Ranjona Banerji: Chutney journalism on news telly?

05 Dec,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


There is a little mystery surrounding the sisters from Rohtak, Haryana, who were filmed beating up some men who allegedly molested them on a bus. Another video has emerged of them doing the same thing elsewhere. Who knows, either they are women who have had enough and will not put up with male superiority or they are serial thrashers of men in public places. The mind boggles at the second. Does one applaud or condemn?


However, that’s the subject of another debate. First, let’s get past the media which brought them to our attention. The women were immediately dubbed “bravehearts” on TV. This term is now used for everything from a soldier killed in the line of duty or above and beyond the call of duty and any civilian who stands up to someone else in everyday life. One can only assume that some fan of Mel Gibson or perhaps William Wallace first used the term. Actually on second thoughts, strike the William Wallace reference. What are the odds anyone today has heard of him. The movie too came out in 1995 when most of today’s editors were in nappies being fed pap by their mummies and ayahs.


At any rate, the term “braveheart” has been rendered meaningless by overuse. Then we have the first video itself. It ran endlessly on TV, the women were interviewed, primetime debates were held but was any journalistic due diligence used at all? Did anyone find out about the provenance of the video, the background of the story, speak to witnesses or undertake any journalistic work of any kind? Or was the video taken at face value and presented to the world as is? Of course that’s what happened: Because it was in newspapers that a larger story emerged.


TV, as we have all had drummed into us by now, operates on a different spectrum. It is a hungry, demanding master which wants to be fed constantly and instantly. Time is a luxury TV does not have because, ironically, it is ruled by a 24-hour news cycle. But philosophical truisms apart, what does this make of the basics of journalism? As we can see, in plain Indian terminology, a fine chutney.




If you missed this when it was aired, then you have denied yourself a barrel full of laughs. This edition of Left, Right and Centre on NDTV is a must-watch because of Trinamool Congress spokesperson and MP Derek O’Brien. He defends Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, attacks the media particularly the Ananda Bazaar Patrika Group and provides some real gems like: “Naveen Patnaik is Naveen Patnaik, Tarun Gogoi is Tarun Gogoi and Mamata Banerjee is Mamata Banerjee.”




At the end of it all, the other participants and the anchor Nidhi Razdan have no option but to laugh. This is not a spoof by the way.






The idea of a “reader’s editor” or an ombudsman has not been taken too kindly or seriously by most Indian media houses. The only consistent exception has been The Hindu. In this excellent piece for The Hoot, Sumana Ramanan, who was reader’s editor with The Hindustan Times in Mumbai, discusses her experience:



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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Chutney journalism on news telly?”

  1. Guest says:

    The idea that there could be another side to the story is an old wives’ tale TV news has clearly outgrown.