mAvErIck spEAks

Monday, May 23, 2005

Misadventures Media

It was Sunday night, and at around 8.30 p.m., after swapping all the channels, I tuned into a Hindi news channel; which claims to be number one and very quick reporting and breaking news is its USP. Though now I have lost all the interest in news and specially news channels due to their over indulgence in ‘creating news’ and sensationalize it, I sometimes tune in to some news channel to know what’s going on in and around the world. Despite being a trained TV journalist, I prefered to work for an advertising agency as a copywriter, because the kind of journalism taught to me wasn’t exactly same, what the news channels expect from their band of journos. Coming back to the Sunday night, I expected some useful news or some informative piece of information but alas…I was still a moron for not to doubt their core strategy – create sensation and sell it.

There was this over excited anchor (not because he was a part of the broadcast, which contained some crucial news, according to his standards but he is however impulsive and over excited – or does he act that way), who is quite popular now (not because he is doing some great job but because viewers see him all the time blabbing), acting as if we are at war. The correspondent from other side was reporting as if he is reporting from the battle field and any moment the enemy will take over the country. By now, if you have followed any news channel that night at that particular time, you must have an idea about that news story – bomb explosions in two of the city theatres, which were showing one particular movie, involving some remarks about a particular community.

My allegations have nothing to do with the news story; there was one incident which had to be reported. So far so good. But my objection starts after this. I seriously allege that reporter and that anchor of playing the part no less than gossip mongers, which is totally unexpected of a profession, which needs objectivity as a prerequisite. The way these two managed to blow the news out of proportion was remarkable. In minutes a minor incident like this became a national tragedy. Cameras showed chaos every where, as if the city was under threat and aliens from Star Wars are going to take over it. And with this, numberless telephones and cell phones started ringing, in Delhi. People from outside the state were calling their relatives about their well being. If by any standards, these two argue that this was the result of their reporting that people stood up and took notice and called their relatives to know their well being then I ask them this - was it an incident of such volume? What’s the casualty figure – 1 dead and 50 injured. Keeping all my sensitivities intact and diverting all my sympathies to the affected families, I still ask - was the way ethical to report that news? There were low intensity blasts, with no capabilities to claim much damage, in two of the theatres. A stampede may have caused much more casualties than these blasts.

These two newsmen, when discussed motives behind the blast, the possible connections and crime theories were clueless about what they were talking. No doubt, at an initial stage only speculations find mention but there must be a substantial reason for these speculations to occur. While discussing theories, the reporter picked up one thread about seven year old news when similar styled series of blast occurred in Delhi. The anchor was totally unaware of it and he wanted to become little inquisitive about this. On this, the reporter pretended to have lost the signal and then never answered that. This is probably has become a common practice now among these very professional journalist. When caught unaware, act as the satellite has failed.

The scene was not very different on other channels too. Harping about one single news, news teams roamed all through Delhi and NCR recording a chaos like situation in every theatre. But just after one hour or so, the city was again normal, with not much of a trouble in mind. What does that mean? Does that mean the city felt safe as soon as channels telecast the news and police vans thronged every place or does that mean that it was just a news story blown out of proportion by news hungry media and over excited media persons?