Thriving amidst tremors

Here are some of the challenges facing newsrooms in developing nations.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Arjun Iyer

3rd of May is considered as World Press Freedom Day. It is a day dedicated to those journalists who lost their lives in pursuit of uncovering the truth to the masses. While most people believe that a news organization would function as smoothly as they would in a Western country, the reality is harsh for those operating in third-world countries like India. The problems could be diverse, ranging from financing the organization all the way up to tackling press freedom issues. Here are some very common problems faced by media functioning in Third World countries.

Press freedom:
The most commonly discussed factor when it comes to media in Third World countries is the amount of freedom that the media receives. The media is considered the watchdog of our society, keeping a vigilant eye on those who run the country. As stated earlier, the World Press Freedom Day is to remember those who made their supreme sacrifice in pursuit of truth, but what governments across the world don’t realize is that May 3rd stands as a grim reminder of how oppressive regimes have compromised basic rights for freedom of speech and expression for controlling the masses.

Recently many Third World countries have been declared as unsafe for journalists or are on the verge of being completely censored. These examples are not limited to but include Pakistan, Iran, Myanmar, India, Nigeria, and Venezuela. So what is fundamentally wrong in these countries? In Myanmar, the recent military Coup d’état resulted in social media being completely declared unlawful, and in India, the government is actively clamping down on social media handles which criticize the government for the mishandling of the second wave of the pandemic. Perhaps the only way to solve this issue is, unfortunately, to take sides politically or go defunct.

But here is another version of the story which people don’t talk about: Upon conversing with several veteran journalists and academicians, from both within and outside India, one thing which they all agree about is that India in certain aspects, enjoys a larger degree of press freedom than some of the Western countries as such. The problem is common in all third-world countries. The reason why they are being ranked at a low level in the World Press Freedom Index is because of the number of ground-level reporters/stringers being targeted. As the phrase goes once bitten, twice shy, this has caused news organizations to muffle their own voices to protect their existence.

Financial management:
In the thick of all the claims of Press Freedom and quelling of rights, many factors fall down the cracks and one of them is sound finance management. Media is regarded as an industry, where financing is a paramount factor deciding an organization’s reach and impact. Financing is often associated with operational independence, the more a media organization is dependent on a source for financing, the more the former is obligated to follow the latter’s editorial policy. This often leads to the media house publishing content which might off the bat seem biased for news consumers.

Another huge problem in financing is with regards to going behind the paywall. This might sound fairly common in rich countries but is very new to third-world countries like India. It was not as recent as the CoVID-19 pandemic that Indian media houses started going behind a paywall. In traditional senses, this refers to the increased selling price of newspapers, while for digital newsrooms; it’s about charging the reader for every article they consume.

Competition from bigger newsrooms:
Newsrooms in third world countries often have to not only face competition within their own country but also from newsrooms from abroad. Globalization might have made getting access to consumers and information easier for smaller newsrooms, but has also made them vulnerable to more cut-throat competition from already reputed newsrooms, which have a multinational presence. This has caused both traditional and contemporary newsrooms in third-world countries to be caught in a time warp. Again there are just two options here: either get acquired or merge with a bigger newsroom, or fight the competition.

However, smaller newsrooms are coming up with innovative solutions to tackle this problem. Newsrooms started to set their own trends to saving themselves and reassure themselves of a chance to grow, just the classic way of if you can’t run other’s race, run your own race. Famous examples include TheFirstPost, which became India’s first online newspaper, and The Hindu, which became India’s first newspaper to have a Reader’s Editor. These small novelties often lead to gaining mass attention amongst potential consumers and instil a sense of trust in newsrooms from third-world countries.

In the end, it is clearly palpable that newsrooms from third-world countries are still competent and as powerful as their first-world country counterparts. Albeit facing such a humongous amount of challenges, these newsrooms still manage to carry out their duties diligently and faithfully, to keep an eye on society and prevent billions of lives from falling into the clutches of some evil hands.

This article was among the best from the class of '22 for their assignment 'Challenges facing media in the third world'.

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