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Ever since mass media evolved in the first half of the 20 th century, our sense of the public realm has been shaped by the news we receive from media institutions. We operate by the assumption that this news is reliable, factually accurate, and the editors and journalists of media institutions can be trusted to uphold high ethical standards, fully aware of the societal impact they have.
This is no longer the case: the intrusion of social media into news dissemination has blurred the very idea of a media institution as the source of news. We are bombarded with more information than we can digest, much of it is misinformation, many media institutions are more overt in their biases, and society is getting increasingly polarised into rigid ideological divisions. Our current era has been termed as ‘post-truth’, and the question of how we can cohere into a democratic public realm has become highly problematic.
What divides news from propaganda? Is the recent increase in visibility of propaganda and fake news a deliberate project or does it ensue from how media has evolved? The discussion will examine these questions and more and reflect on the direction we can move in to make sense of the world in a post-truth era.
Arvind Rajagopal is Professor of Media Studies at NYU and is an affiliated faculty in the Departments of Sociology and Social and Cultural Analysis. He has won awards from the MacArthur and Rockefeller Foundations, and has held fellowships at the Institute or Center of Advanced Studies at Helsinki, Princeton, Stanford, and at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC. Recent essays include “Postcommunist Aesthetics,” “Communicationism” and “Notes on the Advertisement and the Advertising Agency in India’s Twentieth Century.” His latest book is under contract with Duke University Press, on a global genealogy of media theory. In addition to his scholarly writing, he has also published in forums such as The LA Review of Books, and in newspapers and periodicals including the Indian Express, the Hindu and EPW.
Bhasha Singh is a senior journalist and writer for more than 25 years and a documentary filmmaker. She is well known for work on manual scavengers, Dalits, minorities, women and marginalised sections, bringing many of them to the core of the mainstream media. Her expertise in fields of water and sanitation and climate change is also well known.
Her work on manual scavenging was published by Penguin as – ‘UNSEEN- The Truth About India’s Manual Scavengers’ in English as well as Hindi. It has also been translated and published in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Her second book Shaheen Bagh: Loktantra ki Nai Karvat about the ground-breaking movement against CAA-NRC was published this year in Hindi by Rajkamal Prakashan.
An awarded journalist and recipient of Ramnath Goenka award for Journalist of the Year (Print) in 2007, Prabha Dutt Sanskriti Fellowship, 2005 for work on Manual scavenging, National Foundation of India fellowship to work on Agrarian crisis and farmer suicides in northern India, Panos Fellowship to work on health of manual scavengers and PARI (People’s Archive of Rural India) fellowship for work on lives of Manual Scavengers across Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Delhi.
She is currently working as Consulting Editor with web portal Newsclick, doing a weekly news show, Khoj Khabar, as well as ground reports, interviews, and analytical columns.
Lawrence Liang teaches at the School of Law, Governance, and Citizenship at Ambedkar University, Delhi. He has written on free speech and media regulation and is currently thinking through some of the limitations and paradoxes of liberalism in dealing with the challenges of contemporary media.
Alpana Kishore is a writer and urban activist. She has campaigned extensively for better planning, and design of urban projects especially the Delhi Metro; and preservation of the city’s landmarks in the face of rampant construction since 2003. Since 2020 she has written a series of investigative reports questioning the legality of the Central Vista Project.
She has also covered Kashmir and Pakistan as a journalist, writer and researcher for over two decades. Her focus is on the competing narratives of India and Pakistan and the effect on their rival identities on the region.