Ranjona Banerji: End to innocence

10 Sep,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


Watching TV news every day was never on my list of must-dos. I laughed at my friends and relatives who were addicted to news on an endless loop and TV debates full of bluff and bluster. Working in a newspaper, who needed so much TV news anyway? You could easily find out what was happened from other sources.


Enter MxM and an end to my life of carefree innocence. Now, I’m top of the pops when it comes to TV news. I watch it all day. I watch it all night. I can tell from a lift of an eyebrow or the curl of a lip if an anchor is going to mess it up or burst into bombast. A glance at a guest on a TV debate and it’s clear whether they’re going to shine or sink tonight.


I now have extensive knowledge of the boundaries of human ingenuity, especially when it comes to grammar and spelling. I thought newspapers were running downhill fast when it came to standards, till I started watching TV news.


If the star anchors are bad enough when it comes to their egos and their often shifting quality, it is the guests who give you a delightful idea of how petty, daft, small-minded and badly behaved Indian society can be. There is also a refreshing sense of honesty at work. Almost never do you see a TV guest who feels he or she has to put on an act because they are on a show. They are incapable of masking their true feelings and so eagerly expose their shortcomings – whether in the art of making a logical argument or the bigger challenge of civilised behaviour.


But I also discovered what a terrible job it is, working in television. Waiting for hours outside a gate or a door, hoping the studio will come to you for a one minute at least. Or the opposite can happen – an anchor come to you over and over when you really have nothing new to say from what you said five minutes ago. The anchor then asks you impossible questions: “Have your sources told you exactly how many toes have been injured in the train accident?”


I have also learnt that newspapers are also on a slippery slope – especially when it comes to paid news and ethics but they still have a superior understanding of newsgathering than TV. Hard to see why news channels don’t hire more print journalists for general “gyan” and that other word so popular these days, “mentoring”.


The past year with MxM has also forced me to look at the media far more critically than I ever did before because, if nothing else, distance lends perspective.


But I’ve also had the chance to reconnect with the advertising industry, where I worked for a short while at the beginning of my career. I’ve also learnt how much the media has grown. I’ve read Anil Thakraney, Peter Mukerjea and all the other guest writers who share their insights. I’m enjoying Vidya Heble’s new column on language. And of course, Pradyuman Maheshwari’s insights into the media.


And I’ve poked a little fun at ads. Which in many ways has brought me so much more joy than making chutney out of journalism – schadenfreude anyone?


That’s one year of MxM. Can’t wait to see what the next one brings!


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and editor. A commentator with Mid-Day and various other publications, she is Contributing Editor, MxMIndia.


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