Ranjona Banerji: When media ‘irritated’ Lara in Dehradun

04 Oct,2013

By Ranjona Banerji


Brian Lara came to Dehradun on Thursday to be part of a charity cricket match organised by the Indian Medical Association to raise money for the Kedarnath hospital. A school boy I met after the match told me that Lara left the venue early after the media “irritated” him. The media apparently did not let autograph hunters and the several schoolchildren present interact with Lara and tried to hog his attention the whole time.


I have no way of independently verifying this story but it sounds plausible. It also reflects how our fraternity behaves and in some cases, has to behave. The arrival of an international cricket celebrity in a city like Dehradun is a big moment for the local media as much as for everyone else. It is hardly surprising that the media would try and get every last drop they could out of Lara. And the justification is not tough either: any media has the potential to reach many more than the people gathered at an event. So a media invasion is for the greater good.


However logical this argument is, there are some inherent flaws. Any person – celebrity or otherwise – has the right to interact with people around him or her who are there to for that purpose. Aside from that, media interference can impede the actual event for which the celebrity has been included. Most experienced event organisers therefore set aside an area for the media to interact with celebrities without destroying the event.


But some discipline is required for the media to acknowledge that it is not the be all and end all of an event and to shave off some arrogance by allowing an event to continue smoothly. The Indian media is especially at fault here – and although this can be construed as pointing fingers, photographers and TV people can be especially disruptive. Everyone appreciates they have a job to do but it cannot be at the expense of everyone else’s convenience.


I understand that it is a thin line. That a media presence is much sought after and that it plays a very important and distinct role. I myself can remember being angry when the media is not respected or not given enough access at an event. But conversely, I also remember the anger when some sections of the media misbehave publicly if only because it impedes others from doing their jobs.


This article by Rohan Venkataramakrishnan which appeared in the Daily Mail spells out the rather unpleasant side of how Indian journalists can operate: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2433772/How-Delhi-gang-rape-revealed-ugly-truth-Indias-journalists.html


My experience at Wimbledon showed how the media can be treated with respect for its own professionalism as well as for the space for tennis stars and their millions of fans. Apart from press conferences, there were opportunities for one-on-one interviews, for mingling in the players’ restaurant and watching matches easily, all regulated by a hard-working press centre. It can be done so that everyone is reasonably satisfied.


There is one other problem. There is actually no such thing as “the media”, except when it comes to issues like constitutional rights. We are a random group of individuals who are competing with each other for access. It’s hard for the outside world to understand. And sometimes I wonder if we do ourselves, when you consider the high sense of entitlement some of us demonstrate.


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