Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What to write about?

I have tried many posts in the past few days but nothing seems to be able to express half of what I felt (shock, anger, outrage, sadness...). Recovering from relentless rain and power cuts from cyclone Nisha (since when did cyclones start having names?) to reading and watching about Mumbai. It is seems inconsequential to talk about sports now but now that news reports are coming in of Chennai being a test venue, I wonder if I should invoke "the so called Indian spirit" and go and watch it just "because". As I have mentioned earlier, watching test matches or ODIs live is not really an option given the time-off needed from work.

So while I ruminate that option, I am also appalled at the state of television journalism in India. Besides the ball-by-ball or blow-by-blow coverage of the events, they completely lost focus of alternate news (the cyclone with a loss of life in TN did not even feature for a few minutes).

However, looking back I am glad they did not because this is perhaps how they may portray it. All the English news channels I saw were guilty of one or more of the following.

This is a parody.

Talking to people on the streets to get the human side of the story: "How will you feel if you are rendered homeless by this cyclone"? To a man wading in the water, "have you considered that you might be electrocuted by falling lines".

Non-stop reporting of same event: (the pitch has to be atleast five decibels higher than normal speech). What is happening now? the reporter, "it is still raining non-stop, the water level has risen by 0.01 mm since the last time I spoke" which was 1 minute ago. Anchor to reporter, make sure you are safe and follow it up immediately with questions contrary to safety statement.

Breaking unconfirmed news: "Another cyclone that has struck. There is extensive damage from this. Take shelter...". Then sheepishly and somewhat carelessly acknowledge that it was an error.

Sensationalize: Come up with catchy phrases, sensationalize everything. Ask leading questions and answer them yourself. If the answer is not what you would like to hear, cut off the conversation.

I am now tuned to good old newspapers for more responsible journalism. While so much of the talk is centred on the government and the politicians and rightly so, I hope the media and I&B ministry discuss Ethics in Media and improve the quality of reporting.


Viswanathan said...

I have written some thing on the same lines (Tamil Nadu Cyclone) here.


RS said...

What I am perturbed about is that news media should have atleast covered it to let us know when and where the cyclone would be crossing - it could be informative in saving lives. They even covered cricket for 5 mins, but did not cover this.

Read your post :) but I disagree as the audacity of the attacks is likely to have a longer and larger impact. Indians accept natural calamity with calm even if the loss of life is large.

Viswanathan said...


"Read your post :) but I disagree" - You are not the only one-the first person called me a pig. :)

Anonymous said...

ottayan - I saw that comment! I get your point, but the nature perhaps makes this one different.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Exactly my thoughts... they swept that aside in TN.

Besides that, the behavior of the media was terrible during the mumbai tragedy as though they deliberately wanted to be hand in glove with the terrorists.

There are too many conspiracy theories floating and none can be discounted.

Anonymous said...

thanks - I am not one for conspiracy theories:) The media gave their hearts out, but they just need to rein in some aspects, stop one upmanship and report rather than speculate. They could have delayed the telecast of the operations. It is a fine line on informing versus jeopardizing ops and they need to make sure they are on the right side. And other news like informing people of a major storm needs to feature even if it is for a few mins onls.

a fan said...

yes, there was absolutely no telecast of any other news...it was a sore point.
Ott, i really disagree with your thought line of the post.
I remember reading in Frontline once how Afghan human price value is so cheaper when compared to Americans and other western nationals.
In India, i think this attitude might be because of huge population...no matter how many die, the country doesn't feel the loss which is quite contrary to those dead person's families.