Steve Byers is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Journalism at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication.

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