Notes on Buddhist Journalism—7-Buddhist model will slash sleaze,use news to promote social good, and cut dependence on advertising
Posted on July 14th, 2011

By Shelton A. Gunaratne ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚© 2011 Professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Namarupas labeled Ben Antao and Janaka Perera have asked me to provide examples of Buddhist-oriented journalism (BJ), which I repeat is not exclusively a religious journalism but one based on the philosophical framework of Buddhism. That framework has much in common with the worldview/cosmology of the Dhammic philosophies of South Asia and the Daoic philosophies of East Asia because Buddhism served as the link between the two for 20 centuries. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

I have already discussed the differences between Asian/Oriental cosmology and Western/ Occidental cosmology in relation to five concepts relevant to news paradigm.

Western/Occidental cosmology Eastern/Oriental cosmology
Self (individualism) No self or mutual dependence
Nature as subordinate to man Nature in harmony with man
Bounded time and space Infinite time and space
Knowledge as atomistic and deductive Knowledge as holistic and intuitive
The transpersonal

Man subordinate to Supreme Being/Value


Supreme Being encompasses all

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In my journal article titled ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Buddhist goals of journalism and the news paradigmƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ (JavnostƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚the Public, 16/2, 2009), I have shown how these five cosmological dimensionsƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  are related to the news values embedded in the contemporary mainstream paradigm. On each of the cosmological dimensions, the stance favored by the East appears to be the complement or the opposite of the stance favored by the West. Therefore, we can apply the principle of the dialectic completion of relative polarities (the yang and yin mechanism) to justify the initiation of BJ.

The predominant news values applied by Western journalists, as well as non-Western journalists brainwashed by the West, are the following:

  • ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚·ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Impact/significance [knowledge dimension]
  • ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚·ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Timeliness and currency [time and transpersonal dimensions]
  • ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚·ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Proximity [space dimension]
  • ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚·ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Prominence [self dimension],
  • ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚·ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Conflict [Nature and self dimensions].
  • ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚·ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Unusual and the bizarre [self or conflict dimensions]
  • ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚·ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Necessity [a new dimension that fits Eastern cosmology]

Notice that the majority of these news values aim to make news a profitable commodity. The News of the World, a Sunday tabloid with a circulation of 2.8 million, disregarded the ethics of journalismƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚right speech, right action and right livelihoodƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚and depended heavily on the news values of prominence, conflict and the unusual/bizarre to make its sleazy bucks for 168 years until it was forced to close down on 11 July 2011. Many newspapers attempt to be profitable by applying the women-wampum-wrongdoing formula, which I explained in a previous article.

Now, let me get back to BA and JP, and give an example of a story that falls into the category of BJ although the reporter Sandhya Jain has written it to fit the framework of the Western news paradigm. The Lanka Guardian published it on 9 June 2009. I selected the story because it clearly meets BJƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s primary criterion for determining what is newsworthy: The extent to which it helps reduce dukkha (suffering/unsatisfactoriness) among people.

Jain has used the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-conflictƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ news value to dramatize the Catholic ChurchƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s desire (tanha) to convert the majority of non-Christians in Sri Lanka. I have edited out (see the strikethroughs) the reporterƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s tendency to editorialize and reprimand the Church for unethical conversion. A trained BJ reporter would have given this report a positive angle by emphasizing the co-operative efforts initiated by Buddhist, Catholic and Hindu representatives to resolve the misunderstandings relating to conversion to reduce dukkha to a much larger extent.

Western journalists define news as whatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s new. Then, it follows that whatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s old is not news. The event reported today is no longer newsworthy tomorrow. Time is finite, so is the life of news. Thus, the world becomes a montage of news fragments. A holistic picture of the world does not appear on this montage.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Moreover, the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-TrojanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ horse of news values, Galtung surmises, has entrapped even the Asian journalists to think of the world in terms finite space, where the West occupies the Center and the rest occupies the Periphery and the Outer Periphery. Progress over time occurs only in the Center, never in the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-hellƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ of Outer Periphery. The news values (like prominence, impact, etc.) are designed to back the hegemony of the West.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Jain has gone beyond event reporting (straight news writing) to process reporting (news feature writing), which is what BJ is all about: analyzing the interaction of several mutually dependent factors to produce a given result at a particular time. The process is never-ending because time and space are infinite from the angle of Oriental cosmology

Moreover, rather than emphasizing individual spokesmenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚which highlights the self dimension, Jain could have reported the outcome of panel discussions among representatives of various religious groups thereby dramatizing group dynamics to enhance the readabilityƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  of the story.

BJƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s aim is to make news a social good. Because advertising is one of the main causes for spreading tanha (craving) among individuals, BJ cannot depend on advertising. Its funding must come from benefactors, non-profit foundations, and local governments. It has to mutually co-exist with the array of established media outlets that tend to thrive on promoting news as a commodity. BJ follows the Daoist Three JewelsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚ci (compassion), jian (frugality) and Bugan wei tianxia xian (ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-not dare to be first/ahead in the worldƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚). It has to function within the parameters of Buddhist economicsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚the principle of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-small is beautiful.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

JainƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s story qualifies for BJ status (although it could vastly improve with revisions). I have reproduced it in its entirety (with some of my corrections) to show the intrusion of the writerƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s ego into her report. A BJ reporter should be an exemplar of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-no self.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Lanka moots anti-conversion law

By Sandhya Jain
(June 09, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) The author is Editor,

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Buddhist religious leadership in Sri Lanka is demanding national legislation against conversions.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Joint Committee of Buddhist Organizations (JCBO) wants reintroduction of the stalled Bill on Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion (L.D.O./INC/7/2004). Christian bodies and 24 mainline Christian leaders–including 18 Catholic bishops and retired bishops, the Anglican bishop of Colombo, Baptist Sangamaya, Presbyterian Church and Salvation Army–have criticized the bill and appealed to parliamentarians against it.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ They contend that the proposed bill will undermine the democratic right of freedom to choose a religion according to oneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s conscience; prevent Christians and adherents of all religions to stand with the affected and serve one another for fear of legal consequences in spite of their innocence; and provoke more inter-religious suspicion, tension and conflict than resolve them. They claim that all religions in Sri Lanka have originated outside the island, and that over the centuries, the Christian Church and Christians have become an intrinsic part of the social fabric.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Gamini Perera and Chitra Wijesekera, co-conveners of the JCBO, rebuffed these criticisms as a mischievous re-packing of the colonial Aryan-Dravidian divide, which insinuates Hinduism and Buddhism as imports from India (with ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”DravidianƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ Tamils as Hindus. They countered that the Christian Church emanated from a colonial background of repression and could not equate itself with Buddhism, which has molded the life, culture and traditions of the country for over 2550 years.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The JCBO said the barbaric manner in which different brands of Christianity spread is well documented. Despite this, tolerant Buddhist rulers and people permitted other believers to merge with the national social fabric and even protected the Catholic community when hunted by Dutch Protestants, offering even temple premises for religious activities; they gave similar asylum was given to Muslims attacked by the British. All religions could enjoy all privileges only because of the magnanimity of the Buddhists.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Addressing Christian leaders directly, the JCBO said some of their major activities were directed at expanding Christianity through questionable means. Their commendable humanitarian services stand marred by subtle, long-term strategies to attract persons of other religions to their faith. Christians have established good educational infrastructure and turned this to undue advantage by alluring non-Christian parents to accept immoral conditions for the admission of their wards to Christian schools, even though many schools receive sizeable public funds. In India too, Christian NGOs corner governmental aid in the name of their developmental expertise; and the possible misuse of these funds has never been probed.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Gamini Perera and Chitra Wijesekera charge that the Church never denounced or took action against Catholic bishops with LTTE links. In fact, the activities of some senior Christian clergy aimed at breaking up the nation, and even today, some Christian leadersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ statements are unduly biased in favor of the LTTE.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The JCBO openly charged the Churches of synchronizing their myriad activities to achieve the objective of Christianizing the Buddhist world. The late Pope John Paul II said when he visited India: ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-the task ahead of the Church is the evangelizing of Asia during this millennium.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Way back in 1940, Rt. Rev. Lakdasa De Mel, on elevation as assistant bishop of the Anglican Church, had asserted: ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-The task of the Church in Ceylon will not be finished till the remaining ninety percent of the population, who are not Christian, are converted.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Buddhist leaders rejected Christian concerns about the anti-conversion bill, pointing out that original bill had been placed before the islandƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Supreme Court and after two full days of comprehensive arguments by both sides, the Court determined that its main contents were acceptable, barring a few amendments necessary to qualify it to be passed by ordinary majority in Parliament; these have been attended to since. The bill has no provisions to prevent acting according to oneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s conscience or make one who does so an offender.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ But, and here lies the rub, it designates as offenders those who convert or attempt to convert by force, allurement or fraud, or aid and abet such conversions. The Buddhist clergy forcefully asserts that it does not accept ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Sri Lankan society as presently constituted as a pluralistic society, but this notwithstanding, the bill in no way undermines or tampers with the right to oneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s conscience.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ There are, it points out, special protections to ensure frivolous actions are not brought before a Court. Clearly, six decades of dominant western political rhetoric is meeting its Waterloo in Colombo!ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ BattingƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  for the Buddhist-Hindu ethos, the JCBO alleges that inter-religious tension is rising because of the activities of evangelical churches, better known as fundamentalist Christian groups. Bishop Malcolm Ranjith, secretary-general of the Catholic BishopsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ Conference, admitted this in a letter to the Ministry of Cultural and Religious Affairs in May 2000.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Christian fundamentalists oppose Buddhist monks defending the freedom of religion of Buddhists targeted for unethical conversions; monks are often subjected to threats and violence. In North Lanka, where Christian churches have long had a privileged presence, an alarmingly large number of helpless Hindus have been pushed to change their faith. In India, Hindu monks defending the underprivileged against forced conversions are shot to death (Shanti Kali ji, Agartala; Swami Laxmanananda, Kandhamal) or hacked to pieces (Swami Ramcharan Das, Puri).

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Buddhist clergy maintain that 80 percent Lankans are legitimately aggrieved at the absence of a law against unethical conversions. Rejecting the Christian plea for an Inter Religious Council to discuss conversions because the goal of the Church to evangelize the entire region is unchanged, it urged Parliament to debate the bill and take it to its logical conclusion.

3 Responses to “Notes on Buddhist Journalism—7-Buddhist model will slash sleaze,use news to promote social good, and cut dependence on advertising”

  1. Ben_silva Says:

    SAG appear to whine about the conversion to Christianity but is silent about the loss of living space.. In the past, Buddhists were dominant in the North, the East , in the hill country and in the Capital Colombo Now it is not the case and the Sinhala Buddhists have lost their living space What is the reason ? In Sri Lanka, the Sinhala Buiddhists are lucky as they were protected by the sea. Buddhists in the Silk route had no such luck as they were killed or other wise wiped out by various invaders. Nalanda Buddhists did not even fight back or run away, believing tht their demise was due to Karma. The sad fact is Buddhists have been wiped ot one way or the other and we do not want to end up te same way as Buddhists in the silk route. Nalanda debacle is important as it will remind us what will happen if we remain passive. When I pointed out that there is no significant Buddhism left in India or China, to day, SAG attempted to explain the situation using an Indian Hindu myth Shackti. Just as there is no verifiable evidence of God, or heaven there is no verifiable evidence of Shakti, Nirvana or rebirth.
    Unethical conversion should not be allowed. But the Buddhists do not even have the power to stop It appears that the Christians and others have superior economic power and have the means to carry out unethical conversion. it This is not surprising as Buddhists are told to give up desires.. Instead of finding out the reasons for the decline of Buddhists, SAG appear to preach more of the same treatment that failed all over the world, due to its passive nature. The reason why we lost our living space is because we have not been competitive enough. The way to arrest the decline is to get real, understand the modern world and learn to be competitive. If we follow, SAG we will end up as losers. It appears that some are naive and gullible, that they will believe any thing.
    In the modern world , rather than preach religion, which well known scientists have indicated that, is a thing of the past, we need to get real. Some survival tips are; 1. Adapt and change to meet new situations and threats.2. Continuously improve 3. Learn from those who re successful and learn from those who failed, so that mistakes could be avoided.Carry out SWOT analysis and risk analysis.5. Be prepared to overcome difficulties and undergo suffering.(Do not expect to have an easy ride, if you want to win ) 6.Be imaginative, innovative and have self belief. 7. Be aware of the external environment and be aware of threats.
    It is a pity that SAG is living in an era 2500 years BC rather than adapt and change.Could SAG tell us how to defeat LTTE propaganda rather than preaching religion?

  2. Nanda Says:

    Big Ben is striking again in London. Same old story, same old argument, nothing new.
    Why not Big Ben join the crowd to protest against C4 nonsense rather than adding more nonsense to his nonsense list ? To him , his worst enemy in Buddhism , not LTTE.
    Do not expect to have an easy ride if you want to get rid of suffering. Be prepared to overcome difficulties and be with the suffering, in order to understand the suffering, its cause and the path to eliminate suffering.

  3. Dham Says:

    Do not keep on writing foolish comments and burn in hell. Say Buddham Saranam Gachchami at the momoet of death. This is my advice.

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