By Namrata Roy & Atul Saswat
“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses” – Quoted by Malcolm X, the truth has become even more pertinent today where news spreads in the flick of an eyelid. Thanks to digital media, dissemination is easier than ever. In this era of power growth, the responsibility lies with the media to be careful and control how it exercises the power. Over the last year, VSSUT, Burla has seen more frequent incidents than ever, and the media took all the chances to prove efficacy and feather its own nest. In the process of highlighting the issues, it stood up to the true rationale at times dealing with urgent and necessary causes. However, it also had a fair share of sensationalizing the news with misnomers, prognosis and cherry-picking which put the University in an unfortunate light, contrary to the reality. In this article, we bring to you 3 occasions where media embraced the window of opportunity and over-hyped VSSUT.
#1 Fatwa at girls’ hostel
How would you feel if you were debarred from striking a conversation with people of the opposite gender? This is exactly how the girls of Rohini Hall of Residence of VSSUT felt when the University authorities put up a notice forbidding girls to talk to boys “by the side of the road” on December 2018. The notice read “As directed by the honourable Vice-Chancellor, the boarders of Rohini Hall of Residence are directed not to talk to boy students on the roadside, failing which, action, as deemed proper, shall be taken against them”. This incident was soon declared a “Fatwa” by the media. The people of Odisha were astounded by this news and soon, an article on the same appeared on “The Times of India”. The online article received a lot of flak with a user commenting, “This is the reason why I hate news editors. Seriously ‘fatwa’? Your headlines are so communal”. This became an interesting source of gossip and entertainment, and the information was asked to be met with confirmation by people all over the state. Whereas the reality of the matter is that, next to nothing happened. There was commotion regarding this news for hardly a few days and everything restored to normalcy and forgotten in no time. The integrity of the college was maintained and the over-hyped news stated by the media faded into nothingness.
#2 Smart Classrooms in VSSUT
“The traditional classrooms of VSSUT are soon to be converted to smart classrooms” was the news published by media in December 2018. It’s September 2019 on this article and soon hasn’t arrived yet. Ten months, and how close are we to the prognosis? Not even close. There are hardly a dozen smart classrooms in the entire university, most of which aren’t in regular use either. Moreover, commenting on the condition of the traditional classrooms, few of them are in dire need of being serviced. Our university still follows the old school chalk-and-board teaching method, which obviously has its advantages but definitely falls short of enough in the era of technology. We are certainly equipped to do better than that. Smart classes will not only help students gain practical knowledge but also make learning more appealing. Students would be grateful if even a slice of the prediction leads to fruition. Even though we don’t have enough smart classrooms in our University, the future isn’t far away from where all the classrooms will be equipped with smart boards and students will have the best access to knowledge.
#3 Teacher’s Strike
In the short tenure of a Vice-Chancellor, certain projections always fall short of expectation. Some go unnoticed but a few are too urgent to be ignored. In an unfortunate series of improper co-ordination, the teachers of VSSUT, Burla organised a peaceful protest in July against the autocratic rule of the VC demanding for ouster. The media was swift in its process of highlighting the incident but represented an undertone of disharmony ignoring the rather peaceful nature of the protest. The articles hovered over comments made by the teacher about the VC’s apathy and VC’s accusation of the baselessness of the issues raised by teachers. While disharmony was visible in both the parties, the strike was far more genuine with a clear charter of demands than mudslinging and the obvious verbal communication cherry-picked by the media. Some articles articulated the protest lasting for around a month which is far from the truth. The normal academic atmosphere was nowhere disturbed, classes continued smoothly and the fact of tarnishing the university’s image was stretched a bit too much. The media took care to include the demand for ouster, stage demonstrations, suspension of teachers and a clear disharmony between the VC and teachers. While the University’s normalcy was stunted for a while, the entire process was far off from disturbed and the peaceful protest saw a persistent effort to solve the situations without causing much drama and damage.
The media with its immense control serves as an outlet, a mirror to reflect the truth of the society. The significant power to amplify the voice needs to be sensitive to its freedom and limitations. Ethics, truthfulness and objectiveness are the pillars that construct a good media and not an obsessive drive to meet rating points. Despite the mistakes, the media has still owned up its action at several other occasions and assumed the role of stature to bind people and construct awareness in tough times. As long as the media remains the voice that transcends bias, we will thrive as a society. In other news, VSSUT resumes its normal course taking over the over-hyped hiccups.