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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Media insensitivity

We, journalists, some times, betray our darker side - insensitivity in our approach to news-gathering.
"What's the lead for the day, sir", Ms Gayithri asked;
"Still there is time to think of a lead," I said, "one more hour".
Soon after Gayithri left my chamber, Guruprasad came in to say, "Sir, ETV Showed Kumaraswamy campaign in Ramanagara".
"What else you expect from him, other than going round the constituency; how does it make news" I asked.
He left, only to return, after watching some more ETV - "Sir, 40 people have been admitted in hospital, following vomitting".
"We have a lead", I said. Gayithri nodded her head; promptly sent for Aruna and instructed him to get details from the hospital; and tell Yadav (our photographer) to get a picture - "Tell him we need it for the lead, the pictures must be in by noon".
Ganapathi took notes from Aruna and wrote the lead. And as we were about send the page for 'pasting' One PM news mentioned 80 as the number of those admitted in the hospital. We changed the headline, Higher figure raises news value of a story.

After the 'pastings' were sent for printing, I reflected the run of events ; on my attitude to human life, sufferings of others, accidents and deaths. Journalists are given to adopting such clinical attitude to human tragedy , in their eagerness to get a good lead. I wonder if we react the same way, if the victims included our kith and kin.
I hasten to add that I do not mean that we should not discharge our duty as newspersons. What I mean is, in our approach to news gathering, we ought to think beyond the number of casualities, to convey in our reporting a sense of fellow-feeling. So that readers do not get a wrong image of the media fraternity.

The burden of this post is that media has responsibility to conduct itself in a humane way while reporting human tragedy. Accidents happen and they cannot go unreported, but an enlightened media can refrain from hying it for a lead story, unmindful of its impact on the victims, their kin and others affected by the tragedy.

I remember having read about a western journalist who, seeing a vulture attacking an emaciated child, preferred to take pictures of the sight rather than shoe away the attacker. Had he intervened as normal humans do in such circumstances, the journalist would have missed a Page One picture.
We have a lesson to learn from this.The poet in Mr M Veerappa Moily, former Karnataka chief Minister, was so disturbed on reading the report on the vulture and the child that he poured out his anguish in a poem.


  • I have also read about this tough battle between the journalist and the human being in him.

    A few years ago there were some Buddhist monks who set themselves aflame,( I am not certain of the place or time) and some media men picturised the whole thing, rather than try to save them. Does the journalist's hunger for news justify his inactivity with regard to saving a human life? Where does journalism end and humanity begin?

    By Blogger RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN, at 10:36 AM  

  • dear ms raji muthukrishnan
    I keep on reading your comments and they are so encouraging.Thanks for your response.we belong to the old generation of journalists and the value system was different then>ofcourse there is erosion of values in all sphers and it is no wonder if it has seeped into the journalistic fraternity.Regards krishna vattam

    By Blogger Krishna Vattam, at 8:30 AM  

  • your openness is giving true picture
    reflects your are different from others. your views are based on your thinking process after releasing the leads which is very opt and human values in you raise above so it shows you are different. but today media hype is too much competition to project has lead to so much of news coming particularly in tv that you get frustrated seeing pictures of ghstly scenes particularly in terrorist attacks and all this should be avoided too much as so many from small kids very aged people sees and it will have bad effect on the society as a whole. certainly hype should be avoided.
    yes it is true because your belong to old generation you think of values regards

    By Blogger Kadalabal, at 4:54 PM  

  • The western journalist you mention is Kevin Carter who won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for that photograph. For the record, he did chase the vulture away. And, three months later he committed suicide due to depression.

    And what about the fact that his one picture has publicized the famine more than any written or spoken plea for help.

    By Blogger Viky, at 1:42 PM  

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