Monday, April 14, 2014

On the Hot Seat



It was my first interview at Times Wow TV. With several video cameras, microphones and the bright lighting, the newsroom was overawing. I was nervous. The man interviewing me was none other than the editor-in-chief.

“I have met ten other men who want to be News Editors," he asked point blank. "How do I know you are different?”

"Sir, I want to do stories that go beyond the superficial. Stories that analyze, compare, and report facts without any bias. Stories that really matter.”

He gave me an assessing look. “So what kind of stories really matter?”

“Sir, like a story on farmer suicides,” I said righteously. “I also want to end the shrill activism on television channels. I want to focus on who-did-what, and not on, who-said-what.”

Silence.

"Yeah. You could do that. And watch the channel close down." Then he straightened his back and began. “Let’s say, you run a food stall. What will you sell? Healthy dal with low salt, or tasty chaat?

“Umm...but journalism is not like selling chaat.”

His eyes glittered in anger but his lips were smiling. “Really? So you don’t want a pay check? No?”

“No. I mean, yes. Yes, I need the money. I have ambitions and all.” I was trying to be brave in a bid to quell the rising panic in my belly.

“Let’s say, you come back after a stressful day at work. You pick up a magazine. The magazine has an interview with Raghuram Rajan about his monetary policy, and some semi-nude pictures. Which one would you look at first?

Beetroot red. “Sir, what are you saying? I am a responsible journalist.”

“So, Mr. Responsible. Are you on Facebook? Twitter? Why do you think Twitter is so popular?

“Err…Sir, I follow you on Twitter. I also sent you a friend request.”

Ignoring  my comment he continued, “Twitter is popular because people want to talk about individuals. Follow them. Because news is ephemeral. Transient. Pick up the juiciest sound bite, chew it. Throw it. What trends today, fades tomorrow.”

“I see but...”

“You see nothing. There are more than 400 channels today. Most are owned by politicians. So naturally, the stories are biased. Moreover, a story needs to be told. And then, the same story needs to be sold," he said. " I can also make documentaries on tigers and female foeticide. Will you watch them?"
Adjusting his spectacles, he said, "Eye balls. We need eye balls to survive the competition. To generate the revenue. Young man, there is no channel without the viewer. And indeed, there is no viewer without the channel. You know what I mean?" 

I nodded. 

He continued. "Look, sometimes we have to create a feeling that things are wrong. Horribly wrong. Create a demand for dissatisfaction. Let the outrage flow. And outrage flows unhindered in the absence of focus or detail. I don’t enjoy heckling or interrupting guests. It is the viewer who enjoys it.

He then shrugged and got up to leave. “Do all the stories you want young man, but remember - words over action, individual over issue, controversy over content. Sibling rivalry over substantive issues. Politics of hate over politics of ideology. Missing wife over missing policy.” Smiling, he added, “And you get your pay check at the end of the month. Find the wife and you get double.”

Whoosh. My  idealistic notions were flushed  away by reality.

I began packing my bags for a pilgrimage. Only to realize that most of my peers were doing that - finding Jasodaben.


Read an article by Rajdeep Sardesai on this topic  Here
Image Courtesy: Google Images


54 comments:

  1. Wow, Alka. Just wow. My uncle had referred me to the post that you've included (The Rajdeep Sardesai one) last week when we were discussing the how journalism and reporting has changed over the years. Needless to say, I loved your take on this too. But that's the truth right. Without the viewer, there is no channel. Thanks for this wonderful insight Alka :)

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    1. Rajdeep's post was the inspiration. I wanted to present it differently, hence this style.
      Thanks Sid.

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  2. Its hard to point out whether this was sarcasm or reality. News these days is a TRP war. And going by the viewership that 'absolute-jokes' of "news" channels like India TV garner, it is safe to brand a vast majority of Indian audiences as absolutely stupid.

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    1. And they were furious when Arvind tried to expose their leanings towards politicians and corporate houses.
      Thanks for stopping by CRD.

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  3. Fabulous, hard hitting, bang on! It is the reality. Find the wife and you get double -- well said. Indeed the inane is news because that is what sells.

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    1. I am sure many are on a pilgrimage , looking for Jasodaben.
      Thanks Rachna.

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  4. Guess what,thanks to these News Channels that make you break into hives, a lot of us are realizing the true worth of DD News, that gives us news without the tamasha.

    Lovely write-up, Alka.

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    1. True but DD continues to be a government mouth piece. Their sense of balance is tilted towards the other side.

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  5. Loved the piece Alka. It is saying what it should without any guises. Indian media is having a field day sensationalizing everything.

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    1. I think it all boils down to the advertising pie and the high fees paid to the cable operators. Plus most channels are owned by politicians. So naturally, their is favoritism.

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    2. Why my blog's name doesn't appear? :(

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    3. Yes, there is some glitch. Now it is showing. Blogger issue, I guess.

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  6. Love your thoughts and love love this post !
    Keep it coming !

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  7. Alka, don't you think that the news channels have become an extended entertainment channel where so much is being dished out in the garb of 'breaking news'. The editor is right that people want to watch a hot story, a statement from someone who likes creating ripples when there is stillness around or even semi nudes:) Then why camouflage all this as news... call it a Gossip channel! You have hit the nail on the head!

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  8. Brilliant writing as always! Loved the way you summed up the issue in such a simple yet powerful manner! Take the on going elections as an example of how Media functions today, had it not been for them adding fuel to the raging fire, I wonder if we would have held different perspectives about the way things function in the country today?

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    1. Seeta, there was a brilliant article by Santosh Desai in TOI on the same issue. I think it was yesterday, 14April,2014.
      Glad you liked this.

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  9. Brilliant writing as always! Loved the way you summed up the issue in such a simple yet powerful manner! Take the on going elections as an example of how Media functions today, had it not been for them adding fuel to the raging fire, I wonder if we would have held different perspectives about the way things function in the country today?

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  10. way of news channel functioning is directly proportional to the attitude and mindset of its country citizens.you don't find so many commercials on bbc and cnn like we do find on times now,ibn,ndtv. people cut short debates and leave important topics in middle to telecast commercials.its more like filling your stomach with superficial food like french fries.you will find change in news channel approach when we change our attitude towards life or society.i think rajdeep sardesai debates are most sensible in india media compared to arnab goswami and barkha dutt.even sagarika gosh of ibn is very hollow and superficial.arnab goswami is most frustrating , impatient and dumb tv journalist i have ever seen.he is like psychotic who has lost his intellect on mh370. india is a country with individual selfish interests which resulted in more number of gods,more number of newspapers,more number of political parties,more number of news channels etc etc. people always defend their selfish motives in the name of reality which will cause greater damage to society.

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  11. Thank you for stopping by Prasad Babu. Please read this article for a candid insight. I have shared the link in my article too.

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/rajdeepsardesai/time-for-media-to-turn-the-gaze-inwards/article1-1199548.aspx

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    1. hmm there is nothing new in rajdeep article,i din't write in detail coz people don't like lengthy comments or morally right stuff.if we talk in detail,cnn-ibn means CONGRESS NEWS NETWORK-(FOR)INDIRA BAHU NETWORK during 2009 lok sabha elections. ibn was bought for a price to campaign for congress and to speak against bjp. they have shown varun gandhi provacative speech in 2009 again and again when there are many CONGRESS SUPPORTING MUSLIM MP'S SPEECHES THAT were MORE PROVACATIVE THAN VARUN. at one instance ibn campaign for upa-1 was nauseating.how rajdeep sardesai can speak of accountability in media when he himself is involved in malpractices. ndtv was bjp supporter in 2009.after niira radia tapes and anna movement,media became lil bit idealistic and people started speaking about accountability and transparency.

      one can become commercial for livelihood or salary,but involving in malpractices for money is illegal thing.doing things against law can't be defended as reality for livelihood.if we look into cnn and bbc too in detail,they are NATO CHANNELS which speak negative or bad about russians and developing nations in asia.

      i will be happy if someone replies my comment with intellect instead of words of etiquette like thanks stopping by.

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    2. Unfortunately, I can't match your morals, etiquette or intellect.

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  12. Fabulous article, Alka. The more juicy the news is the more it spreads, channels are at war with each other to be the first to break some new story and claim to be the first ones who brought it to your notice. The missing wife has become the hottest news now :) Love your style of writing, witty, clever and crisp.

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  13. Times WOw Tv....TImes today of India....wow simply brilliant! While what I really wish is people today would see this too about politicians described on media that what they say is a lot that's covered up and not everything... some again are done simply to evoke sympathy and while some others to gain grounds...

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    1. Right now they are covering retaliatory sound bites between Priyanka and Varun Gandhi. What Priyanka says is hardly relevant as she is neither contesting nor holding any post. Why give her so much importance. Just because she is a pretty Gandhi? Then we complain about dynasty politics. Damn!

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  14. True story, Alka!
    Kudos for this! Remember the movie 'Peepli Live'? This is the way it is! :)

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  15. It is up to us to work hard to understand which media is for whom and who still retains a bit of independence. Wish there were serious discussions on how to prevent ads from anyone - business or political party - not forcing our news media to make compromises.

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    1. There is big money involved, hefty cable operator fee, and most local channels are owned by politicians. It's a complicated web.

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  16. "there is no channel without the viewer. And indeed, there is no viewer without the channel." - You said it!
    Such few words, yet oozing with blatant truth.

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  17. Absolutely right, no wonder news channels sounds more like cacophony than news. During DD days, we used to have one news bulletin and despite knowing the fact that they are promoting government, we used to trust those 20 minutes of news in 24 hours. Today we have 100s of news channels shouting 24X7, but we can't trust even a single post from them.

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    1. True. And you don't have to be a genius to grasp their political leanings. Just listen to the way they select their debate topics, frame questions , run the breaking news ticker or allocate time to leaders of different hues - it becomes all too obvious.
      Thank you for reading Anuj.

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  18. Well satirized Alka!

    THAT is the insidious argument that leaches all sense of right and wrong from Society, Alka! SO, what next? I mean - Porn sells better than semi-nudes? Narcotics create better product loyalty than Green Tea?

    A counter-argument - what if you had a regulatory authority that BANNED sensationalism and shut down channels for transgressing? When there are no semi-nudes competing, news of sense competes only with news of sense, right? Who is the first to take up the cudgels against this proposal to 'muzzle the Press'? The Press Council is supposed to be self-regulatory - so why is it that they are toothless to even act against paid news?

    Of all the people who are absolutely immune to sarcasm, the Press is the worst - after all, they ARE the ones anointed to criticize; they cannot be criticized themselves. A large share of the blame for the morass the country finds itself in goes to the Press and its shameless abdication of the role it is supposed to play in maintaining a healthy democracy.

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    1. True Suresh. The business model driven by a vicious cycle of TRPs itself is faulty. The advertising revenues and the carriage fees for cable operators is also to blame. From what I read, a single national news channel has to pay upwards of `50 crore to cable operators for telecasting a channel. Then the advertising pie is sliced among dozens of channels. It is easy and inexpensive to pick one stray comment and get people to scream at each other in a studio.
      Frankly I do not know much about the Press Council or how it works, so I wont comment. What I know is that they do seem toothless. And the much talked about self regulation is missing.

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  19. while searching on google come across here, Nice
    B.ED FROM MDU

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  20. Though,they have registered themselves as NEWS CHANNEL...in realty they are all Entertainment Channels.
    If Rakhi Sawant can get the kind of coverage she did,what catagory would the cahnnel be listed as?

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  21. You wrote the views of the 'other side' and it is just wonderful. Sensationalism is the reason they are mushrooming.

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    1. Thank you Jannaki. So good to see you here.

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  22. Didn't the lovely and wise Vidya Balan get it so right when she said - Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment!
    It would seem that next to money, fame, air and water, it's what we crave for the most.

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  23. Supposing one were to make groups for channels like say a list on your TV...
    If Music has 20 channels, GEC has another 20, Sports has 10 channels, Science has 10, Cartoons have 20, Movies has 10, News will have 80 channels in it!!! It is the biggest moneymaking channel of all... and yes each of them is backed by a politician or a businessman from same club.

    Brilliant post this!

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    1. You know how it works Vinaya. Glad you liked it.

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  24. Fantastic write up, Alka Gurha.
    Political news are interesting and entertaining. One is sure of getting entertained anytime of a day.
    Police danda should be made strong and efficient. Unruly and uncouth men should get danda all over their bodies. It will make them stronger healthwise.

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    1. With more and more channels being owned by politicians they have become private DDs with much more masaala.

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  25. Alka! That's what nailing it right and what goes inside TV channels and print media...Whoosh!!!! Guess, ads decide news nowadays..makes me wonder. As a journalist, was planning to pen a novella and u giving me the inspiration to do it at the next blogging festival. Enjoyed reading it and for us, former journos, it's something been there and done that. Are we?!
    www.vishalbheeroo.wordpress.com

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  26. Great post Alka. Sensationalism sells. Just like chat. Who wants simple and plain dal chawal when you can have hot and spicy chat?

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  27. Replies
    1. So good to see you here. Glad you liked it di.

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