Ranjona Banerji: Inexplicable Times

28 Jun,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

It is hard to make sense of The Times of India’s stories and comments about Narendra Modi, especially from far away. Or indeed the way the Indian media appears to have focused half their attention away from a terrible humanitarian and ecological disaster on to the chief minister of Gujarat.

 

Even assuming Modi swooped into Uttarakhand with his extraordinary Gujarat Special Ops team and managed to identify 15,000 Gujaratis and whisk them off to safety, the story had to be on the people of Uttarakhand and the visitors to that state. These are the accusation against the media, from what I can gather.

 

For one, there’s the Modi PR exercise which now has the piquant problem of the newspaper which publicised Modi slamming the media for publicising Modi. The Times of India can sometimes be most inexplicable. It’s one thing to be all things to all people. But it is quite another to lose all sense of coordination and contradict yourself in public.

 

This is the time when the newspaper should come out with an explanation as to its conflicting policies about Modi or about news items versus columns or indeed about half-baked apparently PR-driven stories. On the off-chance that all these conjectures are untrue, this would also be a good time for this or any other news organisation to clear its name. But alas, such ivory towers sometimes are less impregnable than Saruman’s Isengard.

 

The other horror from Uttarakhand that I have noticed is a TV reporter who did his report sitting on the shoulders of a flood victim who was standing in chest-deep water. I really do not know what to make of this. I read an explanation given to Newslaundry where the reporter said he was wrong but still managed to blame the cameraman for revealing that he was on the man’s shoulders! Words fail me, to be honest.

 

The only thing I can give thanks for is that I am spared the nightly hysteria on Indian television as people who know nothing fight with each other in ferocious effort to obfuscate the real issue. I defy anyone on TV to read that last sentence out loud!

 

**

 

I am assured by a friend, tennis expert and former colleague who is covering Wimbledon for her newspaper that it is the Grand Slam tour that is particularly weighted heavily by male reporters/tennis experts, journalism stars. The rest of the tour apparently has a good proportion of women reporters, almost equal she says and quite clearly dominant especially in the noise department. Good to hear. Right now, all the white hair on display rivals mine. Which is quite an experience, given that the average age of a newsroom in India is now about nine and a half.

 

One gentleman in about my age category (but he has it seems removed all evidence of grey hair on head by removing all hair) has sat next to me at Centre Court three days running. But he is barely interested in the tennis. Instead, he scans the crowd carefully for celebrities, has whispered confabulations with his colleague and then scoots off. It is thanks to his audible whispers that I learnt that British Olympic marathon star Mo Farah was in the Royal Box!

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator based in Mumbai. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. She can be reached via Twitter at @ranjona. The views here are her own

 

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