Ranjona Banerji: TV lacks training to cover live events

22 Jun,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji


The fire which engulfed and destroyed large portions of Maharashtra’s most important government building on Thursday afternoon dominated news broadcasts and the newspapers on Friday – hardly surprisingly. TV channels switched from whatever they were covering – mainly the unseemly drama over India’s tennis stars and the Olympics to concentrate on the fire in Mumbai.


It’s self-evident that TV is the best medium to cover live events. However, this is where lack of training – both anchors and reporters – gets exposed. Having shown viewers the fire over and over again – which really points to the camerapersons being able to locate the targets – TV reporters then appear to be at a loss. Instead of hundred several of them “standing by” at various locations around an incident, news channels might be better served if they trained some reporters to collect information while others dealt with on-camera duties. This way, viewers would get some news instead of having to hear: “The fire is still raging and as you can see people are waiting anxiously and if my cameraperson could show you…” over and over again.


This is an aside: Instead of concentrating on emulating some fancy foreign accent, reporters who appear on English channels might spend more time on their grammar. A young girl on Times Now kept talking about the “backside of the building.” Backside however refers to the derriere, posterior, bottom, buttocks, bum – that is, the rear end of humans. She could have just said “back of the building”. This would not have been so jarring – or amusing – if she had not acquired an ambivalent pseudo-foreign accent.


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Incidentally, local channels usually win at times like this and Times Now, being the only major English news channel located in Mumbai had the clear upper hand.


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And the same can be said of The Times of India. For the past four years now, Mumbai’s largest English newspaper has been flexing its muscle when it comes to local coverage. With the Mantralaya fire, they covered just about every angle. Since they have employed a large proportion of the city’s reporters, they also benefited from the expertise their staff has picked up in other papers!


In order, Mid-Day comes next and the tabloid newspaper has done a comprehensive and detailed job, then the Indian Express and finally, Hindustan Times. It is at moments like this that Hindustan Times seems to pay the price for concentrating more on packaging than substance. The Times of India has dispensed with packaging to provide material and this seems to be a winning strategy. Undoubtedly, a commendable achievement for a “product” from a group which is also responsible for some of the worst practices in the media today?


“Sabotage” asked the Economic Times in a boxed item on their front page, thus emphasising the suspicions that almost everyone has about this fire.


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Eminent heart specialist Ramakant Panda’s defence of the medical fraternity (obviously still feeling hurt by Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate) on Times of India’s edit page was not just weak, it was quite funny. Imagine using the incredible service provided by Prakash and Mandakini Amte to the tribals as an example of how great doctors are. If other doctors bothered to even do half of what the Amtes have managed for years, our healthcare to the poor would not be so despicable. Most doctors in Maharashtra however refuse to do their rural stint since it severely cuts into the ka-ching of big city cash registers. Please.


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This is just a personal note. My rage against biased coverage of the tennis fiasco led one young (am assuming young from the way it was written and the handle Poopsonurface) person to call me a “Calcutta partisan presswalla”. Amused as I am, I must humbly declare that I have never worked in Calcutta or Kolkata in my career which spans almost 30 years. Other than Mumbai, the only other place I have worked in is Ahmedabad. As to his or her’s other suggestion that I “get a life”, I have taken that under advisement!


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