Ranjona Banerji: No Sunday R&R for journalists

18 Jun,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Life has been tough for journalists looking forward to a little Sunday R&R for over a month now. Between the IPL, the BCCI, the BJP, JD(U) and the NDA (an epidemic of acronyms?), every weekend has been big breaking news time. For television especially, life has been tough. Editors have been yanked out of their weekend plans and all the stalwarts who fight through battling panellist on weeknights had to repeat the exercise on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The other casualty has been incessant Bollywood programming.

 

This Sunday’s prize has to go to Rahul Kanwal of Headlines Today for dumping his studio in Delhi and conducting discussions and monitoring news from Patna, as the Janata Dal (United) formalised its split from the National Democratic Alliance. In fact, Kanwal is a sober and sensible moderator (compared to many of his shriller compatriots on other news channels). However, when it is the armed forces that are under discussion, jingoism trumps journalism even for him.

 

Newspaper editors probably had an easier time monitoring events from their drawing rooms as no one knows if they come to work on weekends or not! The Editors’ Guild can though put up a request to political parties, the police and other government, quasi-government and non-government organisations to avoid going through divorces or making revelatory announcements on the weekend!

 

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Which reminds me: where is Markandey Katju, our intrepid chairman of the Press Council of India? We have not heard anything from him in a while.

 

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The reshuffle in the Cabinet by the UPA/Congress possibly got less attention than it would have because of the split in the NDA. But even so, most newspapers seemed more bothered about the age of the ministers than anything else. It’s bad enough that today’s journalists think that everyone over the age of 50 is “elderly’ but to see all news through the prism of age is short-sighted and foolish.

 

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The Twitter world saw its worst side come through this week. Former head of R&AW and security analyst B Raman died this week He was a prolific tweeter who talked about his ongoing battle with cancer, the country’s foreign policy and his disquiet about Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. This led to his death being celebrated by pro-Modi tweeters. That the anonymity provided by social media gives people more licence than they have in real life is not a point for debate any more. But the baser side of human nature is always distressing whenever it is revealed.

 

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The oddly intrusive nature of today’s world and the dilemmas those pose were outlined in a newspaper story about celebrity TV cook Nigella Lawson and her husband, advertising maven Charles Saatchi. The UK newspaper Sunday People published pictures of Lawson and Saatchi involved in a fight at a London restaurant, with Saatchi gripping Lawson’s throat with one and then both hands and Lawson looking obviously distraught. The link: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/nigella-lawson-attacked-husband-see-1955564

 

People who saw it at the restaurant evidently did nothing or little. The couple left, the story was published a week later and the police had to look into it after comments on Twitter cooked up a storm. Finally an explanation of sorts was delivered by Saatchi: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2013/jun/17/nigellalawson-thepeople?CMP=twt_gu

 

The upshot of all this is the “media” in all its entirety is now a constant in our lives. Journalists as we know no longer have to be around to peep and pry. The technology to do so is available to everyone. Social media may not be the voice of God but it is the voice of some of the people and cannot be ignored. And if the people are not peeking where they shouldn’t, governments are doing it. The only recourse for those interested in increased privacy is to get really thick curtains, but one doubts even that will help. Forget Big Brother, everyone’s watching.

 

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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