Monday, October 10, 2011

Press and Public Relation

I would not have mentioned the press in Meghalaya in yet another article if it is not for ST’s Editor Comment on my observation in my previous article. I made my observation about the media in the state in one article and I think that is enough and I should move on and write on some other pertinent issues which demands immediate public attention. I also rarely response to feedbacks on my article not because I do not respect my critics but my understanding is that I had had my say and in a democracy others should have their say too. I also think it is rather unfair for me to take undue advantage of the valuable and scarce media-space on the editorial page of the ST to take a jibe at my critic; ultimately it is for the readers to derive at a conclusion and decide for themselves of what is right and what is wrong.  
I am glad that kong Patricia agreed with me on many counts and admitted that the media in the state had many limitations and she also lamented the fact that the journalists were not paid the salary that they deserves. But kong is silent on the question whether the media house can afford to enhance the pay of their staff or not? If the media house in spite of earning maximum revenue from sale and advertisement in the paper is not willing to share the profits with its staffs which is the backbone of the paper or the channel; then that is very unfair of the media house. I also believe that this space is very valuable and is not to be wasted on debates and verbal-sparring among the columnist hence this write-up is about the most important aspect of public lives i.e. public relationship
I hope the management of the ST will not mine if I point out at some of the recent example of the newspaper taking undue advantage of the readers with regards to advertisements. Readers of the paper edition of the ST would have notice that on many occasions advertisement were pasted on almost 75 percent of the space on the front page of the newspaper leaving just 25 percent for news. Front page is not only the face of the paper but it also the most valuable space of the newspaper, because advertisement cost on this page is hundred percent more than in any other pages. It is true that the paper should try to maximize profit at any available opportunity, after all newspaper is a business enterprise and not charity. But one would expect ST to respect its readers and stick to the convention followed by many national dailies to reserve 75 percent space on the front page for news and 25 percent or a quarter of the page for advertisement. Occasionally the paper would also have two or three big davp advertisement on several pages in a single issue; on such issue one would also expect the management of the newspaper to compensate the readers for their money by inserting additional page. Newspaper serves it reader by disseminating news and views and also by allowing itself to become a platform for the people to air their grievances but it should also treat its readers with due respect; in other words newspaper too should have a good Public Relation (PR). ST now still have a large readership and command respect of a large section of English speaking readers of the state, but it is very important that the newspaper keep up the relationship that it now has with its readers.
Good Public Relationship is one that is found lacking in many government departments and even in banking sectors too. More often than not; general people were taken for a ride and were not even treated with respect by those supposed to help them. Not only ordinary citizen were treated shabbily by those in the position, but even those who serve the public too; were not given due respect. Consider this, the District head of Jaintia hills district has been incommunicado with the press for about a year now. The office of the Deputy Commissioner and the media person in the district has no contact whatsoever among them for more than a year now. If you have been wondering why you do not see any DC-related report from Jaintia hills for about a year now; it is because the media in the district has boycotted the DC since last year.  Now if the District Head does not have even a working relationship with the press then the question that begs the answer is what kind of relationship does the DC’s office have with ordinary denizen of the District?
General public particularly those who come from rural areas were not given due respect by the people who are supposed to serve them. When I made a complaint to the Branch Manager of the State Bank of India, Jowai against an accountant whose attitude towards the customers seems to create more problem that he solved, I was shocked by the young BM’s response who said “it is his nature what can I do?” I responded to the BM by saying “but he holds a post that deals with the public and it requires that he has a good rapport with the customers.” I also suggested that the Bank should first send him for a course in Public Relation which is available in many mass media institutes before letting him handle such a demanding job. All public employees for that matter need to have some kind of training in good PR; it is one aspect of a job in public services that needs to be inculcated in each and every employee to ensure effective governance.
I once wrote an article on the subject of Police-Public Relationship in a Khasi daily and note that till now we are taught to fear the police. If parent considered their son to be ill-mannered, the parents would scare him by saying that they would call the police. Judging from the attitude of many men in uniform, perhaps it is not wrong to conclude that it looks like the police too; enjoy the undue fear the public have of them but that is not what is expect of men in uniform isn’t it? It looks like the police are trained to act tough because their job is dealing with hardened criminals, but can the policemen treated citizen whom they meet in any ordinary day the same way they treated criminals? Every person they meet in the street is not a potential criminal is he? On the 4th of July this year I send an Independence Day to my American friends by posting on my Facebook account a photo of me near the life-size cutout of President Barrack Obama. The comment I made on photo apart from wishing my friends happy Independence Day was ‘the closest I can be to Obama is hi life-size cutout.’ Adrian Worsfold a colleague from Manchester commented on my posting by sharing a story of a shop owner in England who put a life-size policeman cutout to guard his shop. This happen when people respect and not afraid of the law, it may also be mention that the Policemen in Norway patrol the street of Oslo without carrying any arms. The life-size policeman cutout perhaps serves what is actually expected from a living policeman, which is to remind people to respect the law. Oh how I wish to see the days when we don’t even need policemen to patrol our streets and no need of traffic warden to ensure people obey traffic rules. Perhaps the Police Training School (PTS) too; needs to inculcate good PR as part of the training for their cadets. The public would be glad to have a friendly police man in the neighbourhood and not somebody they would not like to have anything to do with.
Good public relation is expected from each and every employee paid by the government or any service providerd which deals directly with the people. In fact any employee in the service sector from the top echelon of the organization to grass root workers needs to have a good PR. This requires a change of mindset among those working in the service sectors starting from the top. Employees in a public service sectors should know how to treat the person on the other side of the table and to treat her with due respect even though she is poor, perhaps even ignorant and is not as well dress as you are. Public service employee especially those in the government departments are expected to treat each individual who approach their office with dignity.

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