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Online News Portal business

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Zia Darakshan

Agree it or not! But it’s true. J&K is a place where wisdom is a general context and is widely spread vertically, horizontally and diagonally. Thanks to the Internet, which has revolutionized communication and squeezed the world into a global village. It’s the medium through which communication flows from one corner of the globe to another at a lightening pace.

Generally, wisdom is held to be a function of great intelligence  and comes through experience and failures.However,there are  several conditions under which even the dynamics of  wisdom  fail, particularly when one gets overly influenced by the crowd, rather  relying on his or her  own instincts. There is a trend in Kashmir that people blindly start following other people around them,no matter where they are going or what they are doing.They just jump on the bandwagon without giving any thought to the ordinary understanding.

You must be wondering why I am talking wisdom here and there. Let me come straight to the point. Basically, I am talking about herd mentality, which, i think, is deeply embedded in the Kashmiri culture. Anyone keeping himself or herself aloof from the herd mentality is quickly considered as a fool.

In the race of earning economic fortunes, majority of Kashmiris have not shown inclination to get into diversified economic activities. Instead they have been opportunistic in their own style. They keep close eye on the activities which give more profits, especially the newer business activities. Examples galore which reveal that whenever any new economic activity was introduced and found to earn quick bucks in bulk, Kashmiris lost no time to get into the activity whether they possessed knowhow of the trade or not.

Let me take you to an era when landline phone connections were restricted to very few houses and having a telephone connection would imply a status symbol. But in early nineties the trend changed. STDs/private telephone booths appeared on the scene and the activity was introduced as one of the most modern profitable businesses. The STDs changed the whole scenario of communication.Landline phones were no more domain of elites.

Notably, a swarm of general public was a common sight on these STD booths and would pay any amount to speak to the far off relatives or friends.While, this  not only spiked the STD business in the valley but also led to the  mushrooming of STD booths in every nook and corner of the city. Opening a STD shop became a perfect solution for every other person who would want to venture into a new business. Ultimately, we witnessed a huge saturation in this business and was no more lucrative. However, this business too did not survive  longer as mobile phones changed the whole morphology of communication. Soon these STD booths vanished in thin air.

Likewise there are many instances of other businesses which led people to follow them for a while but then lost sheen after falling victim to saturation.

Now coming to the latest profession hit by herd mentality. Currently, we are witnessing mushroom growth of online portals, especially news portals. There is a mad race where many people who are neither qualified nor experienced in the field of journalism are running news portals.

Let me borrow a story from one of my acquaintances. A duo in south Kashmir selling peanuts and other eating stuff on a mobile cart, had developed habit of clicking and record protests and other scenes of confrontation between police and civilians on their smartphones. Sometimes they would visit an encounter site and shoot the dead bodies and destruction of property. Later in the day, they would post these small videos and photos on their Facebook walls and even share it on WhatsApp. Gradually,they started garnering ‘likes’ and appreciation for their shoots and clicks. They strangely found themselves as news breakers and ultimately launched their own news portal. They have stopped street vending and are operating as full fledged journalists.

There is another story of a casual photographer who also used to  do videography of marriage ceremonies. Seeing the news portals trending, he launched one of his own with a tagline of ‘the only news channel of Kashmir that is fast and authentic’. I cant comment on its authenticity, however, it is definitely fast ,with the frequency the guy changes the logo of the site.The high sound beatsand the flashy colours running through the news channel speak for itself the future of journalism in Kashmir!

One more so called news portal which claims to be the best and fearless,operates somewhere in outdoors with a half baked brickwall in the background pasted with a poorly done banner.A guy appears on the screen with a mike shouting at the back of his throat in the name of reporting ‘breaking news’.

In this scenario one can imagine the ruckus this section of news reporting media players are creating.Journalism is a serious and noble profession and should not be used as a tool to promote  ones own interests … .Non-serious players getting into it ,should at least qualify the basic qualities required to get into the business . Being the fourth pillar of democracy, the power of this nobleprofession should not be pushed to the herd mentality and reduced to the likes of STD booths.

A sense has to prevail among our youngsters that being part of the herd mentality is not always ok .The old adage , ‘think before you leap’ makes sense even today .The phrase has been the moral of the story for many child stories which was about a fox which fell into a well and since he was unable to climb out he convinced a goat to jump in.

The author is Associate Editor at INS and can be mailed at ziadarakshan@yahoo.com

 

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