The murder of journalism

July 2nd, 2010

The little boy is crying bitterly after losing his father who was murdered brutally by a mob. The TV reporter obviously didn’t want to miss the“breaking news”.

The anchor sitting in Kolkata tries her best to show off her fake excitement – “It’s an exclusive, our representative in Nanur (in West Bengal’s Birbhum district) is now talking to the murdered politician’s son”. The camera zooms in on the hapless 10-year old boy and the grilling starts as follows:

Reporter: Where were you when your father was killed?

Boy: I was playing

Reporter: So you didn’t see your father being killed?

Boy starts crying

Reporter (looking at the camera): This is live and exclusive. We are talking to the boy. You can see how sad he is.

The TV channel starts beaming “Breaking News” in the background.

The reporter resumes his grilling: What will you do now? Your father is no more.

Boy looks helpless and says “ami jaani na (I don’t know)”. The anchor, who obviously have inflated eatimation of her looks and voice ,  takes over again: “We were the first to talk to the murdered politician’s son”.

This atrocity was being committed on last Tuesday evening on a premier Bengali news channel, just a few hours after a former MLA of the Communist Party of India was killed by a mob in front of his party office.

The anchor was giving a graphic description of the event, but suddenly stopped to say she is taking the viewers back to Nanur for yet another exclusive. The little boy had disappeared by then, but the reporter was ready with yet another “prized catch”. “We will now talk to the dead politician’s wife – again for the first time on national television”.

This time, the camera zooms in on the wife who looks dazed and is crying inconsolably. But the questions can’t wait: “How are you feeling, didi?” The “didi” just mumbles something, which is interpreted by the reporter as “she is blaming the Trinamool Congress for her husband’s murder”.

By the time, someone in the crowd removes the mike and waves the camera away, the reporter has asked four-five questions, only to get the same response.

‘Over to the studio”, says the triumphant reporter. The anchor thanks him profusely for bringing these “live and exclusive” pictures and says “we are going to show you the conversation with the dead man’s wife and son again”.

I couldn’t take this journalism circus any longer and switched off the TV. As a member of the profession, I find it indeed ironic that journalists who place so much emphasis on the ethical lapses of those they cover, are themselves so prone to sadism, insensitivity and feelings of grandiosity. How many of us end up exploiting those we cover and treat others’ sufferings as the raw material for our professional growth?

Going by what I saw on that Tuesday evening, the answer is quite obvious. To be sure, it’s not only the regional channels that suffer from this do-what-you-can-to-get-instant- TRPs. The so-called more sophisticated national channels also do the same.

Who can forget the classic question that a TV journalist asked the victim of a serial bomb blast in Delhi in which more than 60 people were killed: “Tomorrow is Diwali and you have lost all your family members in the blast. How do you feel?”

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