New Delhi:  Asserting that strong and independent-minded editors are the best guarantee for safeguarding the public interest, Vice President Hamid Ansari on Monday lamented that they had become an "endangered species" in today's media world.
    
"Experience shows that the best guarantee for safeguarding the public interest is to have strong and independent-minded editors. Today, they are an endangered species," he said presenting the Ramnath Goenka Journalism Awards here.
    
Ansari said "the slow erosion" of the institution of the editor in Indian media organisations is a reality."When media space and media products are treated solely in terms of revenue maximisation strategies, editors end up giving way to marketing departments," he said.
    
Noting that vibrant journalism in a democracy is watchdog journalism, he said it monitors the exercise of power and influence in society and stands for the rights and freedom of citizens. "It informs and empowers citizens rather than entertains and titillates them."
    
Maintaining that media norms is an issue of public debate, the Vice President said, "We have, as yet, not had an informed debate in the country on the issue of multiple- ownership and cross-ownership nor a cogent national media policy that covers all platforms."
    
This, he said, was at variance with the practice of other developed democracies.
    
"The impact of the emergence of a handful of media conglomerates spanning the entire media spectrum in moulding public opinion, generating political debate and safeguarding consumer and public interest is a moot question," he said.
    
"Issues of ethics and professionalism of the media appear to invade all aspects of our lives – political, economic and social," he said, adding "It is for you, the journalist community, to take the initiative and seek to address various concerns regarding the profession."

Speaking at the function, Ansari said, "The hard work of defining and implementing a value system and a vision for an organisation, a society or polity cannot be substituted by technology."
   
He said the convergence between news media, entertainment and telecom has eroded the demarcation between journalism, public relations, advertising and entertainment.
   
"So is the case between business, commerce, philanthropy, politics and profession. It is not clear where public interest ends and private interest begins; where profit ends and the not-for-profit begins; where government ends and the non-government begins," he said.
   
The Vice President was also critical of media for what he called "structural biases" of the development process that had favoured urban areas over rural ones, metropolitan areas over other urban areas, English-speaking over those speaking other Indian languages.
   
"These biases have prompted the media to resort to sunshine journalism where the focus is on the glass that is quarter-full rather than that which is three-quarters empty," he said.
   
He said that in Indian context, intrusive content regulation is minimised because those who are aggrieved of the media can resort to legal means but added that delivery of justice in courts was often every time consuming.
   
"The time taken to settle court cases deters individual citizens, and even corporate entities, from seeking legal options. This makes imperative the search for alternate tools for redressal of grievances," he said.
   
Ansari, however, also praised the "shining examples of journalists who not only embody the ethical dimension, but sadly, also laid down their life for the same."

(Agencies)