What is healthy journalism? Can journalism survive on positive news? Please explain your vision on the responsibility of the media.
Nandita, by healthy journalism, I mean journalism which nourishes the whole personality of man – his body, his mind, his soul – journalism whose whole concern is to create a better humanity, not just to report what is happening. Journalism should not be just a news medium, it should also be great literature – then it is healthy. Even yesterday’s newspaper should remain of some worth, so that even today it can be read. It should not be so momentary. But if you are only a news medium then naturally, once the day has passed, the news is old. You should make something that never becomes old, and always remains new.
That’s what great literature is. Dostoevsky’s novels, or those of Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, or Turgenev, Rabindranath Tagore… they will remain significant as long as humanity remains, and as fresh as ever.
Something in your journalism should have that quality, and that quality can be introduced. You can have space for news, but that should be secondary. Because what are those news reports? What are they going to do? Somebody steals – what is the point of reporting it? And somebody commits suicide – what is the point of reporting it? Why make it news unnecessarily? You are filling your space with absolutely nonessential things.
Bring the essential in. You have poets, you have painters, you have writers, you have spiritual giants – you can introduce all of them. They should be your major part, and politics should be just your third page, or fourth page – or maybe no page! You have made these politicians so huge, so exaggerated, and then the whole country suffers. The whole world is suffering because of these people, and you will have to take responsibility for it. These people should be cut down to size and put in their place. Somebody may be the president of the country; that doesn’t mean much. The question is whether he is a great president; the quality is the question.
[…] Journalists should not be afraid of anybody; you are not dependent on anybody’s votes. You should bring truth to the people: You are creating children – but in fact you are creating death. By the end of this century, half of the country – that means five hundred million people – will be dying of starvation: one man out of two. You will be surrounded by corpses. What are your politicians doing about it? And if I speak for birth control methods, then shankaracharyas condemn me, then the politicians try to destroy my efforts, because it goes against the religious superstitions of the people.
No politician has even the courage to come and meet me. Indira asked… six times she had appointments to come to me, and just one day before, she would cancel. Finally, I sent my secretary to ask her, “What nonsense is this? If you want to come, you come; if you don’t want to come, nobody is inviting you. You have been asking….” And then she told my secretary, “My colleagues prevent me. They say if I go there, it is dangerous for my political future.” Because I don’t have any votes! The shankaracharyas and the imams and the bishops will all withdraw their votes, if they see a politician coming to me.
And it is one of the wonders that none of them is able to argue. I have been challenging them, saying that I am ready for a public debate with anybody on any point, and those cowards… none of them comes.
The journalists should bring to the public news of the people who are fighting for unpopular causes, because the unpopular causes are the future of man. The popular causes are the past, rotten heritage. The politician cannot have that courage, but the journalist can have it, and should have. Nandita, I call that journalism healthy.
And you are asking, “Can journalism survive on positive news?” I am not saying that; I am saying don’t try just to survive on negative news. Bring out the positive, in all its beauty, and put the negative in the background; it should not be the focus. I don’t want you just to be positive, I want you to be realists.
The negative side is a part of life, yes; death is a part of life. But that does not mean that you have to make your funeral ground in the middle of the market. You make your funeral ground outside the city, where you go only once and you don’t come back. Why don’t you make it in the middle of the bazaar so that everybody can see, passing by every day, that people are being burned?
It is part of life, so once in a while you can talk about the funeral, but don’t focus on it. Death is certain, but life is more important. Talk about life, make life a celebration. Don’t make people too much afraid of death.
Don’t create a phobia with the negative; that’s what I am saying. I am not saying that the media can survive only on the positive news – that will be wrong, that will be half. The negative should be brought to light, but should not be emphasized. It should be criticized.
The positive should be supported, and the negative should be condemned. In that way you are not being simply positive, you are bringing both… but the negative side is ugly. You know that in life we go on putting the negative out of the way, and we go on putting the positive in front. The same should be the attitude of a healthy journalism: the positive should be the goal. The negative should be used as a stepping stone to it, but never emphasized, because that creates in people’s minds the idea that the negative is what life is all about. That is a very dangerous cancer of the soul.
Osho, The New Dawn, Ch 19, Q 5
Excerpt first published under the title ‘Journalists Should Not Be Afraid Of Anybody’