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Sanjaya: Is principled reporting flawed in that it does not pick a side?

Updated: Feb 27, 2022


Blog #20

  • Do you feel you can objectively listen to both sides of a tough argument?

  • Are you disciplined enough to practice unbiasedness while listening?

  • What if listening is intensely painful to you and yet you must persist?

  • What if your duty is to report what you see despite your personal anguish?

  • Can you just report the facts without adding your perspective to it?

  • Can you agree that your only role is to let others make up their minds?

  • Can you be that unbiased reporter without an agenda?

  • Will you agree that for peaceful resolution, consensus must emerge on its own?

  • Are you willing to remain above the fray and just act as the eyes and ears on the ground?

The Mahabharata Context

Sanjaya is King Dhritrashtra's charioteer and his aide. He is by the blind king's side all day and night. Due to his tireless service, he enjoys the complete trust of his king. Sanjaya is the silent bystander doing what he is asked to do to attend to his duties in service of the throne. He hears of and witnesses many of the transgressions and acts of crime in King Dhritarashatra's court including the attempted disrobing of Queen Draupadi, the two deceitful games of backgammon where King Shakuni cheats the Pandavas of everything they own with his special dice. He watches quietly while Prince Duryodhana insults all the Pandavas and Lord Krishna himself despite multiple pleas to desist from the court elders like Bheeshma, Drona, and the court elders.

When war becomes inevitable, King Dhritarashtra knows that he cannot lead his army into war nor does he have the eyes to watch the war enfold. The divine Sage Vyasa then visits the Kaurava court and gifts Sanjaya with divine vision (more than just remote camera but an immersive ability to listen and see the war unfold) so that he may serve King Dhritarashtra with his divine vision. Sanjaya goes on to narrate every day, every move, every blow as he describes all eighteen days of the war to his king. Hearing Sanjaya describe the death of his hundred sons and all the great warriors in graphic detail is brutal punishment indeed for the Blind King. Sanjaya tries to soothe the agony of his King Dhritirashtra but never tries to intercede and persuade the king to stop this war. Justice, as painful as it was to watch and hear, had to be done. Sanjaya is the role model of a honest journalist who does his job, no matter how pained he is to see the events unfold in front of his eyes.

Our null hypothesis about the Sanjaya Persona

Sanjaya has many laudable personal attributes that are worth mentioning as part of our work. Sanjaya is very loyal, diligent in his duties and also extremely level headed. Sanjaya is honest, conscientious and remains attentive to his duties through some very difficult times. Sanjaya is blessed with a focus and resilience that helps him perform his job with great quality of service. On the negative side, Sanjaya is thought of as passive and sometimes criticized for not voicing his opinions to his King. Some argue that his suggestions may have tilted the scales in favor of one side or the other.

Lessons Learned from the Sanjaya Persona

During these difficult times of vitriolic public discourse, Sanjaya reminds us of humility and the realization that most of us are not blessed with the gift of persuasion. This stands in opposition to those who believe in the power of social media and its ability to aggregate and amplify the voice of the common man. If this was true, no actions of injustice should be taking place, right? Sanjaya is what perhaps Walter Cronkite aspired to be when he was young. True journalism is simple unbiased reporting and letting the audience decide for themselves. We the audience alone hold the accountability for discerning between right and wrong and therefore we alone are accountable for our thoughts and actions, not the media, not the journalists. What % Sanjaya do you have in you?

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