|Thursday, 14 October 2004|
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The peace loving and civic-minded public is bound to be shattered by the news that some teachers trade unions are threatening to march on the President's official residence in a show of strength to press their demands. The unions intend launching trade union action of this sort despite being assured by the Government that their grievances are being addressed by the authorities.
In view of the flexibility shown by the Government in regard to their issues, the deduction is inescapable that these unions are attempting to hold the State to ransom. However, it is the responsibility of the Government to govern and not cave in to unreasonable demands of pressure groups which cannot see beyond their immediate, narrow interests. We call on the Government to stand firm on the principled positions it has taken on these questions.
However, what would repel the public is the teachers' descent into indiscipline and lawlessness. Whereas teachers are expected to promote and uphold discipline at all times, they would be reflecting just the opposite in their behaviour by staging wild, trade union marches.
What would become of the matchless standards of discipline, teachers are expected to uphold? Given these distressing tendencies among teachers, the aggravation of student indiscipline shouldn't come as a surprise. Students and the young tend to imitate their mentors and exemplary conduct cannot be expected of the former if the latter lapse into the most unbecoming behaviour.
What compounds this problem is the fact that these demonstrating teachers are led by a monk who at one time was the live wire in a nurses' union. Whereas a monk is expected to lead a virtuous life and teach the Dhamma, this monk seems to have said good bye to all that and has taken to the life of a vociferous trade unionist. Once again, where is the exemplary life expected of an ennobling personality?
To crown it all, some personalities within the Government are cheering these unions on. How to account for this thinking? Haven't they heard of collective responsibility? In the most hypocritical fashion they seem to be running with the hare and hunting with the hound.
This wouldn't do. They must grasp the basics of governance without helping in undermining the State. They should read Erskine May immediately and not confuse this leading authority on governance with May Day.
Media and technology
In a recent speech, Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama has critically analysed the local and international media scene. As Dr. Amunugama has rightly pointed out, modern technology has created a dilemma in journalism worldwide. The advent of worldwide 24-hour satellite television channels is giving the newspapers a hard time because TV always gets it first.
It is true that by the time a reader glances at a news item in his morning paper, he would have seen it many times on TV. However, the TV news often offers only a fleeting glance of a particular incident. There is visual impact, but hardly any in-depth analysis.
In a TV-dominated world, newspapers have to excel in the latter. They have to go behind the newsflash, find all the details and inform the reader as to why and how it all happened. Many newspapers have earned a reputation for critical analysis of world events by their columnists.
More newspapers are also focusing on more soft 'lifestyle' stories - food, interiors, travel, fashion, leisure etc. These used to be the exclusive 'turf' of Sunday newspapers, but daily newspapers are increasingly featuring more soft stories.
It is not only the TV that is challenging the traditional paper-based newspaper. The Internet is teeming with online news sites and journals, which can, of course, be accessed from any part in the world.
The Web is also an instant medium and the content can be updated throughout the day. Fortunately, newspapers around the world jumped on the Internet bandwagon during the last decade and are actively competing with the web-only news sites.
Another point raised by the Minister applies to all media. News is new by definition - it should be used immediately. There is no point sitting on a good story. It goes without saying that the mandatory checks on the story should be carried out before rushing to the cameras or to the press.
Every story is different. Likewise, the same story can be told in a variety of ways. No two journalists will write a story in exactly the same way. As Minister Amunugama has explained, media means diversity. There is ample room for different points of view on the same issues. Some newspapers will argue passionately for a certain cause or issue, while others will shun it. This is indeed why different newspapers/TV channels appeal to different people.
But all forms of media have to adapt to the changing times. We cannot stop the forward march of technology. The future may bring forms of media that we might not be able to even imagine today. The traditional forms of media should thus be ready for any challenge.
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