Ranjona Banerji: Pakistan anchors – easy and more professional!

14 May,2013

By Ranjona Banerji


There was some grumbling on social media that the mainstream media (there, I’ve done it, succumbed to the silliest terminology that’s become recently popular) in India spent too much time on the Pakistan elections. But let’s face, whatever happens to our western neighbour is of vital importance to us — good or bad.


As it happened, I even thought there wasn’t enough about the Pakistan elections as TV channels veered between the fate of the two Congress ministers, the predilection of one for goats, separating the CBI from politicians, the Supreme Court, the BJP’s constant demands for resignations and the election or selection of a chief minister for Karnataka. It has to be said – as an aside – that politics in India has become the biggest public spectacle today, beating the formidable challenges posed by both cricket and Bollywood. Even the IPL cannot match the melodrama played out in the news all day, every day.


Times Now picked up the feed from Dawn television so you got to see how Pakistani anchors dealt with the first ever democratic transition in that nation’s history. Have to admit that they seemed to be professional, easy in their skin and demonstrated a sense of humour as elections results came in. The few that I saw did not look as if they were on the verge of discovering a new planet which will change the face of human history forever.


But as is the trend in India at least, it was evident that no one predicted that Nawaz Sharif would do as well as he did – and if it comes to that, that Imran Khan would trump Zardari and become the main opposition party. Pollsters need to re-assess their methodology.


I became quite fond of Nawaz Sharif after I read the parody account of the life and times of the former prime minister in exile in Friday Times, so more of the same would be most enjoyable.




I digress from news analysis with a question that’s been bothering me for some time. What does one make of the trend that some major newspapers – New York Times, Times of India – has started of asking people to write blogs/ columns on their websites for free? I understand the Huffington Post model but this is a little different. These newspapers will pay for what appears in print but not for what appears on the net.


Many journalists and columnists write unpaid I presume because it gives them a wider audience and they hope that their name in prestigious company will earn them some reputation and perhaps some bucks later. But for me they are like scabs hired by managements to break strikes. They are hitting at the very root of a professional writer’s livelihood by writing for free. Remember these are giant corporations, not tiny little start ups. They can well afford to pay. Instead, they are manipulating journalists by leveraging their vast reach. I for one find it unacceptable.




Have to give a big shout out to Rahul Sood of NDTV. He read in these columns that I do not get NDTV, tracked down my number and called to find out why. When I told him it was a problem with my cablewallah, he sent a technician to my house to sort it out. And they stuck on the job till the problem was solved. When I reminded Rahul that this meant I would now be as nasty to NDTV as I am to other news channels he took it in good humour. So thanks Rahul and remember, you have been warned!


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are her own. You can follow her via Twitter at @ranjona


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