Such is the degree of indifference towards this menace that those who think they’re real flag-bearers of the profession are either quiet or cool about it.
The scene unfolded when the second viral wave had made Srinagar’s CD Hospital as another pandemic sanitarium.
Amid fret and feverish rush, a mike-wielding overzealous man would suddenly appear on the scene and storm a common doctor chamber.
In a faltering voice driven by desperation, he conducts, as a viral video shows, the so-called media-trial with medics.
With his aggressive body language, defying a textbook interviewer’s logic, he wanted to play devil’s advocate with the startled and sleep-deprived healthcare workers.
Despite being cautioned about Covid, the frenetic mike-man subjects the patient medics to his ill-bred logic, and badly-done mike job.
This belligerent Facebook reporting for Likes, Comments and Shares has been earning a bad name to Kashmir journalism for some time now.
The unchecked menace, many say, is conveniently shielding some serious and finest work done by Kashmiri scribes from the last thirty years.
The distinguished work would even attract Indian and foreign newspersons for schooling in conflict reporting.
But now, many believe, the “free-floating electrons” styled as scribes have made the entire tribe a “laughing stock”.
What’s even more baffling is a deafening silence of scribes over the menace.
“This collective calm against this media mockery is appalling,” said a Kashmiri scribe preferring anonymity for the fear of being singled out for calling out the nuisance.
“Our seniors having a say as elected members of Kashmir Press Club should at least tackle this menace before this bunch of media mediocre would bring further shame to the profession. Check and balance is the universal rule. We need to put our house in order with our proactive nature.”
This ‘house-correction’ move becomes the need of the hour as some scribes believe that a long rope is being given to these “Facebook Page Journalists” to create a credibility crisis for professionals.
“Most of us have Masters in Media from top Journalism Schools,” said a mid-level journalist. “We’re working in the field with a proper qualification. But this principle doesn’t hold true for these Facebook reporters whose tribe is only growing right under the nose of media bodies. And since they’re good at the noise, they end up creating a people-friendly image for themselves at the cost of all of us.”
Part of the problem, many say, lies in the lack of accountability and absence of media monitoring groups.
“Information Department’s new media policy should have essentially checked this menace,” another journalist said.
“If these Facebook Page journalists continue to call shots, it’s a telling comment on the department as well. Allowing mediocrity and censoring the ground reality doesn’t go a long way. Even during the nineties, such stunts eventually ran out of their courses.”
Apart from poor content production and treatment, these Facebook reporters are increasingly resorting to emotive calls through their repetitive sob-stories on poor families.
Some of the “incorrigible offenders” have already become self-styled cults thriving on their cabal and coterie.
“There’s nothing wrong in pleading the cases of poor families, but the manner it is being done has become a Republic style of journalism in Kashmir now,” said a senior editor whose campaign against this menace was shunted out by his colleagues in past.
“When I tried to mobilise the campaign against it, I was told, ‘Let’s ignore these pricks’. But now when the same pricks have become new media faces, the same colleagues of mine are finding it hard to tackle this mike menace.”
The role of law enforcers in this regard is also being questioned.
A common refrain, especially post-abrogation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir’s semiautonomous status, remains that even accredited journalists are being put on the anvil when these self-styled scribes are growing in shrill and strength.
“While some senior journalists are being summoned to stations for stories, these noise-makers are going scot-free,” a scribe said. “It tells you a lot about the preference.”
Since these mike-men and social media page-runners tend to play “sycophants”, their echo-chamber noise is apparently keeping ‘powerful’ in good humour.
“Powerful love to surround themselves with clowns,” one more editor operating from Srinagar said.
“They despise those who question their conduct and chair. And therefore, they need some kind of echo-chamber cabal to feel important and stay assured of their positions and performance. This plays out exactly the way proxies crop during the poll-time. While those political pawns cut down vote share of the existing players, this media proxy consumes the credibility of the profession. I don’t think it’s that hard to understand, is it?”
It may not, but since it’s no longer a secret now, many in Srinagar’s media corps want actions to speak louder than words.
But barring some statements condemning manhandling of scribes, the media bodies largely make “uneasy peace” with the ongoing social media stunts.
“What can you do in times like these when Kashmir media has been rendered hollow of its voice,” said another journalist.
“But having said that, a collective will is needed to call this rot out in our ranks. Playing ostrich is only going to devour the remaining reputation we have as Kashmir media.”