Journalism and the coming general election

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COMMENT | In the run-up to the 2008 general election, the GE12, the daily chatter in the newsroom of my newspaper was invariably about voting for the incumbent ruling coalition or the opposition.

Out of curiosity, I asked one young reporter, who was usually the most animated, about the forthcoming polls: “Have you registered as a voter?” To my utter shock she had not. It’s almost like a practising vegan offering me a new recipe for cooking tandoori chicken.

“Then you are not qualified to write about elections,” I told her. End of argument. Her jaws dropped and she said no more. Maybe because I said the right thing. I don’t know. But she remains my good friend till today.

There are some who see the role of journalism as supporting the status quo and the establishment. To do anything else would be a sin. After all, their rice bowls depend on it. On the flipside, there are yet others who would do the exact opposite. That again would also be a sin. That would be too self-righteous and equally biased.

The job of journos is not to tell readers how to vote or who to support but to give them sufficient information to make decisions themselves on an informed basis. That’s basic empowerment taught in Journalism 101 – a free flow of information in the market place of ideas and choices.

People who choose to live in darkness can never show others where the light of a new day may just come from. We cannot force readers to follow our own sense of enlightenment. Illumination comes from exercise of one’s own conscience. Therefore, journalists cannot afford to leave their souls outside the doors of their newsroom.

Now eight years later. Call this déjà vu: a feeling that one has already experienced yet something that is actually happening for the first time. This time around, I am hearing from the young a different attitude; one of fatal indifference and hopelessness: “What’s the point, the same old crooks will end up winning the elections!”

That’s precisely the point! We get the government we didn’t vote for. Repent for our redemption is at hand...

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