Friday, November 28, 2008

Crises and Media - part 1

Crisis situations traditionally feed the continuous dope needed by the 24x7 news channels. You have daredevil reporters out on the streets covering the story 'in the line of fire'. Camera persons effortlessly zoom in and out of the actual site of action. Thanks to the all new powerful digital video cams of today' age, one can zoom up to a distance of over 100 meters even! So you have the journalists going non stop about the situation and lens-happy camera persons accentuating the stories with images. The result - UTTER IRRESPONSIBILITY.

I am sorry to be so blunt, but in the extreme enthusiasm to be the first to provide 'breaking news', people telecast images that showed commandos landing from helicopters, taking up positions and so on. Now, looking at the images, if I were around, I could have quite easily comprehended where they were landing and how they were moving. The terrorists are supposed to have satellite phones, and the mother ship that was hijacked is rumored to be very very well equipped. How long does it take to transmit information? In today's day and age, technology is so advanced and no one needs to be told that generally terrorists are wayyyyyyyyy ahead of the common man in terms of technology, and their crooked, deranged mind, operates in a sinister manner. So how difficult would it be to relay information to the terrorists, when it is clear that they are operating with cartloads of outside help???? And as citizens, why do we need to know inch by inch, what commandos are doing to save 200 lives? This is not a movie, 200+ commandos, army personnel and policemen are facing fire and grenades to save lives of civilians. And these are news channels, and not entertainment channels. But who cares!!! In spite of repeated appeals, the cameras never stopped. The result - during the crescendo of the rescue mission, all news channels were blacked out. Period.

The second pain - the reporters making their own conclusions and bannering those conclusions as 'breaking news'. For instance - one reporter was talking to the director of the NSG, Mr Dutta, on Thursday evening, who said that one terrorist at the Taj was injured and that the NSG was closing in. The reporter said, " So that means we have 2 terrorists captured alive." DNSG was quick to correct her saying, " We haven't captured the one at the Taj yet, but we hope to do so, soon". Within seconds, the news channel said - 'Breaking news - 2 terrorists captured alive'. This same second terrorist at the Taj kept up explosions and gunfire well into Friday afternoon and as I write this, there are reports of fresh violence from the Taj. Then in the extreme enthusiasm of being in the middle of the action - just as a commando operation was about to begin, one reporter caught hold of a passerby and asked him whether the operation has begun. The guy guffawed and said, "Mujhe kya maalum ???" and walked off. Perhaps most of these Indian reporters belive that they need to keep speaking non stop, describing the images one sees on their screens, as if the viewer is blind! or brainless. Unmindful of whether they make sense or otherwise, in order to prove their 'sincerity' in relaying the 'truth' they go on and on talking, making baseless guesses and speculating on the rescue tactics employed in the situation at hand. As a result the non stop chattering ends up getting on one's nerves. The reports keep swinging 'yes hostage, no hostage, mission over, mission underway', just because no one ratifies what one speaks. I have seen foreign media cover such crises and their reports cover direct accounts, analyses by experts, professors and policy makers in some cases, government officials and so on. Over here, never once has any reporter even provided an impassioned view about implications, methods, government actions and so on.

The third highly annoying part is the stupid questions part. Unmindful of the situation, some silly questions are - 'How do you feel about this whole mess?' I wish I could answer with a song - 'Time of my life'. Yesterday, when Ratan Tata, head of the Taj group fielded questions, he was asked a monetary evaluation of the extent of the damages and the amount he would spend on compensation for his staff. I was disgusted by the question, and I can only imagine the agony in Mr Tata's mind. Another stark case - One man was waiting for news about his brother at the Oberoi, and our reporter asked him how he was feeling. The poor chap could say nothing except a helpless 'What can I say'. I was told that on CNN a reporter accosted a passerby and asked - "When did Bombay become Mumbai?" If this was indeed true!!! Holy smokes!!! Another reporter catches a passerby who's walking, and asks him what he's doing. 'Walking', he says matter of factly.

The gross lack of responsibility in the media floats rumors, in a city already plagued by terror and uncertainty. The least the people with the power to reach a million others can do, would be to be responsible and try to help in solving the issue, and if they can't solve the issue, please stay away, and not complicate the lives of the law enforcement forces.

So while we have been watching this whole nefarious saga unfold, with the excitement and nervousness associated with a cricket match, the annoying chatar patar continues.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so! really nice post