Media Matters…

This post was set off by a video that I saw on Facebook. Apparently, it ’slams the media’ for ’creating a furore’ about a contest that was held in one of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology where boys got to smear girls’ lips with lipstick in any which way they deemed suitable!

First of all, This post is not about that incident. I’ll let your esteemed selves decide whether the act was within acceptable limits, or whether it breached a certain barrier of decency. What got my goose was the use the word ’MEDIA’ in the article!

It was the equivalent of blaming every stockbroker for what Harshad Mehta had perpetrated on us, or condemning every Muslim in the country, including Shahrukh Khan, AR Rahman and our former President APJ Abdul Kalam, just because a certain section of the separatists, who turned out to be Muslims, caused blasts in the country!

As I pointed out to a friend, ’media’ includes not only news channels but films, television programmes, radio channels, advertisements, newspapers, magazines, books and even comics! Therefore, it would be totally wrong to go blaming the ’media’ for every wrongdoing perpetrated by just a handful of organisations, or sometimes, just a single organisation!

Honestly, you people have no idea of the lengths to which a newspaper reporter goes for a certain bit of news, and the disdain with which you treat the report once the newspaper lands at your doorstep! Let me put forward a few examples.

On one occasion, when I was helping out and learning under the crime reporter of the Nagpur edition of probably the most reputed newspaper brand in India, I was asked to go and bring back the report of a 13-year-old girl committing suicide.

Now here are some guidelines one has to follow as a crime reporter. One can never directly name someone as a criminal. For example, if person A is arrested by the police in connection with a murder, no reporter can say that person A is the murderer, even if there are 10 different people ready to testify against him. Why? Because it has not been proved in a court of law that A has committed the crime! Till then, he is only a suspect, or has been ’accused’ of committing the crime. He has ’allegedly’ or ’reportedly’ done it.

And there is good reason behind this! If, for example, you yourself are person A, and police arrest you in connection with the murder, but you know you have not done it! Suppose every newspaper says you are a criminal. Suppose every news channel flashes your photo with the word ’criminal’ under it. And then, one fine day, you are released because someone else actually admits to the crime, is tried in court and found guilty of it! Unfortunately, you will find that people will tend to remember you as a criminal. The fact that you were actually released and acquitted of all charges, or you weren’t even presented in court, would never seem to occur to these people!

Second, when it comes to some kind of a victim, you simply cannot name the person if her or she is underage. Would you want the name of your underage niece, or relative, or neighbour, to be taken repeatedly in a news report where it says she has been raped or assaulted? It would actually make her suffering worse, and through no fault of her own!

But let’s get back to that reporting ’assignment’. I went to the girl’s house to find that her entire family was there. Apparently, she had committed suicide by jumping from the third floor balcony to the ground after a slightly severe admonition that had followed an underperformed test.

I had been to several other crime scenes before, and have been to many more ever since, but the reason why this particular incident is achingly etched in my memory os due to the girl’s kid brother. He was barely six to eight years old. And while the rest of the family simply sat around, he would, from time to time, get up and go around the house.

I noticed this, and the kid’s uncle noticed that I noticed. He told me the reason behind it. "We have told him that his sister is hiding. If he cannot find her, she will go away to their maternal uncle’s house. We didn’t have the heart to tell him, let alone explain to him, that his didi is no more," he said.

And despite this, I somehow managed to come back to office and file a report about this. It needed to be done. Parents needed to know that their children were on a lesser tolerance threshold. They needed to be treated with more sensitivity.

This is the situation under which we, the ’mediapersons’, have to work. And these are just some of the facts. Of course, you will now be compelled to put forward the age-old ’wisdom that "This is your job!" Sure, this is our job, but that does not make it any easier. Think it through next time before you condemn or berate us. Put yourselves in our shoes, evaluate all the points before you cast a single stone at us next time! I’m pretty sure that your brain will get the better of your ’rebellious impulse’!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. abhishek
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 19:31:31

    This obliviously points to the video i shared,
    abt tht IIT incident,
    all the things u said are right in some way i guess,
    its only natural to use the word “media” in connection such events.
    I mean,
    do u seriously expect people to name every single channel/newspaper/radio show etc. for any misreported or exaggerated news or tabloid.
    its only common to use the general term media.
    Take example:
    u say
    “the corrupt govt made the CWG extremely expensive”
    is every dept in the govt responsible for this?
    is sum remote dept like forest or fisheries or aviation too responsible for this?
    but u still say the general term “govt”.

    Rest assured ,
    i’ve immense respect for you,
    maybe my choice of word as wrong,
    but every other person too wud hv done the same………..


  2. Partha Mukhopadhyay
    Nov 08, 2010 @ 12:23:57

    Interesting reading. The reported ‘incident’ or the ‘word’ which sparked off the emotional outburst by the owner of this blog, is in a way justified. It would have been the natural repercussion of any individual in this world. Aren’t we in the habit of telling our friends not to ‘generalize’ things during heated, but friendly, debates? It is the natural psychology of self defense, so to say our “Basic Instinct”. Every profession on the face of this earth had good and evil. On the other hand, I could not agree more with the first commentator that it is the way we speak generally. So, Sir please don’t take the latter’s comment to your heart, he meant no harm.
    And I, personally, salute the media people (from both print and electronic) because over the years I have learnt that it is they who never sleep.


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