Media – Society’s Gatekeeper

Posted on 07 August 2011 by Cheryl Joy

A morning cup of tea, followed by a daily dose of the current happenings thanks to the newspaper that gets dropped at your door step. This sounds like an average day for anyone of us doesn’t it? But then have you ever wondered what power that cup of tea can hold. While it may sound out of this world that the cup of morning ‘chai’ could have any significance, apart from the obvious ones, this is not entirely the case. For, it is possible that many a times that cup of tea is making you think about things that you would never associate it with, things of importance, things that can start revolutions. Thinking all this sounds impossible? I have two words for you- Jaago Re. And quite literally as well!

This is a clear indication of the power that the media wields today. It is larger than life, its powers are all encompassing and it influences our lives in ways we could never even fathom a mere decade back. To think about it logically, who would have imagined that tea drinking would be translated into a massive movement to encourage the masses, the youth in particular, in ideas of governance and the social responsibility? And the brilliance of it all lies in the fact that it worked, it worked like a charm. Tata tea got the image of a life time and a record number of people registered themselves to vote. This is media and its power and its gigantic best.

What does all this go to show? Does it mean that the media is manipulating our thoughts, that all around us there is information that is fed to us, information that we might not really need? Quite on the contrary. This means that there is an agency out there that is making a point to remind us of the things that we tend to forget and if it is making some money out of it, what’s the harm in it after all? I was quite intrigued by a recent theory that I read about which spoke about Media as a gatekeeper. It got me thinking. If this was true then it meant that a lot of what we feel strongly about could possibly be the result of a very intelligent media company or channel and if that is the case then are we actually thinking for ourselves or have we out sourced that as well?

All these questions point to one common truth- good or bad the media today is a sieve. It decides what needs to go out there and in what proportion. It decides what is important, what needs to be kept under wraps- each day. There are two sides of looking at this. For those who specialize in doubting every move and intention this could be a curse. To think that the information that we think we are looking for is actually fed to us without even realizing it! Sounds scary doesn’t it? And if this is the case then how legitimate is that source which is making these decisions for us.

However there is a flip side to the argument. Supported by all the proponents of media and its supporters comes the view that there is and never can be any other channel that can mobilize public opinion so quickly and so effectively. This means that there is a lot of power in the hands of the media to bring about a positive difference in society. It can act as a harbinger of change, questioning the injustice and bringing together the voices of a lot of people who would otherwise have no source to get their voices heard. Even if they did, it would never be taken as seriously as it is when all of them come together. This is what was seen when the Jaago Re campaign succeeded and has happened with many brands after that.

The point of this discussion is to understand that the media today might have an upper hand in dispensing information to the masses. This could also mean that the information that is being passed out is lop sided. But that is the cynical point of view and we cannot survive if we turn into a generation of cynics. It would defeat the purpose of public good and social living. What it means is that the media is powerful, it is a channel and it is the only source known that can influence such a large mass at the same time. While this is a big responsibility on its shoulders, it is also a big opportunity for change. It is the only way that positive change can be dispensed and that is the only way that this power can be used responsibly.

While there will always be people who doubt all that comes their way and question the intention of the media, I think quite differently. Realizing that all in life is not white or black but painted shades of grey, this too is not something that can be all good or all bad. There is worth in the idea of media acting as gatekeepers and at the same time there could be its faults, but the point being made is that there too, one always has the choice of which side to take.

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