Ranjona Banerji: Should TV channelwallahs use the ‘should’ so very often?

20 Jan,2015

By Ranjona Banerji


Sports journalists in English-speaking countries favour this sort of a story: “Can Roger Federer win another Grand Slam title?” or “Can Rafael Nadal walk on water?” or “Can Novak Djokovic reunite the former Yugoslavia?” I must qualify that these are the stories that print journalists specialise in, many of them commentators and experts. It must be emphasised that there is no way anyone can actually answer any of these questions, let alone the people who ask them and they know that very well. Also, they can keep asking the same question in perpetuity for their own entertainment and no one’s edification.


Indian TV journalists however are obsessed with the word “should”. So everything is “Should Roger Federer win another Grand Slam title?”, “Should Rafael Nadal walk on water?” and “Should Noval Djokovic reunite the former Yugoslavia?” Or, more realistically: “Should the Indian cricket team have only batsmen and no bowlers?”, “Should MS Dhoni solve Indo-Pak relations?” and “Should Lalit Modi be made chief minister of Rajasthan?”


There is no life without the “Should” for Indian TV journalists though sometimes they do revise the “should” to “shouldn’t”, thus demonstrating a subtle understanding of apostrophes and negatives, and also “Why shouldn’t”, thus being philosophical enough to think in various dimensions.


However, it occurs to none of them that “should” is not about news or about debate, it is about speculation. But ah well. As you can see, “can” is used to idiotic effect by other journalists elsewhere.


And here’s one of the silliest headlines you can find, based on the fine newsroom principle where a sub-editor is banned from reading an entire story and must base his headline on throwaway lines within. In context, Roger Federer had a fairly easy first round match at the Australian Open currently on in Melbourne. But not if you read this headline:





Yes, obviously the tennis season is well underway and my mind has turned to other things. Sony Six has wrested the Australian Open, the first of the Grand Slams, away from Star Sports India. Star Sports India is not that interested in tennis, or so an insider told me, which is their prerogative. In the light of which, unfortunately for us tennis fans, they still have the rights to Wimbledon and a few other big tournaments. The other two majors – the French and US Opens – are with Ten Sports.


Sony Six’s first day at Melbourne was all right – no gimmickry, no one sitting in the studio pretending they were on the grounds and no concentrating on unknown Indians while ignoring the biggies. However, they did stop the broadcast while play was still on which is always annoying…




Indian TV news now cannot look beyond the Delhi state elections. Or whatever Delhi actually is, since it is not really a state. Everyday on TV is an endless series of breathless speculation about who is going to do what to whom. Since everyone is quitting their earlier parties and joining the BJP, there is some drama on air but not that much.


In other news, Barack Obama is coming to India for the Republic Day parade and while you and I might remember him in India before, for the BJP and its fans in the media, this the first time. Plus the cricket World Cup starts in February so we will have more of the “Should MS Dhoni travel to Mars” and “Should Virat Kohli smile so much at Anushka Sharma” sort of stories.


Also I have it on very good authority that Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, Philip Marlowe and several other detectives are soon going to return from retirement and death to assist Arnab Goswami and his band of TV crime solvers from other news channels to discover who really killed Sunanda Tharoor.


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