Wednesday, November 09, 2005

"SHOPPERS BATTLE TERRORISM", REPORTERS


It’s a post that has been floating around in my head for the last 10 days – ever since the Delhi blasts happened. Perhaps the events of that day have already faded from public memory but I think I need to get it out of head anyway.

This is primarily a rant against television news. I don’t know how many of you felt the same irritation I experienced while watching television the following morning.

The reportage of the blasts was muddled, jingoistic and trivial all at once. I got more information out of watching 5 minutes of BBC World than I did out of watching 20 minutes of various Indian channels.

The first complaint is that this expression ‘Dilhi dilwaalo ki’ (loosely translated….Delhi – city with a heart) suddenly caught the fancy of reporters and interviewees alike. But it is so hopelessly out-of-sync with Delhi as we know it that it sounded only superficial - hardly creating a lump in the throat that it was perhaps expected to. Also, faced with such a unique situation, most people do respond humanely. And then the very next morning they go back to fighting with their neighbours over water and parking space. So were we really expected to buy this ‘dilwalo ki’ business?

The other triviality that was covered ad nauseam was the fact that shop-keepers around the blast sites had opened up the very next day for business. Reporters seemed to want us to believe that it was their resilience and their will to fight the terrorists that made them do so. But it sounded extremely insincere. Shoppers were interviewed and many of them said, “life goes on.” Of course, “life does go on”, but such banal philosophy on the morning of the blasts sounds insensitive not resilient.

To me, it seemed like these people were back on the streets simply because they knew that lightning does not strike in the same place twice or because of that old “It-will-not-happen-to-me” attitude. But, armed with heavy shopping bags, these shoppers were projected as some kind of exalted heroes at the forefront of the battle against terrorism.

The problem with 24-hour TV news is that it is an insatiable monster. So anything you feed it, it will eat. I can shrink the entire mornings coverage of the blasts in a few lines.

Shops around the blast sites have re-opened for business. Shop-keepers here say they are not going to be intimidated by the designs of a few terrorists. But it also happens to be one day before Diwali – the best time for business. And sure enough, the shoppers are back. Meanwhile, the death toll from last evenings blasts has gone up to xyz. A little-known group called so-and-so has claimed responsibility for the attacks and the Delhi police is investigating the organizations various other links. Raids have been conducted in 20 locations and x number of people have been arrested and interrogated.

8 lines. But on television somewhere between the barrage of useless, irrelevant un-information, we had to glean this hard kernel of real news.







18 comments:

Bala (Karthik) said...

I remember watching a program/snippet on NDTV after the Delhi blasts. It was about some "let us not let the terrorists break our spirits" crap.
Its time the State and the media did better than letting loose rhetoric and "spirit" statements. Instead they should remove the smoke screen and ADDRESS the real issues. There are issues which need to be addressed. That, and that alone (addressing issues and dismantling terrorist networks on the ground) which will keep the people safe. Not fancy "spirit" slogans and official condemnations and "stern" warnings.
Let us not be fooled like the American public have been by propaganda.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. It's definitely great stuff for your readers. But for your own (job's) sake, you might want to think about how your posts might embarrass your colleagues and employer.

Anonymous said...

Well you did the best thing by expressing what you truly felt and i second ur post entirely.
Where is our sense of nationalism? Its so much about the Mumbai and the Chennai spirit after the downpour recently, perhaps we need to look at the larger picture.
Whats even more appalling is the way regional news channels depict tragedies..dont u think??
Keep up the great work..!

HR Venkatesh said...

1. i don't think you would have embarassed your employer, whoever it is, by this post. somebody's gotta tell it like it is!

2. i think we need the big bosses of tv news to have some sort of vision - not to fill up airtime in a panic fuelled rush to keep up with TRP's. The pressure on the reporter is enormous to deliver something - anything. I was at the blast site in Pahar Ganj and I can tell you, what we did was disgusting - trampling over what could have been evidence in the rush to get visuals and soundbites. even the bystanders were macabre, fighting with each other to give us 'eyewitness' accounts.

Piyush Garyali said...

News on TV, which once used to be a serious bussiness has become nothing more than a mockery of events, thanks to all this competition around with any Tom, Dick and Hari Prasad launching new news channels thinking they can do better at bringing crap to more homes than the others.

The Hindi news channels are the most disgusting affair. Hindi is such a beautuful language but they way it has been treated by these channels, it feels so irritatingly annoying . Headlines are nothing but a crazy jugglery of words and reporters just keep blabbering something for the heck of it and they bring in the same stupidity every hour, every day and night! Dramatised coverage, useless points!!

And NDTV-24x7 is no exception. Although I must confess that it is the only channel I follow for news, NDTV-24x7 too drags itself sometimes into such affairs which makes me wonder as to when would Indian news channels cater to something which is more relevant, quality!

Chetan said...

hi alaphia,

i guess with news channels mushrooming here and there , theres an intense competition to get that "breaking news" first. and its really sad to see the red exclusive tag flashing on the screen when they are showing blast victims. its like the news channel is taking immense pride and pleasure in being the first one to show peoples misery to the world.

I strongly suggesting putting up a standard disclaimer on your site to avoid any kind of trouble. do go through the ibm blogging policy http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/dw_blog_comments.jspa?blog=351&entry=81328&a=dgr-lnxw07IBM-Bloggers


Regards,
Chetan.

Samanth said...

Lucidly put, young Alaphia.

Alaphia said...

Hi Anons... im really curious to know who you guys are. ..So mail in and thanks.

Chetan - this is probably the last rant for a while. But i should check out the blogging policy nonetheless.

Piyush, Bala ... what can i say? Sigh....

Kunds... Im glad you mentioned that bit about destroying evidence here. And that clip is hilarious!!

cynicalcount said...

Well the terrosits acheived what they wanted, some publicity and for people to die. The spirit of people and the shopkeepers opening shops is a load of crap. It is something which has no connection with being defiant or anything of that sort.

Especially channels like Aajtak are the worst offenders of propogating jingoistic and rubbish statements. I wonder how low they can go to garner TRP's.

Alaphia said...

Thank you, young Samanth.

Hi Cynical - i wish there were more viewers like you.

Truman said...

Hi Alaphia,

I completely agree with you.

My profession is not even remotely related to journalism but the emotions I felt on this very same topic are similar to what you have written here.

I request you to take a look at what I wrote here. And yes, I am linking to this post of yours.

indiacorporatewatch said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
indiacorporatewatch said...

The victims of the bomb blast have my condolences

But
Delhi is after all the city where the murderors of 3000 sikhs still roam free....

BTW
Where and when can I see you on NDTV ?Do you have any shows of your own ?

Roshan said...

well put

Alaphia said...

Indiacorporatewatch - Im afraid i dont have a show of my own.

Thanks Roshan.

Anonymous said...

Seriously ...why was a debate on chennai's newfound morality and culture hosted by Srinivasan??
The least he could do was acknowledge the panelists.
I'm sure the local journalists could have done more justice to the debate.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

in jan hindi channels launchd program saying bad things abt my hometown jabalpur ; these chanls not even fair to small towns more focus on metros

thanks Piyush Garyali
--
Piyush Garyali blog at http://verypondycherry.blogspot.com