19
Banal journalism

The centrality of the 'us-them' binary in
news discourse
Prasun Sonwalkar
Whose interests do the news media uphold?
Why do journalists fail to go beyond sporadic reportage of events and issues involving minorities?
Even if individual journalists recognize the limited range of events and issues they cover, how do their cultural/ethnic background and socialization in newsrooms influence any remedial measures?
Is news coverage dependent on journalists' perception of who is affected, involved or interested?
What lies beneath the commonplace terminology of 'us' and 'them' that features so prominently in newsroom discourse, as well as news content?

Pick up any newspaper or watch any television bulletin. You will see a range of news items, impressively produced, with (usually) well written text, compelling images and eye-catching graphics. Sure, it is 'news' concerning, say, the 'war on terrorism', David Beckham, John Kerry, a rise in house prices, and so forth but it will probably not really surprise you. The range of events and issues presented day after day in newspapers and bulletins is inevitably in the realm of the expected. It is habit-forming, almost addictive (is the media the new opium of the masses?). Over days, months and years, you get used to a particular newspaper, to its style, to the range of events and issues it covers. It grows on you – you know that it will always give you what you expect. Indeed, it rarely provides fare that is out of the routine.

Scratch the surface or read between the lines, however, and a different picture of journalism emerges. It is not so much a case of the way certain issues, events and sections of society are 'represented' by journalists. In fact, the very presence of news about the life situations of a large segment of population in any society is in question. A closer look reveals that focusing on what is usually not covered in the news media – events and issues involving various minorities (ethnic, religious, sexual, class and so forth) and their

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