Saturday, September 09, 2006

TELEVISED ANGER


Recently Arjun Singh was at IIT to inaugurate a new hostel block. But being the villain in the reservation saga, students conducted a 'spontaneous', 'flash' protest. Promptly the media was called. (Protests, dharnas, fasts and demonstrations these days seem to take place only inside a frame.) The frantic calls by a few students forced me and a cameraman into the car heading towards IIT. Three students received us at the gate and called their mates to tell them we had arrived and to be "ready".

That pissed me off. But I said nothing. Then when we reached the venue of the "protest", much to my chagrin, the students started asking me what to do. "Should we sit or should we stand? Should we march or should we stay here? Should we call more students or is this enough? Should we burn the banner or shouldnt we?"

Thats it! Stop! I lost my cool. I blame the media as much as I blame the students for asking me these questions. There are lots of unethical practices that go entirely unquestioned these days, starting with making people shout slogans for the camera, or directing them to do things they would not have otherwise done. Its pardonable if its a feature story and sometimes you need to 'direct' people into doing certain things - like make an author read his book while shots of him are taken, or make a chef toss up the noodles for the camera. Thats allowed. But if its news, its simply unpardonable. These students obviously dont know any better either. I said, "This is not a film and i'm not a director. Do what you have to do or don't do anything at all. I frankly don't care."

Then to make matters worse and ruin my mood further, the students turned out to be a divided house with some overenthusiastic ones getting carried away with the idea a protest and others warning them of dire consequences. It was the last straw. There was no way this lie was ever going to be on air. But just to say, televised protests are very often done like this.

36 comments:

Sathej said...

Hello Alaphia,
Such 'organized' protests are becoming common nowadays.Maybe that is the reason the students behaved as they did.They just wanted to be on air protesting and maybe make their protest heard.Anyway,the students are to be blamed for such ridiculous way of protest as mcuh as the 'media trend'.IITians ought to know better.They should have had the courage to meet Arjun Singh and hand in a memorandum and perhaps should have had that covered.
(PS: I am an IITian.And no,I did not take part in the protest.By the time I knew of it,it was already over.)

Alaphia said...

Really? You're an IITian?

Sathej said...

Of course,Why?
Sathej

Sathej said...

Hello Alaphia,
See my profile at Blogger.It was really a bad precedent at the protest.Shouldn't have happened.
Sathej

Sathej said...

The protest was so badly organized. Nevertheless,I hear Arjun Singh got to know of it.Anyway,it is too little too late as for the reservation issue.And yet again,Alaphia,you have acted wisely and honestly as a journalist should but usually don't nowadays.
Sathej

Sathej said...

Sorry for such repeated posts.This one is a correction.The sentence must read as a journalist should but usually doesn't nowadays.

Kishor Cariappa said...

That's the scene everywhere. Everything is stage-managed these days. If you decide to skip the action citing ethical issues, some other channels will cover the event. Sadly, bosses who are based in Delhi/Mumbai will grill the correspondents for missing the story! Sad state of affairs...huh!

Should we start another round of debate on ethics? :)

Sathej said...

Hello,
There is no need for a 'debate' on ethics.Ethics are meant to be followed.However,as I said above,how many really act ethically in the present day world is questionable.Every man/woman ought to act as his/her conscience asks him to.But then,is this all akin to preaching the Bible to Satan?One can only hope that things would change.

rajesh said...

i think this is one of the sweetest articles i've ever come across. this introspective report (and it is a special report) is an indication of a mature, self-aware work item brimming with professional integrity.

Oscar Wilde famously proclaimed that 'life imitates art' and the kids' behaviour is one such incarnation of his prediction.

Much as philosophy, sufism, pure sciences et al....the beauty of Arts is to (re)present things as they are. I believe journalism to be an art of the highest order praticed only by a few.

al, my admiration of you is increasing at an alarming rate.

Shalin said...

"I blame the media as much..."

That's a pretty honest confession.

- Shalin Jain

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

Guess a little harsh, I had been to a anti-reservation protest when it happened in bangalore. When camera was pointing, the slogans would become louder, but that was just the urge to be visible to greater audience. Most of them were there to protest and appeal against the reservation.
But ya, IIT students were better off trying to get Arjun Singh and ask him to explain the logic for reservation, and then come to conclusion.
I loved reading the posts on your blog.

Shumit said...

Ally,

Watched you on television last night on that co-education debate....I laughed through the entire show, especially at times when you were trying hard to laugh but could not.

Leaving for bangalore tonight and catch up sometime next week before you leave.

rajesh said...

hey! i watched it too...i was rolling over with laughter...the kids were so good and they did cover a good deal of points...

i also appreciated the way the anchor didnt interfere, gave complete freedom and let the show go on...she was actually enjoying the whole thing...hehe...and occasionally threw a seemingly innocous viewpoint to either side....and slid back with that hand over the cheek observer posture...and smiling within...

really wonderful! i wished i had recorded it...

The Marauder's Map said...

You have a great blog here Alaphia. I am a print person, and I am often frustrated by the kind of reporting I see on TV these days. (And of course, the truth is all print journos hate TV people because the minute they arrive with their cameras and mikes, we are second class citizens :)) That's not to say there isn't a lot of flotsam and jetsam in print too, but television just amplifies a lot of things. But it's good to see objectivity and honesty at all times, so keep up the good work.

aquarian said...

hi alaphia, u look not too different wen i last saw u in Class8C, st michaels! Bro. Anthony Joseph here, saw you with some kids "coeducation" what was so funny? Great job alaphia! ever knew u'd be a journalist? u certainly wrote well in school..."should men learn to cook?" take care!

Mangs said...

hey...

i remember a similar thing happening to me on Valentines Day - sort of Rent A Mob - I blogged about it. everything's carefully timed so that protests and anger are turned on full blast to time exactly with the Live Broadcasts.

Alaphia said...

Hello all - back after a while.
Sathej - I'm glad you see that your colleagues behaved stupidly.

Kishore - That is a problem - Competition has not helped to raise the bar as far as ethics go.

Rajesh - I was not happy with the quality of the debate. Really, we have brighter students in Chennai but getting them can be difficult on short notice.

Thanks Shalin - nice of you.

Thanks Goli - I understand the enthusiasm has to go up a bit when the camera is on, but to stage it like this is pathetic.

Shumi - call me when you get back.

Thanks Marauders Map - TV guys can be so obnoxious. Im glad you enjoyed reading the blog.

Bro. Anthony - Hello! Thanks for stopping by.

Mangs - You should know only too well what I'm talking about. I was sorry to see that IIT guys were doing that too.

Sathej said...

Hello,
I undertsand,Alaphia,that the students of IIT Madras behaved foolishly that day(stupid would be a hard word,I guess).As far as I have come to know(I did not take part in the protest as I was not there on that Sunday)the students were desperate to be heard.After all,Arjun Singh comes here once in a while.All said and done,it was pedantry behaviour by IITians.But,a poin here would be they took quite a risk for nothing.They stand to gain nothing from all this except perhaps an interview for a moment or two.But,if things go wrong,disciplinary action is not ruled out.So,they must have done it out of excitement coupled with desperation.But no denial of the fact that it was a shoddy show and being a part of the institution(which otherwise has a good repute),I regret it.
Sathej

GeekBeyondRedemption said...

Wow, never thought I'd find Bro. Anthony in a blog.

Alaphia, you can dredge up more of our old Michaelite's and contacts with your blog I think.

What do you do these days Sir? And where are you?

Prasanna. 8C.

Gandalf_The_GAY said...

i would like to point out an issue here...as we all know, politicians are all acting in front of media..who is giving the right stats and the write comments on issues nowadays??you guys do so much of sting journalism on the politicians..still the culprits go unnoticed...mainly bcoz u guys dont really reach out to their Vote base ie the rural india...they really dont care..their Brand equity remains unshaken!!
and as a consequence,and going by a very famous tamil proveb, "to take out a thorn u need another thorn"..students in general have also started acting in front of media..sheer desperation to get heard..

And to put one more universal principle.."Ends justify means"...to state a example..assume u bribe a person..in general, its wrong..but if u do that with a hidden camera...its creating social awareness!!you really dont worry abt the ethics of bribing that person for this cause..

But this does not justify the IITM junta's act of dumbness...They must have planned it themselves rather than asking you to prepare the script,which is not just unethical but completely unprofessional :P

i assure the next time u visit IITM things will be very professional and ofcourse ethical :)

Alaphia said...

Gandalf -the-gay - I agree with some things... not quite with the other stuff. Ideally you should not be bribing your way into a story but sometimes the ends justify the means. I can't think of an example right now.

Geek! - I had no idea I have been talking to a Michaelite! Will pass on his mail ID to you.

Sathej said...

Well,talking of ideal things,why were the students not allowed officially to meet the Minister?Ideally they should have been allowed to voice their views.And further,the IIT says coaching classes dilute the quality of students and the best are now not able to get in and so forth.Then what about the present scenario?Can the best get in with reservation alone and no classes?All this is just talk without purpose.Mr Singh raked up the coaching debate and modified he regulations.Where is all that now?Are coaching classes shut?No way,they are flourishing actually due to the two time restriction.I guess this is getting off the topic.But there are a lot of issues involved and I just want to point out that a surface analysis would be unjust to everyone concerned.I beleieve students didn't go to the extent of bribing,but then as Gandalf says IIT Madras has a lot more to it than what has struck you and in future the behaviour would be more ethical.
Sathej

None said...

o yeah, o yeah. deja vu. all over again.
how r u, long time...

cheers!
ramya

GeekBeyondRedemption said...

Gandalf, spoken like an engineer :-). Identify the problem (in this case unethical behaviour) and ensure it doesn't happen next time. At the very least, JEE coaching teaches people how to learn from mistakes....

Alaphia, please drop his id on the sma1996 egroup, I'm sure lots of people would like to know what he's up to and where he is these days!

Gandalf_The_GAY said...

@geek- thankyou..one of my profs told me "what ever you build will collapse!!"..ur statement was like gatorade :-)

@alaphia-how often do u see people giving away their real emotions in front of camera?? my impression is most often it is either exaggerated or modest!!except for maybe when it is a calamity or something, when the situation overcomes the fact that they r on TV...what is ur experience??

aint_no_saint said...

Til ka pahad..Chane ka jhaad...Media creates and nowadays makes news for itself.. A new trend that is proving to be detrimental to the profession as such, in one way or the other eroding away credibility in bits.

Sriram said...

Hi Alaphia!

As an ex-IITan, I must confess that IITans are a bunch of nerds when it comes to issues like student politics - it's not like other colleges where you have organised student unions with political backing.

So I'm not at all surprised that the "protest" in IIT was handled in a clumsy and amateurish manner :-)!!!

By the way, I've read your blog articles with a lot of interest - you're doing a great job, keep it up!

And I'm disappointed with your role in NDTV - we see you on TV doing routine and mundane reporting jobs that don't do justice to the analytical skills that you display in the blog! I hope to see you soon anchoring shows like "We The People".

- Sriram.

Sathej said...

Hello,
Student politics,yes, is non existant here.But,we should have been more methodical and professional in the protest.We have presented a very bad picture by acting so naively.And as for Alaphia's skills,yes you could try hosting a show which addresses the Southern parts more.I know that there is Southern Edition,but you could transform it from being a news show to one that is people-centred.
PS:You are welcome to Shaastra,the annual technical event of IIT Madras,not necessarily to cover it but just to see that IITians do a lot more than displaying such pedantry organizing skills.
Sathej

indscribe said...

The cameramens generally organise such protests and that's why this situation.

Good to see you and Sathej having it discussed here. Blogs are serving their purpose well. Not only you can talk and both express their feelings but also resolve them.

Alaphia said...

Indscribe - Thats exactly why I blame the media just as much.

Sathej - thanks for the invite. I know that IIT students can do a lot more.

Sriram - thats exactly why I blog -because you can't be an analyst on TV. I'm a reporter so I can't give my opinion. And thats a good thing too - I really don't want to hear opinionated reporting. And on TV believe me, theres never any time for serious analysis. Thanks. I'm glad you think I would be good on my own show.

Alaphia said...

Gandalf - Yes its true - people are either exaggerated or too shy. Its one of the hazards of the medium.

Ain't-no-saint - well...sigh.

GeekBeyondRedemption said...

Hey Alaphia, eagerly anticipating Bro. Anthony's email id!

Abhi! said...

Hey alaphia,
back here after a while.. sad state of affairs at iit.. especially when they call the media (who have other stuff to cover too ).

Michaelite said...

http://michaelite.blogspot.com/

Rohan said...

I find this enormously funny, though I'd have gone bonkers if I had been you!