I cannot bear to watch Indian TV news. I will do so only because I have to. But because I am a contrary person, this post is about defending Indian TV journalism.
Being a print journalist, I have never felt the fascination for television many others I know feel. Us journalists are like that — one or the other, almost never both. And especially since I know how easy it was to get into (I got offered a job that I interviewed for over five other TV stream journalism students) a few years ago, it holds no glamour for me.
I am also the first person to criticise megalomaniac anchors that we cultivate in India. Anchors and news presenters who love nothing more than the sound of their own voice. I’ve said it often enough and even did a post on it when I was really angry.
But with the Air India Express crash in Mangalore I’ve seen people go at TV journalists with a viciousness that’s savage, if not uncalled for. It’s very easy, and pleasurable, to sit back on the couch and call Arnab Goswami all sorts of deserving names. (Replace AG with the anchor you hate most and this statement still holds true, you know.) But honestly it’s pretty difficult to get out there and stand against the backdrop of a crashed plane, keeping curious riffraff at bay, watching charred bodies being extricated while reporting in an undramatic and mature way. The last part almost no one manages on TV, they all look like they lost their best friend in the crash but never mind that. What’s news without a little drama, eh?
I’ve heard at least a dozen people say, “TV handles survivors and relatives of victims with such insensitivity.” Can someone elaborate? What do they want the reporter to do? As long she’s not thrusting a mike in someone’s face and saying, “How do you feel” I honestly have no idea how she can be sensitive in a situation like that. In my book, doing anything but sitting there quietly and being by the side of whoever’s grieving or hurt, is insensitive. But our reporter has a job to do. She cannot, even if she wants to, ignore that she has to go out there and get a story. If not for her, we would all have absolutely nothing to do but watch reruns of Friends.
Here’s what I know a reporter does. It’s not easy watching death and devastation. But a reporter puts that behind her or him and moves on to ask the questions that need to be asked. Most times, they also ask ridiculously asinine questions but that’s because most don’t know a Boeing from an Airbus or a black box from a bento. But that’s okay. They’re getting information, giving it to you, making complete asses of themselves while at it but doing the job that they get paid to do. It’s a difficult thing, even today, for someone like me to step back and not lend a helping hand in something of a crisis situation. But if a reporter’s going to do that, then you guys sitting comfortable on your couches have nothing to bitch about.
Many times it’s not comfortable to report what they’re reporting, and it shows in the woefully ill-informed way they report. But they’re doing it. They’re going out there leaving their dogs, mums, significant others and possibly a dying plant behind for a couple of days, taking uncomfortable road journeys, braving other hacks to in order to do better coverage. So if you have more than just, “Why can’t he be sensitive to the plight of the victims,” to say then I suggest you tell them what kind of coverage you’d like to see.
And stop following all of them on Twitter. It’s people like you who give them that swollen head.