Friday, January 07, 2005

Media Circus

This is an article that appeared in the columns of The New Indian Express today.
It is very sickening to note as to how some mediamen stoop to such low levels to get their scoops and bytes. A reporter is expected to report the event without being affected by a tragedy; however, he has not right to be indifferent towards the victims's feelings. Amidst his enthusiasm to pip his counterparts in giving out the news in the "best-possible" manner, most of them end up giving a go-by to the emotions of others.
As this was not enough, one of our fellow blogger had quoted something worse by a BBC Correspondent in Sri Lanka. Standing amidst the decaying bodies which are being put in a mass grave in a village dominated by christians.
Mr. Jeremy Bowen of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) asked.
"Isn't it a shame they are not getting Christian burials?"
How terrible this is!
The question looks more abominable when we come to know the answer given by the priest.
"I don't think the Lord is very fussy about this."

The following is a sad yet true report of the current status of most of the media and media-savvy orgnisations.

Personal tragedies provide fodder for cameras in Nagapattinam
Friday January 7 2005
NAGAPATTINAM: Death and devastation have fawned endless photo opportunities in Nagapattinam: the cameras that have landed here do not seem able to have enough of the bloated corpses or the ululating women.
In fact, the more the merrier it is for some newsmen and NGOs.Sample these:
* On Monday, 28-year-old Vijaya (name changed) who lost her husband and two children to the tsunami and has just a three-month-old son to call family, was asked to carry the infant in her arms and ‘‘walk a few steps’’ because a national TV channel thought it would ‘‘set the mood’’ for a report on child survivors!* A relief worker pulling a decomposed corpse out of the debris at Akkaraipettai on Sunday was asked to ‘‘hold up the body just a little’’ by a vernacular satellite channel!
* On Monday, when a child died at a relief camp, a group of mediapersons landed within half an hour. The family wanted the baby cremated but the pressmen wanted the camera to roll. The baby was placed on a towel on the floor, the parents and a sibling were asked to sit around.
Some reporters told the mother to start crying! And if you thought it was just the local media playing purveyors of death, you could be mistaken. Correspondents of foreign networks, both print and television have been eager to latch on. No dignity for either the dead or the survivors of the Asian tsunami who are a different colour and race from the 9/11 victims when news cloaked itself in civility and decorum.
Minutes before one of the mandatory daily press briefings at the Nagapattinam collectorate last week, the correspondent of a foreign news agency was overheard asking a policeman: ‘‘I need a picture of a mass grave. I heard there are quite a few around. Can you show me how to get to one? And what time is the best to go?’’
If you thought that was bad, take this. A woman correspondent who was also volunteering for a Netherlands-based social forum had come with a bag full of stuffed toys. At a relief camp, she handed out the toys and asked the children to smile, even as other children who had no toys watched forlornly. Minutes later, she went on air: ‘‘For the children of Nagapattinam, smiles like these are few and far between... these innocent smiles may not last forever (she motioned the camera to pan towards the toyless), only despair seems to be their lot.’’
On Monday, when the first State-run orphanages became functional in Nagapattinam, a nifty young correspondent of a national news channel cradled a baby on her hip, flashed a smile and ad-libbed: ‘‘Lots of beautiful babies are available here for adoption...’’ You could be forgiven for thinking the tsunami had made the children beautiful instead of rendering them destitute.
And then there are the NGOs: a handful of genuine ones but swarms of frauds, mostly accompanied by a videographer who records every food packet handed out, every child cuddled.All one has to do is to walk into the Nagapattinam Collectorate on a day when any of the top IAS officers are present. One would find the man or woman running the NGO patiently waiting. The moment the official car drives in, out come both the camera and the smile and after a few handshakes are faithfully recorded for the sake of sponsors and foreign funders, the man/woman’s mission is accomplished.
One such NGO even has a cellphone-toting man stationed at the collectorate to inform whoever it is at the other end when a particular IAS official is driving out to a relief camp. No prizes for guessing what happens next.
As earthmovers scan the Nagai beaches, throwing up more of the dead, the cameras only get hungrier.


Blogger Arattai Ambujammal said...

News is no longer information, reporting, analysis, prediction and anything intelligent at all. The focus is on emotion; just watch the Sun TV newsreader reading (sreaming?) the headlines. 10 years ago, parents used to insist to their kids to improve their general knowledge by turning on to friendly "Seidhigal" at 8:40 followed by the National News at 9:00 in the evening. The Shobana Ravis, Tamilazhagans, Ramakrishnans or the Sunil Tandons of those years read the news, didn't enact it or express their emotion. True, the quality of video was not giga-pixel quality, the reporting was restricted to accessible areas, there were no dare-devil correspondents. The footage of the happening was not so important as the news and the consequences. Now, the focus is on the drama. While very few video clips of the actual Tsunami are available, cable networks around the world try to substitute it with high tide shots tired of just showing the newsreader's faces. What are shots of lined-up corpses supposed to do? Create sympathy? Well.. not when you see them day after day, with your 5-year old wondering why that grandma is tied up with a blanket? Should even news on TV be rated similar to movies? It looks like its going that way. TV news has become movie-making, only the actors are real people made as jokers without their knowledge, exploited for their grief-stricken faces even during their times of distress.

11:35 PM  

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