Ranjona Banerji: Incomprehensible guests on news channels

20 Sep,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Times Now and CNN-IBN together with Hindustan Times did surveys on the upcoming assembly elections. The Times of India carried the Times Now survey results on Friday in Mumbai (since Thursday was a no newspaper day). But for some reason, the survey which Hindustan Times did and which CNN-IBN showed and discussed on Wednesday night did not show up in Friday’s paper in Mumbai.

 

This perhaps reflects a double fold problem. The first is, how local should a newspaper be? If some theorists are to be believed, then newspaper readers are most interested in what happens in their neighbourhood and least interested in world events. This means that a pimple on your neighbour’s nose is far more important to you than the prospect of a world war if the US attacks Syria for its use of chemical weapons. How far this underestimates the reader – even the legendary a-political Mumbai resident – is not always taken into consideration. But it is true that it works more than it fails.

 

The other problem is deciding how far TV and now the internet influence the reader. If CNN-IBN had already shown the Hindustan Times survey and the results would be on the internet including the newspaper’s own website, then why should the Mumbai edition bother to carry it again?

 

There are a couple of questions to be raised here: is the Hindustan Times ignoring the significance of its own survey by not carrying it in Mumbai and the reach and influence of its own newspaper by assuming that the internet and TV are a sufficient news source for its readers?

 

It is another matter that the two surveys had somewhat different results for the same elections in the same states. These elections surveys have been dismally and dramatically wrong all too often in India but we still love them. If I worked in a newspaper I would have probably commissioned a few too…

 

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Watching the election surveys unfold on Times Now and CNN-IBN was another matter. Having sworn off primetime news TV, I have been blissfully stress-free for the past few months with my doctor very happy with my blood pressure readings. But dinner guests with no concern for my health forced me to watch. I have to admit that watching Arnab Goswami was a joy after ages. He pranced around the studio in a state of great excitement, kneeling down to examine the results more closely, jumping up to question guests, whizzing off to look at some figures. He outdid CNN’s Wolf Blitzer you might say, when that channel does some gimmicky high-tech stuff.

 

The guests however were as incomprehensible and as badly behaved as always, whether on CNN-IBN or Times Now. It is a mystery whether these people get along with the more mundane parts of their lives with any degree of civility if you have to judge them by the way they behave on TV. New surveys tell us that anger is the abiding emotion on Twitter. But if you ask me, illogical rage and high-pitched rantings are what distinguish TV debates in India.

 

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The Indian Express continues with its most interesting revelations about former army chief of staff VK Singh. Friday’s newspaper has a shocker of a story about how Singh set up a special unit which tried to destabilise the Jammu and Kashmir government and block Bikram Singh’s career graph, among other things. The Indian Express got some flak for its earlier story about a possible coup attempt by Singh. This story is bound to set another cat among the pigeons, for want of a better cliche: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/unit-set-up-by-v-k-singh-used-secret -funds-to-try-and-topple-j-k-govt-block-bikram-singh-army-inquiry/1171601/

 

 

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