News Mafia

Started with very creative and positive ideas. Degenerated to a stray occasional reflections on news channels by journalists

Monday, July 30, 2007


Didn’t get time to write. Now that I am set to write I realise that there is not much to be written either. The Sniper is quiet. Not subdued though -while we continue parading our senselessness.

After all that pomp and show and show of ritual obeisance to ‘journalistic spirit’ etc on Goenka Memorial Debate yesterday (more on this later) as shown on NDTV, everybody is back to playing the sales guy's games.

Yesterdays CNN- IBN 's evening news (this is on a day when eight protestors, demanding land for the poor at Mudigonda village in AP were killed by police firing and documented brutality in blood and gore and more was available to all channels) ok... the news started like this -- “The big story this evening is that Dr Haneef Whatever is returning to India from Brisbane”!! The world belongs to and exists only in the metro's middle class concerns or perhaps it exists only in the advertiser’s sales strategy. Subdue the viewer in passivity and let encoded messages be decoded in dead brains. When the moment to face the truth arrived, nonchalance was amazing. The swollen faced, somewhat haggard and tired looking anchor read detached, condescending sentences (who wrote the anchor script btw), which seem to be coming out of another world, a world -Where the mind is without fear and the booze bottle is held high. Where poverty and struggle for survival exist only in books. Where, for each hungry voice that dares speak, there is a bullet bought off my tax returns.

The approach, the words, the emphasis - insensitivity and utter failure in situating the news item in its immediate or wider social context or in realising the meanings of events within the matrix of a democratic order, was really insulting. After much condescension and confusion, he wrapped up the story like this “Ok, I hope everything is under control now”. And that patronizing smile on a very patriarchal face – beautiful! splendid!! He moves on.

Great! Good show.

The mystery behind recruitments in media is over. Pick the right kind of people and you reduce the possibility of news interfering with sanitary pads and shaving cream advertisements and their target audience’s affectionate attention.

The BIG story THAT EVENING was about national indignation – that the police in a distant land were trying to question an Indian cousin of two UK terrorists. Unfairly, of course. How dare their police act like this? CNN - IBN was hurt and worried and its nostrils flaring in rage and challenge. What? What did u say? Eight Indians were killed, shot dead by the police in our own country and many more injured, bullets lodged in their bodies …oh! That! There is always trouble there with these peasants and their lands –aren’t you sick of their fights? That keeps happening. If police didn’t kill them- driven by hunger, debt and hopelessness, suffocated by oppressive weight of more agony and bleaker future, they would have killed themselves. Don’t you read newspapers? Or are you one of those who only watch news channels and believe the world is about sex scandals, glorified petty crimes, personal micro issues discussed 'live' for hours, extremely skewed story angles, one-sided truth-go-to-hell narratives, aspiring models throwing 'revealed-rape' charges which - we are told - shame the nation, society, god, aliens, everything and everyone; na├»ve anchors advising and sermonising the world on just about anything and everything. The world, you think, is about a vocabulary-less, content-less exhausting narration that exasperates you into tired passivity, chases you channel after channel until finally gored, molested and tortured you submit your judgments to the painted faces and obscenity of the wordless sounds.

Suddenly, an idea overtakes from the wrong side --- No, No. There is more to the world than that. There is ‘news’ beyond the media (or besides it). There is a world beyond this manufactured cosmetic hyper-reality, twisted and manipulated to manipulate an unsteady
class with an aching conscience and lost in conflicts of meanings and conflicting signs.Swift. But rash driving. Its gone. The path ahead is clear now.

You see this Dr Haneef Whatever issue is different stuff altogether. Dr.Haneef Whatever was questioned and kept in detention. He was asked questions about his relations and relatives, questioned about his bank accounts and his trips to London. Abhorring! Imagine the cruelty, trauma and pain that Dr Haneef Whatever had to suffer.

These streaks! A memory wafer sails over.Have you seen the footage? The scene of the firing incident, it was along a road that curved slightly.

Cut to - Mudigonda in AP, the peasants, dead woman and children. Twisted and motionless. Frozen in morbid terror as if afraid to speak out any more. Bodies lying still on the bloodied streets where once life roamed; where till the other day were songs of protest and hope, and gathering of village folk. Men and women deliberated on their concerns while keeping a watchful eye on their children who played nearby- huddled in groups, they discussed their daily toil, about land usurped by builders and miners, about another famine and high prices of kerosene, missing schools and doctors ….tchch! You are missing the point. The point is that there was no questioning, they were not detained and none of them had ever even gone to London, most of them never had any bank accounts.

What questions can you ask them anyway? You see, how can you compare the two news items? Ridiculous, to even raise such queries. Unlike Dr Haneef Whatever, none of these peasants –these fathers and mothers and wives and husbands and children, who lie dead today, silenced - were ever questioned. Silenced, but never questioned.

If you don’t ask questions where is the need for answers? And who cares as long as…well…as the CNN-IBN anchor hoped “the situation is under control”. (Noticed something? There are too many as’ses in the last line). Whatever. Whatever it takes.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Please..No personal comments and avoid names

Well this is a very personal sort of ranting place I do not intend to make it anything like an extended meet or raising professional concerns etc and in any case not like a gossip centre - it is not moderated and yet 'the sniper' gleefully shot down 11 comments.

I swear..the anchors!!

There is an urgent need for deliberation in life. ND caught hold of a video of security forces and others touching the shivling. It suddenly attained ‘Enlightenment'. Declared to the world that the shivling melted exactly and only because of this act. The video was shot by some pilgrim - tourist who was inside the cave when supposedly no one should have been allowed in. The anchor, a screeching novice, even questioned and blamed the source (who shot the video) in very crude ways; got very personal, agitated and blatantly accusative, lost his breath and nerve. Now hold on. Wats going on? First you need to know how to handle ur source. Second, exactly how can anyone say that the acts shown on the video melted the shivling. Technically speaking yes of course the thermal gradient bwtween the fingers of the devotees and the twelve feet ice structure would contribute but lets have some sense of proportion. This random sensationalizing, presented with absolute illogic, made me nauseous. Thankfully, by the evening as seasoned ones took over, the matter was corrected and the morning moksha was rightly referred to as 'contributary' factor along with global warming other such mega factors . Interestingly, the reporters were the wiser ones- they kept on ignoring anchors' 'euraka!' cry and despite annoying prods, specifically pointed out numerous other reasons which could have contributed to the melt down. This was ND Hindi. Usually I watch 24*7 but thankfully the cable guy decided not to wire it that day. I just wish n pray it was better.

This underscores, emphasizes in bold and italics and in 72 pts., the crying need for anchors who have some perspective. Some element of logical scrutiny- that there exist in this world, associations and correlations that are not ‘necessarily' causal etc. Or that there could be multi factor cause –effect relations. To hell with it, first and foremost an anchor must be a journalist.

But where was the desk? How and why was it undone? Why did that screeching buffoonery continue for over 3 hrs? Was nobody watching? Or did the producer tell him "Boss ! this is exclusive... get aggressive ...we got it this time, make it big" and the anchor, given the constrains of limited bandwidth of perspectival space to play on - did it just as he wud or cud. Simple. Anything is possible. A saner person in charge would have actually done it - without extreme reductionist noises or high-schoolish bullying of his source; would have handled it with grace while not undermining in the least the 'importance' of tapes in hand. And could actually have made it big.

This trend or should i say style of hiring nubile readers(started by a hindi ch) ; straight out of class XII, who gleefully dwell on the most complex of issues in society and beyond, with utter innocence and wide eyed bewilderment- must be stopped forthwith. I recall- a very senior and respected journalist had remarked (4 yrs back) "C'mon! Now, if u want to be taken seriously, get these pre-puberty babes out of screen". I tell u and most wud testify that in most ch's the anchors are the most ill -read, least capable of handling anything with grace and understanding. Because, they usually know nothing abt news – clueless abt most things. Nuances of language, hidden or loaded queries or the art of communication: they don’t even know what’s it all about. That must change. No amount of training, retraining, restraining, cajoling works - you don't have it, you won't have it. Simple. It is perhaps only in India that to be a news anchor all u need a is gud looking face or some sort of screen performance. I remember the day of Uma bharti’s undoing. At around 5 PM it was officially declared that she had been suspended. There were two anchors in readiness. Blanks. Only 3 and half min to go. I talked to the two wide-eyed wonders on repercussions and issues and soon surrendered in despair. After a quick walking–down-the–corridor-discussion with the bulletin producers decided to write down the questions and STRICTLY directed the anchor not 2 ask or say anything at all beyond the written word – nomatter what happens. On the other side, by the OB with mike in hand was was one of the most seasoned journalists in India. Boy! Wat an irony!. Thankfully, the link snapped midway and the decked up beauty moved on to the next item on TP.

Authenticity in news - in form and content and the content of the form, is beyond HR's grasp. But is anybody thinking abt it!

PS: Dependra Pathak's retort - Congratulations. While discussing law n order in Delhi the anchor(another channel) acted sarcastic even when Mr Pathak was clear, forthcoming and genuine in his replies. D P picked on the words- showed greater grasp and play with the words. His retort was crisp, composed and carried an advice - show perspective when 'making' news. Differentiate between the isolated and the pattern. If someday I open a journo school Mr Pathak u r on the faculty. At least on how not to anchor.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Cursed Highway - Sahib Singh No More

Place of tragic incident was barely 100 kms frm Delhi. And yet so little information was given on the actual incident. First thing we wanted to know was how it happened. Exactly how? The details. And all we heard and saw the whole day long, were obituaries and ill clad reporters at Ashoka Rd generally giving P2C's for nothing. Back to class room all ye desk drones.
Aaj Tak was first to come with wrong graphics on how the accident happened ( they should watch more of NDTV). Others were even more weird. Exact chain of events upto the moment of disaster wasn't mapped anywhere.

Did Pilot die in a similar accident?

YES it is SINGULAR -the 'bell' and not as in 'bolls'

well thats it

Friday, June 22, 2007

Does the bell toll for thee?

dedicated to the sniper ... so ol'horse..steeled by years of slog and a workhorse reliable and fast,, take on ... its all urs