Ranjona Banerji: Tablets & tabloids – shape of news to come

26 Jun,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Having spent too long in a newsroom bossing about, I’d almost forgotten the cliquish little world that reporters live in, especially same-beat reporters. But one day of covering the Wimbledon tournament for Mid-Day and I feel that I am ready to write a thesis on the tribal customs of travelling tennis journalists.

 

I had the same feeling years ago when I covered – just one, mind you – a film shooting for fun once. (Thanks actually to the founder editor of this website). All the habitual film journos hung around together and demanded entertainment from the PR guys who had organised the trip. They paid no attention to the shooting or the stars. Because it was a novel experience for me, I hung around the set – interminably boring – and interviewed one of the two main stars. The other never emerged from her room.

 

In the same way, the Wimbledon press centre remained full of people watching TV and filing while I the wide-eyed rookie ran around the place. Great fun. However, more seriously, it seems that in spite of the fact that there were some women about, the media is the preserve of what NGOs call “male, pale and stale”. That is, sports journalists tend to be old white men! I tried to take aphotograph of the press enclosure on Centre Court to prove my point but apparently journalists in the press enclosure are not allowed to take photographs. Go figure.

 

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There seems to be a lot of anger against the television media in India for its coverage of the Uttarakhand floods. It is impossible to know what went wrong from so far away but I can conjecture that as usual Indian TV went into “blame mode” rather than reporting mode and this meant that the issue became a school-playground level debate between opposing yellers and screamers. How this is of any help to anyone is a pointless question however since TV editors evidently cannot think beyond “discussion journalism”.

 

But one story was intriguing and that was The Times of India report that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi travelled to Uttarakhand and rescued 15,000 Gujaratis. It was not made clear in the story how exactly the Gujarat state administration left behind the other people or how in extreme weather conditions they identified who was who. A petition on change.org (http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/chairperson-press-council-of-india-inquire-into-serious-violation-of-media-ethics-by-times-of-india?utm_campaign=share_button_action_box) has asked some questions about violation of ethics. The implication in the petition is that the story was a PR exercise for the Gujarat chief minister to show how efficient he is. But the underlying feeling is a bit of holocaust-type politics where you save only one kind of person (depending on ethnicity) and abandon the rest. Which is pretty bad PR if you think about it…

 

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Meanwhile, here in the UK, once again you notice how news dissemination is no longer what it was. Newspaper subscription on tablet devices is winning the battle against paper. And on the tube, tabloid newspapers are common, free or otherwise. Some lessons which India will have to pick up on sooner or later. Sooner for the media industry’s own good but who knows.

 

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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