Ranjona Banerji: Why TV anchors must not write on edit pages

19 Jul,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


I now understand the pain of being a TV journalist. There is no avenue within the medium to become a pontificator. For print journalists, it’s easy. You work a few years as a reporter-correspondent-sub-editor and then some boss type person decides you have some writing skills that can be further explored or some pages fall short of stories and some boss type person makes you write a quick news analysis or you are a boss type person and decide (or someone tells you) that the world wants to know what you think. And you know how angry print journalists can get if their “columns” are stopped, if you read the excerpts of Kuldip Nayar’s memoirs. The reader then believes that these columnists and analysts are experts.


But what can a TV journalist do? Having spend years running from pillar to post saying “I am standing at the gate waiting for something to happen” interspersed with many in facts and of courses – “I am of course standing at the gate in fact” – does someone say to him or her, here’s half an hour of TV time as a reward for so much standing, now say what you want?


No, instead you become a prime time anchor and you have to ask other people what they think. And some of those people, in fact, of course, have to be print journalists who have now become analysts and columnists. Talk about rubbing salt in it.


The result is that you yourself don’t know what to think. If you have ever read any columns by famous Indian TV anchors (I think Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagorika Ghose of CNN-IBN and Barkha Dutt of NDTV, all have columns in Hindustan Times, which has reduced the effectiveness of its edit page by half) you will know what I mean. Half the time they plug their own channels and shows and the rest of the time they sort of sum up what’s happening. There’s very little original thought there except some anodyne comment. No provocation, no incisive comment, no contrarian viewpoints. This comes from years of TV panel discussions where you have to listen to other people. Print journalists are terribly egoistical and after a few years stop listening to other people and only like other people to listen to them. This gives them a great advantage as pontificators.


(I must here advise newspaper editors to end this new trend of giving columns to journalists with little or no experience because they are even less readable than TV anchors. Youth may be attractive but it has its limitations.)


What is the solution for famous TV anchors? Instead of bothering to write which they can’t, they should get their back on usual suspect panellists. Call them to their studios and make them question the anchor. The anchor will then hold forth while the panellists listen. However, the anchor is not allowed to ask questions…


This way, we might find out if they can actually think. India wants to know.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist, commentator and Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are her own. Twitter: @ranjona


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2 responses to “Ranjona Banerji: Why TV anchors must not write on edit pages”

  1. Sashi Nair says:

    Absolutely… when will this charade ever end?

  2. Ananda Puranik says:

    The last sentence takes a swipe at another Anchor and I like that