Channels need to develop editing skills

12 Dec,2011

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The fire at the AMRI hospital in Kolkata was one of those tragedies which challenge our skills as journalists. And how did we come out of it? Perhaps some of the visuals on television of mourning relatives were too much to handle as was the fear of having to look at victims of the fire but on the whole, not a bad job.

 

TV channels went from covering the news to opinions but perhaps reporters still have to learn that editorialising should be left to those in the studio. Many commended Monideepa Banerjee of NDTV for her clear, concise reporting – experience probably helps (all right, it definitely does).

 

Also, TV channels might do well to develop some editing skills. A clearly awe-struck reporter on Times Now was full of admiration for west Bengal chief minister’s efforts to help the situation from the ground when common sense would have told him that she would only have been hindering efforts. It took Saturday’s newspapers to point that out.

 

The stories of how the fire spread and the deaths of helpless patients are horrifying in themselves. TV was quick to pick up on culpability and newspapers have gone further by looking at the lacunae in fire safety protocols across the country. (Needless to say they are more honoured in the breach.)

 

The Kolkata (or in the case of The Telegraph, Calcutta) newspapers obviously have more details about the incident and were somewhat more scathing. It would be interesting to know just why the patients were locked in by the guards. Also, how much further we will follow this story – how soon, for instance, will all the board members currently arrested be out on bail and get away scot-free?

 

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The Lokpal draft was released by the Parliamentary committee on Friday but the Kolkata fire seemed to have topped all other news stories – perhaps appropriately. Team Anna as usual started spitting fire and venom and Prashant Bhushan, called for some kind of a revolution against our democratic system – or so it seemed to me.

 

No one else appears to have picked it up.

 

Personally, I would be interested to know if the India Against Corruption movement also targets non-government corruption. The AMRI fire was evidently a case of private sector fraud. Any takers?

 

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The Calcutta Club debate aired on Times Now was interesting – the subject was whether the means justify the ends, with reference to the Jan Lokpal movement and Team Anna. Of the six speakers – Salman Kurshid, Sitaram Yechury, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Sudhir K Singh, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi – only Kejriwal and Bedi had severe problems understanding the protocol of a formal debate. They seemed to believe this was a normal TV haranguing match. Moderator Arnab Goswami had to work hard to ensure discipline and was tougher than he is on his TV extravaganzas. The politicians were civilised and Sudhir K Singh made the most sense.

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