The Intrepid Reporter and Other Short Stories

 By Anushka Kaushik (Associate Editor)

 

 

 

 

 

The writer wishes to state that this is a view on the state of information dissemination in this country and in no way is meant to be insensitive. The writer’s condolences are with the families who have been affected by the Uttarakhand catastrophe. 

Amidst all the destruction, the chaos, the valiant rescue efforts, the prayers, there is a reporter. This reporter is at a remote village in Uttarakhand, ostensibly present to get a ground report on the ruin that the rain gods have unleashed. In his hand, there is a weapon, a beautiful and gleaming microphone, complete with an IBN7 logo. In order to enhance his report, he believes it is important to interview a family, belonging to the village that is yet another victim of this disaster. You see, the elders of the family haven’t been located yet and thus the reporter decides to question the members of how they feel about the same, just as one would ask someone their opinions on the weather perhaps. He chooses his victim, the 5 year granddaughter. “Do you miss your grandparents?”, he asks. Not satisfied with the desolate nod the young girl gives in response, he coaxes her into giving answers by enquiring about whether her grandparents used to give her sweets and what they called her lovingly. After finally running out of inane questions to ask, the reporter reverts back rather solemnly to “So, do you miss your grandparents?”

A couple, from Alwar, have lost their two year old child due to grave negligence on their part, while the siblings are hospitalised and in critical condition. Going on a shopping trip, they left these three children in the car and locked it, after promising to return after an hour. Due to lack of oxygen and ventilation, the youngest, faints and passes away. By the time the parents return, the other two are in pretty bad shape. Finding possibly most of the news values that determine whether a story makes it to the paper in this incident, a national newspaper publishes this story. They christen this couple as “cruel parents” who didn’t want to be “disturbed” while they went shopping. They end the news report by casually adding that whether they will be convicted for gross negligence is not known.

What’s common in both these stories is the appallingly inherent need for every format of mass communication in this country to completely reduce a story to universal emotions and unthinkingly sensationalize whatever comes their way. Please note this is not a generalization. As a student of Journalism, I almost feel a sense of loyalty to my future employers and try to understand their actions, instead of jumping on the seemingly overflowing ‘down with the Indian media’ bandwagon. Thus, I say the above statements with despair and not misplaced cynicism. If a channel has to run a story, people need to cry or laugh or feel shocked or express some form of universal and uniform emotion. That, ladies and gentlemen, could be called the basic tenet of Arnab-ism and while you have news channels running montages of their dignified reporters that promise news over chaos, they’re pretty much following the same rules and making the same noise.

However, it’s equally important to point out the basic fact that we are consumers and they are producers. They create what we want to see and read. It’s simple to blame ‘The Media’ for shabby reporting while we hide our tears watching a reconstruction of the MI17 chopper crash with Vande Mataram playing in the background. We have reached a stage where our need to ‘connect’ with people and feel something deep in our hearts every time we switch to a news channel has become indispensable. We need to look in the mirror. We need to realize the importance of objectivity once again. We’re all part of the same process, after all. Journalists and news channels and newspapers are not ambiguous identities; they are a part of us. We need to change, collectively.

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