Ranjona Banerji: Which news channel do I watch? Help!

30 Aug,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The media is now a topic of conversation as much as it is a vehicle for topics of conversation. In spite of the irritation of explaining how journalism means to “outsiders”, on due consideration this has to be a good thing. Given the intrusive nature of television and the discursive nature of social media, the days of newspapers being a medium twice removed from you are long over. The rather classist ads by I think Airtel about a liftman asking to become a Facebook friend or a girl being rather rude to a woman at a bus stop who offers use of her phone’s email facilities point to the way technology is breaking barriers.

 

How much this will make journalists take objections into account is another matter. I see no difference in the way TV news operates in spite of their many transgressions. This brings me to a question: which English news channel does one turn to for the best all round news through the day? The prime time debate dramas I discount as they come under the entertainment sector.

 

CNNIBN used to be good but I feel that their standard has slipped since all the sackings – or perhaps that’s my imagination. Times Now is so full of errors and editorialising in the day that it is useful only when something happens in Mumbai since that is where they are based. NDTV is bearable in the day but they have a tendency to branch off into long docu stories and entertainment guff right when some big news is “breaking”. Headlines Today is very shrill and sometimes operates at a disturbingly high level of jingoistic outrage. No longer smart news for smart people I think. News X is a sober option but their anchors are so bad that it is impossible to understand what they’re saying.

 

I have given up on grammatical errors on TV but pronunciation errors still amuse me, I’m afraid. There is so much emphasis on getting some faux phoren accent right that much-used words are completely mangled. “Register” and “available” are common casualties and in fact and of course are in fact of course overused.

 

The day may well be coming when we have to give up on the idea of English news channels. In any case, the news gathering skills of the language channels are often superior – the gem stone, astrology and ghost hunting programmes notwithstanding.

 

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The insularity of India as a putative superpower is quite fascinating. Economies across the world have been suffering since 2008 for a variety of reasons. But the situation in Syria is quite frightening, with Europe and the US poised for military intervention. We however are so obsessed with our internal petty dictators and their fan clubs and our corruption scandals and the falling rupee and poverty alleviation schemes that we seem unaware of the horrors going on and imminent not that far away from us. I know the media does what its readers want but here perhaps the media needs to step away from management principles and apply some basic journalistic thought to Syria.

 

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For the past two days, the Mumbai edition of The Times of India has been telling us Saturday’s rainfall figures. Tomorrow is Saturday so they have one more day to get away with this…

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