Fusing journalism and TB – telling the stories as they are

Health does not make news – here’s evidence!

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CNN IBN, one of India’s premier electronic news channels has a unique initiative called Citizen Journalist, which is positioned as a …platform of empowerment for the citizens of India, which lauds the democratization of news and is built on the principles of inclusive journalism… And the initiative has delivered on its promise, with the quality of stories that are telecast through it.

Where is health in this?

To take this further, CNN IBN also awards the best stories every year under six categories, Fight back, Save your city, Be the change, Fight for her right, etc . But there is a glaring gap in the categories. There is a category for the girl child, there is one for civic amenities, there is also one for changemakers, but where is health?

What does this tell us? That CNN IBN does not care for or have space for health stories? On the contrary, I think it reflects an apathy towards health. From media houses as well as us, the general public. One need not labour the point that if there were enough stories on health, there would have been a category allotted to it. Where is the activism around health, save for HIV/AIDS in India?

I have just heard of a very interesting initiative from a reader of our blog, Mr Ken Patterson, who is the Global Grassroots Manager of an organization called RESULTS. He says, “We have a project dedicated to TB. It’s called ACTION. We do a lot of work with the media. Last fall we generated over 90 pieces of media encouraging President Obama to make a multi-year pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Because of our work with Congress and the media, the US made the first-ever 3-year pledge to the Global Fund for $4 billion.”

Where is such activism in India? How much access do we have to policy makers? Where is the media support, which can force action? There have been innumerable cases that the Indian media has taken up, which has forced the government to sit up and take note, and in fact investigate because the media had put the government on the mat with evidence. The recently concluded Commonwealth Games in India is a classic example. Riddled with corruption and mismanagement, it was the media’s intervention, which forced action on the part of the government and it will not be an exaggeration to say that we were able to save face just in time and avert a major embarrassment to the country.

So if health has to come to centrestage through the media it will take a lot more proactive measures by agencies, individuals and others working in the sector to exert pressure on the media and thereby impact policy. I am just a writer and can indulge in the luxury of critiquing current efforts. It needs a lot more coming together, a lot more lobbying with the media and a lot more to motivate the media to look at health issues seriously. Seriously enough to realise that ignoring health is also to ignore the fact that a sick population cannot be a productive population. And we have a huge number of sick people in India. What with malaria and TB and HIV/AIDS, and poor maternal and child health, with malnutrition adding the icing to the cake!

CNN IBN was just an example to prove a point…

Bharathi Ghanashyam

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

January 21, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Posted in TB and Media

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