Honestly, I didn’t really care that Ram Gopal Verma was where he was. With bullets flying around in the financial capital of a country, having some has-been film director accompany the Chief Minister probably shouldn’t be most worrying aspect of the situation.
But what made me cringe, laugh and then react rather violently (thumping my floor) was that the anchors on NDTV had the audacity to say that the likes of Ram Gopal Verma were capitalizing on the tragedy by seeking creative stimulus out of it. Right. I know I’ve already done a post on Barkha Dutt‘s coverage of the attacks in Mumbai, but really there’s more to it. If you hop over to the wikipedia page on her this is what greets you –
Which I think sums up my opinion of her. And her attitude. I have to admit, I used to be a fan. Perhaps some of it was blind adoration because – here was a woman who seemed to be comfortable going into unchartered territories. Over years though, her attitude towards certain issues really bothered me. But people are entitled to different opinions, and journalists can’t be objective anyway. Better to declare your bias.
But it’s the attitude that bothers me. This need to hog airtime. This insensitivity. This constant need for the camera to look at her. The need to adopt a high pitch when describing something. This constant insult to my intelligence. Her arrogance. The other day, after the Taj operation was declared over, you could see her on television, pushing firemen about, preventing them from doing their work, dragging them by their arms and forcing them to answer questions. Sure, other journalists did it too. But I think when the Managing Editor of a popular news channel does it – it legitimizes a certain kind of behaviour.
Journalists cannot sit back and be mute spectators. Nor can they afford to be gentle. They need to be aggressive. The job demands it. More importantly, the need for high TRPs – which leads to being able to demand more money for advert slots, means that they are competing against each other. But if you are a professional, you are required to introspect on your own methods, rather than just serve the commercial interests of your employer.
When private news channels started in India, I really did celebrate. It was a far fry from Doordarshan’s drone about which foundation stone was being petted by which Minister. And I still am grateful for these channels. But my mistake was in assuming that competition forces people to be the best they can. Instead, it seems to force organisations to become more and more similar, and outdo each other within that ring of similarity.
To be fair not everyone is the same. Take someone like Miloni Bhatt for instance. I found her attitude far better than Barkha Dutt’s. She was calm, composed and didn’t obstruct anyone. Importantly, unlike Barkha Dutt, she didn’t randomly ask people to shut up on air.
Everytime during the coverage, somebody came on screen and said – “We are the first/ only channel to get access to this pool of blood/ this victim/ this view of a building burning/ this piece of blood soaked cloth” – A part of me just wanted to slap them.