Ranjona Banerji: Outrage Unlimited on news telly

By | on 07 Aug,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Expectedly, Indian new channels were very moved by the attack on a gurudwara and the deaths of at least six Sikhs in the American state of Wisconsin on Sunday. However, their pain is not tempered by any sense of journalism so they tend to jump straight into a series of discussions based on unworkable premises. Regardless of how patriotic TV news people in India are and how they care about the plight of Indians abroad, the Indian government cannot send the army to protect Sikhs in America or indeed people of Indian origin anywhere else in the world. Nor can Indian investigating agencies jump in. Also, to have a bunch of understandably upset but substantially uninformed people competing for air time is unproductive. Not surprisingly, senior journalist Chidanand Rajghatta looked visibly disgusted on Times Now.

 

It is also not possible for Indian TV outrage to change the USA’s gun laws. Such a discussion, earnest and less hyper though it may have been on NDTV, is also an exercise in self-indulgence.

 

Arnab Goswami of Times Now was very upset that Sikhs are targeted in the US. I cannot remember any similar pain or any dramatic debates when it appeared as if people from Andhra Pradesh were being targeted. South India too far away from the purview of TV news?

 

But what is new in what I’ve just said? It happens every time and each time, it looks more and more like a farce to whip up public sentiment and push up rating points with some badly directed drama.

 

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Indian newspapers chose not to lead with this story although most put it on the front page. They also presented readers with the facts, sans comment. What comment can there be so soon after such a terrible crime, as the investigation is unfolding and facts are still being revealed?

 

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It’s still Olympics time. The marvellous exploits of Usain Bolt captured imaginations worldwide and even in self-obsessed India. Indian wonderwoman boxer Mary Kom’s medal prospects also excited a nation so short on Olympic medals.

 

But let’s consider the curious case of shooter Vijay Kumar who won a silver medal in London 2012. In the run-up to the elections, shooters were definitely in focus and newspaper after newspaper told us that Abhinav Bindra – gold medallist in Beijing – Gagan Narang and Ronjan Sodhi were our best medal prospects. We also saw some of them in TV promos telling us that they were “Olumpians” and Indians. But Vijay Kumar got nary a mention.

 

Early on, Narang got a bronze so perhaps the hype was justified in his case. Bindra did have a gold, so who would guess that he wouldn’t even make the grade in London. Sodhi got nowhere very fast.

 

So, as it turns out, India’s best medal in shooting came from Kumar, a subedar in the Indian army. Kumar’s credentials are excellent – he has three golds from the Commonwealth Games and medals from the Asian Games and other international tournaments. Why didn’t he get any media attention before the Olympics?

 

Conversations with sports journalists have revealed a sad story of laziness and reliance on PR. The other shooters were more media savvy and journalists were just not bothered to find out about people like Kumar. This would be mildly acceptable if Kumar came out of nowhere to win. But that is not the case.

 

Kumar himself was a little shocked that the media was presenting him as an outsider. He told CNN-IBN that they may not have seem him as a medal contender but he always knew he was! Indian sports journalists are often the best of our breed but lately…

 

As it stands, Kumar’s the only silver medal winner for India so far at these Games…

 

Ranjona Banerji, senior journalist and commentator, is Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are her own.

 

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