Ranjona Banerji: Time to reinvent TV news

23 Oct,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Having spent four days away from frenetic TV news watching, I can safely declare that it’s nothing but an addiction. Contrary to current opinion, you do not need to know a minute-by-minute commentary on the latest thoughts and ideas of Arvind Kejriwal to get through your daily life. Nor indeed do you have to know how Arnab Goswami is saving the nation night after night in order to wake up the next morning.

 

Many years ago (before TV and the internet were invented) I tried an experiment with myself. Living in Bombay, I subscribed to the Calcutta edition of The Statesman. I didn’t read any other newspaper. All went well for about six months. No one around me seemed to have twigged on to the fact that I was at least a day late with the news, give or take the vagaries of the Indian postal system. But a fall was inevitable. Pakistan president Zia-ul-Haq died in a plane crash and I had absolutely no idea. The embarrassment of being a journalist who was caught unawares quickly ended this attempt to buck the system.

 

However, both then and now I learnt a very simple lesson: A viewer or reader’s love affair with the news is fickle and unstable. Taking it for granted is easy and disastrous. In today’s India, the fervour, zeal, naivete and hysteria of the TV media is sooner or later going to come crashing down and one suspects it will be sooner. A reinvention is required because for the younger person, primetime news watching is already a geriatric activity.

 

The competition comes from the internet of course and except for a few old fogeys, it is apparent to everyone else that the transition from print journalist to internet journalist is relatively easy.

 

Meanwhile, it is safe to say that I still don’t know what Kejriwal has been up to for ever second of every day except for what I’ve read on Twitter or in the newspapers.

 

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The outpouring of love and affection for director Yash Chopra has been quite remarkable and indeed heart-warming. His vision of love and romance has thrilled and moved Indians over several generations and this was evident in the various articles, tweets, comments and TV coverage.

 

One might hazard a guess that Chopra’s death affected people far more than Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor’s endless marriage ceremonies and celebrations.

 

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CNN continued with its well-formulated and rounded coverage of the last presidential debate on Tuesday morning. My biggest relief is that Piers Morgan has not been part of it, as he had inveigled his way into the coverage of the Republican nomination race. His insights are trite and ill-informed. CNN would be smart to restrict them to his daily programme.

 

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