Media and Mumbai

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 –

greenshot_2008_12_01_12_15_17_1.jpg

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.

22 Comments

Filed under India, Marketplace and All Things Current, Media, Rants and Rambles

22 Responses to Media and Mumbai

  1. She represents the great Indian middle class – or so she thinks. This time she seems to have got her comeuppance. The great Indian middle class is no longer the moron it was during the Kargil war.

    I share this nebulous feeling of outrage against “person or persons unknown” as the police are fond of saying in their reports, where the media is concerned. The whole bunch of them, for we were all flipping channels, sound more or less the same. There is the odd voice of sensibility, but very rare.

  2. you know, reading this, am so glad I remain clueless on BD.

  3. The question is, which was the part of yours that did not want to slap.

  4. While reporting from Nariman House, she yelled on and on about a “HUGE, absolutely HUGE explosion”. Unable to bear it, I switched to CNN-IBN where another young man was calling the very same thing a “controlled explosion”.

    I could have exploded, myself.

  5. The wiki’s been changed already.

  6. Neha:

    “…here was a woman who seemed to be comfortable going into unchartered territories.”

    Which women do you know who do NOT fit this description? :-) She is less of an exception than one might imagine. Except in that not all of us want our mugs on the idiot box …

  7. You got it absolutely right.
    These people are hell bent on sensationalism. Nothing else.
    They forget the basic fact that the job of a “reporter” is to “report” and not to “interpret” news. They gather news which they want you to see, interpret the way they understand(or not) it, and force the same thought on you. They make you feel that you are “not inline” with the “popular perception” of the nation, if you donot agree with their point of view.
    This is not democracy :)

    I have stopped watching news channels for some time. Unfortunately, I switched to news channels for a couple of days. Today, I was browsing channels, and found Barkha, I just couldnt resist my temptation to slap her(I actually didnt bother to look at what she was talking, I first muted the TV, then changed the channel.

    I donot understand what happened to the likes of Prannoy Roy, and Srinivasan Jain. Prannoy Roy too presents sometimes political views, and appear biased, but he does it in a very subtle way.

    The only best part of the coverage of Mumbai episode on NDTV was Srinivasan Jain. I didnt had the misfortune of watching or listening to Barkha.
    Unfortunately, there was a point of time in Indian Television, where Rajdeep, Barkha and Arnab became favourites of Prannoy. Remember they all represent different channels now, but they all have their origin in NDTV. Under Prannoy, they all learnt their basics, but first Rajdeep gained some significance in NDTV, during most of the political interviews, and a good number of elections which happened during the time when Vajpayee lost power a couple of times etc. He was excellent at his political analysis, but slowly arrogance, and over confidence over shadowed his real journalistic skills.
    Same is the case with Barkha, and Arnab.
    Now they all head different channels, and they are “mentoring” new age TV reporters with similar values. They are role models for the new age reporters, which is the most unfortunate part.

    Some one have to conduct some course like basics in journalism to all TC reporters.

  8. Chevalier

    Thank you for saying this, Neha – I’m so conflicted between my (A) pride in a woman journalist reaching any modicum of fame and/or success and/or achievement, and (B) it being this unethical, incompetent, and terribly insensitive woman.

  9. Neha, seriously, someone ask her to shut up. Even for me, there was a time, when I saw her as a ‘woman achiever’. I did not even mind her in her “We the People”. Let her be. I thought. But in these times, this insensitivity is just too much, to tolerate.Criticize politicians for making the most of it…. i wonder what moral right she has to do that?

    Just glad to see one more post on this!

  10. btw, was thinking if we can put this feedback on NDTV website. I have put it. Can you also do the same. They may not display it, but atleast, we can give a feedback.

  11. Pingback: To Each Its Own » Archives » Random Thoughts post 26/11

  12. Ankur

    I dont know about you guys, but I did not find the coverage on Times Now as repulsive as some of the stuff other channels have been dishing out. Or is it just me?

  13. Pingback: links for 2008-12-02 « Unjustly

  14. Sri

    That is a great link – funny but true.

  15. Barkha Dutt’s smug and self-absorbed reporting is typical of the way India’s English journalists operate these days. They have absolutely no concern for people but continue to babble nonsense under the garb of public service. And none of them seem to be able to tolerate any criticism: the moment someone calls them out on their incompetency, they respond with vicious personal attacks.

  16. Amit Sil

    Thanks Neha for what you have written. I am glad that there are people who are sensitive enough to understand the issue and vent it out and not cocooned within themselves.
    I was desperately looking for an avenue to vent out my frustration towards these pathetic and insensitive telecasts.
    They seem to be so much insensitive towards human sufferings and their constant claim of exclusive news from their channel was disgusting to say the least. I was not sure how to react when somebody told me that Barkha took a trip inside the Taj – the terror tourism is a new buzz word around, thanks to these people.
    On that eventful day, once I saw Mr. Shyam Benegal rightly pointed out to Barkha that the first 56 people who were killed in CST station were common man and none of the channels were covering them; Barkha just kept aside that point and continued blabbering about the terror irrespective of religion and how the opposition trying to politicised the issue and so on and so forth.
    Does she understand what she is doing or her insensitiveness is beyond her own control??

  17. Amit

    Great Article. This is how I felt when I was watching BD during Mumbai’s terror attack. I’ve have been observing this disturbing treand of minority appeasment in NDTV & CNN -IBN for quite some time now. NDTV I can understand b’coz Radhika Roy wife of Pranab Roy is the sister of Brinda Karat wife of Prakash Karat. And you all konw about our anti national commies they always support minorities. CNN IBN must be funded by somebody from middle east or these people get their paychecks from accross the border. These people here carry on the anti India & anti Hindu propaganda in the name of secularism.

  18. Someone rightly

    I saw a couple of links hyper linking to websites where Suresh Mehta is waxing eloquent what the media should do. Well that is all fine. But one thing the people should know is that the same Suresh Mehta undermined the democratic government when he issued a statement to the effect whereby he said he will refuse to draw the salary doled out by the government. Such a statement is very very provocative and exactly the kind of irresponsible and bold behaviour that the Pakistani army was allowed to engage in before it usurped power in that country. Suresh Mehta should have been fired for his remarks to say the least. And notwithstanding his sensible remarks on the media, he has NO locus standi to comment on executive functioning.

  19. Someone rightly

    I saw a couple of links hyper linking to websites where Suresh Mehta is waxing eloquent what the media should do. Well that is all fine. But one thing the people should know is that the same Suresh Mehta undermined the democratic government when he issued a statement to the effect whereby he said he will refuse to draw the salary doled out by the government. Such a statement is very very provocative and exactly the kind of irresponsible and bold behaviour that the Pakistani army was allowed to engage in before it usurped power in that country. Suresh Mehta should have been fired for his remarks to say the least. And notwithstanding his sensible remarks on the media, he has NO locus standi to comment on executive functioning. ..