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Citizens must get an interpretation of the economic, political, and cultural significance of various events. The media do such interpretation through features, editorials, special articles, letters to the editor, and special discussions on radio or TV. The Internet helps citizens to exchange views on important developments. Certain wrong actions were taken by government agencies (Gawakadal in Kashmir) and wrong actions by citizens (Khairlanji, Maharashtra) are explained by the media through news, features, detailed articles, and editorials. Lasswell called this “correlation of the parts of society through the interpretation of events and issues” as a major function of the media.

The reader should not be confused with a mixture of news and personal opinions of a news reporter. News should not be mixed with editorial views. This is why we have the separate positioning of editorials.

The reader should not be confused with a mixture of news and personal opinions of a news reporter. News should not be mixed with editorial views. Facts and opinions should not be mixed, as C P Scott, a famous English journalist said: “Facts should be sacred; opinion is free.” But the news should be identified as news and opinions should be identified as opinions. This is why we have the separate positioning of editorials. A page is devoted in most newspapers for editorial opinions, special articles, and letters to the editor, which are not news. Certain newspapers also set apart the page opposite to the editorial page for such expression of views and opinions. They call that page, Op-Ed page (Opposite–Editorial) Page.

Newspapers should also identify advertisements as advertisements and not as news or quasi-news. Strictly speaking, they should use rules to demarcate ads and separate them from news and editorial matter. Some newspapers use the same font for news and ads, without lines or rules separating them. Newspapers accused of using “paid news” do indulge in these unethical practices to mislead readers.

It is unethical to give the reporter’s opinion as part of the news report. If it is essential to do so, the reporter has to identify that part of the news report as his/her personal opinion.

It is unethical to give the reporter’s opinion as part of the news report. If it is essential to do so, the reporter has to identify that part of the news report as his/her personal opinion.

In the broadcast media in Western countries, the station director comes on the air to express the station’s views on a certain issue. We do not find this practice in India. Here, the broadcast news editors prefer to hide behind the screen. It is not because they do not have opinions of their own or their station/channel; they prefer anonymity. Are they afraid that they would alienate their listeners or viewers and thereby lose their ratings? However, most opinions are discussed by participants in discussions and debates on radio and TV.

One of the major functions of the media, thus, is to interpret events, presenting all sides and shades of opinion. The media users are given a comprehensive account of the day’s events, and they can draw their conclusions. Sometimes reports alone may not give the full implications and far-reaching consequences of certain events. Then, editorial comments, letters to the editor, and broadcast and telecast discussions will help.

Correlation of the various parts of society and interpretation of the significance of events for the locality, state, region, nation, or the world is essential. Most of us are not aware of the historical significance of certain events because we left school or college a few years before reading the newspaper or viewing TV. The general knowledge of the average media user is not exceptionally high. Therefore, the specialists in the media’s regular workforce or guest panel have to explain the political, economic, social, and cultural significance of an event or issue. In a news report, such interpretation or discussion is deliberately avoided because a report must be confined to the barest minimum facts and figures. If facts and opinions are mixed in a straight news report, the reporter will be accused of bias and manipulation.

Dr John Vergis Vilanilam
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