Mumbai Blasts: Media at its disgusting best


CNN/IBN cannot get over itself. In the middle of the coverage of the Mumbai blasts, Rajdeep Sardesai could not prevent himself from repeatedly reminding his viewers (and at one point, his reporter as well) that the images were being carried live on CNN world wide. He was practically salivating over the fact that one of his reporters happened to be on one of the trains on which the blasts occurred and couldn’t stop smiling at this stroke of fortune.

via blogpourri

Human communication always happens within the closed confines of a defined context based on interpretation of facts and representation of opinions. As a result, any objective view of a certain activity is only as true as a Myth. It, therefore, becomes the primary job of the Media to fine tune this delicate mixture of objective facts and subjective opinions and try to report things as they are being factually perceived rather than subverting them to project their individualistic biases.

With a mind blowing number of news channels cropping up, each showing different angles of the same news, spiced up with suspense filled animated figures re-enacting the events forming the news and a live feed straight from the happening place, a very fundamental question pops up in my mind. Can news reporting be equated with entertainment? The Reality shows and stuff?

Sounds awkward, doesn’t it? Then consider this.

The family of Suryanarayana watches the news ticker on TV to learn of the tragedy, and even as it happens news crews are ready at their house sending in live feed of the family crying in distress and a reporter sitting in the safe confines of the studio narrating, re-narrating and re-re-narrating the obvious visuals.

Just imagine being struck with a great tragedy and 10 video cameras standing around you and sending live pictures of your suffering to the world!

Media is in the business of generating revenues. It’s the bottom line which matters. And anything that creates a sensation, sells. Anything that demonstrates a conflict, sells. Anything that gets glorified, sells. Anything that instills a fear, sells. Conflict sells. Peace is boring.

Much of what happens in the world is ambiguous. The truth is around somewhere, but the Media often tends to overdo its job of reporting and hardly ever reaches the screens without any additional spicing up and sprucing up, where every item becomes a Breaking News scrolling at the bottom of the television screens in bright red.

There must be a point where a line is drawn between money-making and reporting facts. Media is a business. But it’s a business with a heart and soul of its own.

It’s like the doctor who does earn money but nevertheless becomes responsible for curing the illness. But in the case of the present day media, the doctor himself creates the illness, and looks to earn money by curing it.


13 Responses to “Mumbai Blasts: Media at its disgusting best”

  1. 1 prat

    Sad. Sometimes, such is life.

  2. 2 Jax

    A solid reason why I steer away from watching the news channels…

  3. 3 Vidya

    Sometimes i feel its us who have given Media the upper hand ..while surfing a channel we would stop at a channel where some commotion is going on ..or flash of ‘Breaking News’ ..or the sight of blood or the sight of people crying…
    For Media it is TRPs and for us information ,entertainment and what not ..
    But i totally agree with you when you say “There must be a point where a line is drawn between money-making and reporting facts. Media is a business. But it’s a business with a heart and soul of its own.”
    But as Prat says its sad .Sometimes ,such is life.

  4. 4 Priya

    Couldn’t agree with you more on the title of your post. Was glued to the TV till well past midnight and the repetitive reporting for lack of ingenuity was totally disgusting. As the night grew longer, the language of the impromptu reporting just got worse and since the “live” pictures showed very few fresh snippets of life gone awry, I finally had to switch it off.

  5. 5 sangeeta

    it’s sad we rely on this media but it annys me to see how it takes advantage with its opportunistic nature. telecasting gruesome images of mayhem and death on national television, this isnt the time to sensationalise, its the time to help, and give more strength and resolve.

    Hopefully the city is strong enough to get through this, its good to see Mumbai’s people coming together in this tragic event to help each other. This help is needed more then the news stories.

  6. 6 Antara

    Can’t tell you how much I agree with you. Was absolutely disgusted by cNN IBN’s coverage and the fact that Rajdeep Sardesai’s voice got louder and shriller and more excited. Can’t help but compare it to the BBC coverage of the July 7th attacks and the calm way in which they disseminated terrible information. There is a lot that is positive about the sudden growth of the media in india…but yesterday was not one of them.

  7. Sad and felt really helpless watching it on news,the way its being narrated,with visuals,and words,which are voiced at the top of their voices,but then do they have heart? do they feel the pain? can they put themself in the place of those people who are greiving? Sad,it really is.

  8. I am a journalist and I must admit, on occasions, we do get carried away by events. So, constantly we have to remind ourselves to be restrained. This is most apparent in the case of the TV, much less on the radio; and to some extent in the print. This “getting carried away” phenomenon is nothing new. Only that in this TV era, it is so much more visible to the common person.

    Two reasons for the points you have raised. One, the event: the blasts which were unprecedented in scale and execution. Two, the TV: an instant and live medium.

    There is no entertainment aspect to the reportage at all… please… nor there is a commercial angle to it. It’s just a wrong perception. When we journalists are out there at the spot, “selling”… whatever that means… is the last thing on the mind. …On the contrary, it’s such a tough job out there… struggling to get information against all odds and to put them across to viewers or readers, who are so much more demanding now compared to earlier days.

    It’s said, “Media is in the business of generating revenue.” No. I don’t think we need to take so much of trouble… like going without food, swallowing insults, suffering ridicule… to generate revenue. But do accept the fact that revenue is important. Running a media organistation is a very expensive proposition.

    I do agree that like in every profession, journalism too has bad apples. Just as there are bad doctors, teachers, engineers, advocates, there are bad journalists too.

    I only wish non-journalists had at some point a good exposure to the working of the media personnel especially in such situations.

    One reason for the wrong perception is, I feel, the journalist is there right at the spot, in the thick of events… while the viewer or reader is in the comforts of the home. It’s only natural viewers react the way they do. But it will be good, if they understand that facts are different.

    There is one point few people realise: The very things that make people view a programme are precisely the things that they don’t like. It’s ironic, but true. Take the punch or the most captivating aspect out of the programme or article, you won’t watch it or read it. Then, no criticism, no applause.

    After more than 15 years in journalism – during which media in India underwent a dramatic opening up — I find the chicken-and-egg phenomenon very interesting and sometimes amusing.

    I never understood why people kept watching or reading something they hated so much… or conversely, why they are so critical or abusive of things that they like… A paradox which needs some research, perhaps.

    If things were so disgusting, no one would have watched (TV) or read (newspapers)… and gradually TV stations and newspapers would have closed down. On the contrary, they are thriving… and the most loyal viewers or readers are the severest critics as well. Quite puzzling!

    Kishore, your comments are well taken and appreciated. Remember, the Mumbai blasts activated the media (from mobile phones to TV to newspapers to blogs) in such an extraordinary manner. People used the media to pour out their frustrations, anger or helplessness, or just to suggest a way out. It is such a tribute to the industry I work in.

    At the end of it all, we journalists take comfort from one thing… that even at the risk of being criticised, saturation coverage has ensured that every common person is fully involved and participative in the social, economic and political events and issues that affect all of us. Such discussions are now, no longer restricted to or the privilege of a few academicians.

  9. Kishore, good points you raise. More and more, the line between editorial decisions and business decisions is getting blurred with the business angle of each editorial decision given importance.

    Pradeep, good to get an insider’s viewpoint. But you cannot argue that people at the level of Sardesai are very attuned to what sells on their TV channels. Fine, the reporters on the ground may get carried away, but as to what comes out of anchors’ mouths (not the slip ups, not the mistakes, but the content of their broadcasts) is discussed and decided upon prior to the shows – not every specific thing, but all anchors have a general idea of what to say. And talking about “exclusiveness” of the news, or about how their channel is beaming video worldwide is one of those things that is discussed, I’m sure. If TV channels don’t harp on the exclusivity of their news or about how good and widely seen they are, why will viewers tune in and why will advertisers advertise?

  10. 10 Jax

    As someone who discontinued his journalism studies, I would definitely agree that there are a few valid points in your reply. It is true that people keep watching/reading they hate so much.

    There was a time a few years ago, when I used the net solely to scour out news. I was a news-junkie, then. Not anymore.

    From what I had noticed is that in the past couple of years, we the people, have been flooded with news whether it is the papers or the televison channels. What has put me off the news drug in the past couple of years is that over-coverage of events. I know that running any business is not a charity affair. But the level of news I feel has reached rock bottom and digging further deeper day by day.

    If you take a look at any newspaper/news channel, you find that there is no ‘journalism’ involved. I feel that old-fashioned investigative reporting has been interred. Where are the people stories? Where are the stories that affect normal people? It has been taken over by sensationalism. But in the end, a fair part of the blame would also fall on us. We demand ‘breaking news’ and we get it. The question, is at what price?

  11. 11 usha

    I think some of our journalists like Barkha and Rajdeep are extremely good in their analysis and coverage but I find it disgusting too when they shove their mikes in front of people shaking from a tragedy asking them to describe what happened.It looks bizarre. It is bad taste to gloat that their hjournalist was on the train at sucha sombre moment – does one upmanship blunt all human sensibility?

  12. 12 Sharat

    Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt are two bad apples of journalism…

    In order to make good money and be famous(via kargil war and gujarat riots) they have taken the ethics of journalism to a new low…..

    These people should be tried under law for spreading false rumours and lies…..during gujarat riots…

  1. 1 » Indian Blogs Slam TV Coverage of Mumbai Blasts » Blog Archive Digital Infomation

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