Ranjona Banerji: Bad coverage of a suicide and more on cowardly journalists

24 Apr,2015

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The public suicide by a young farmer from Rajasthan at an AAP rally in Delhi this week exposed not just our political establishment but also members of the media. Watching events unfold on television it seemed inconceivable that this could happen with so many people present.

 

After the fact as well, TV attention shifted to a political blame game because no news is legitimate in India unless it has a political angle – barring Bollywood and cricket of course. So instead of the death of this one farmer, which capitulated the problems of all farmers to centre-stage, we were fed a constant loop of he-said-she-said finger-pointing by all India’s political parties.

 

Contrast this to the way the migrant crisis is being covered in Europe and you can an idea of how stories can be developed without competing quotes from political spokespersons.

 

Yes, I know. I’m talking to the wind.

 

**

 

I can understand members of the public being angry with newspapers and TV channels and websites for not being admirers of the current government. I for instance rarely read journalists who I feel are going to be needlessly critical of the tennis great Roger Federer. It is a choice I make as a fan, not as a thinking journalist.

 

But journalists who get upset when the current government at the Centre and the prime minister are criticised? What is one supposed to make of them? I’m not even talking about those who are open card holders and well-known admirers of the BJP or its attendant organisations. Or even the journalists who joined AAP. I am talking about working journalists in various news organisations.

 

Of course, it could be the dangers of too much blabbing on social media that I see before me. Many journalists, especially young ones, feel that they deserve a voice. The blog-as-diary is no longer as popular as it once was. So enter Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps their frustrations are better expressed on other fora as well that I am unaware of. Sufficeth to say, they sound off enough on the social media platforms I visit.

 

I’m even willing to forgive the young, the rookies, those at the bottom of the newsroom food chain. But not journalists who have had a good 10 years of work experience or more. They should at least know how a newsroom if not a news organisation functions. And they ought to know that the primary function of the media is to in opposition. So if they felt full of indignant self-righteousness when they called out fellow journalists and senior columnists for being pro-Congress or pro the Nehru-Gandhi family, then surely those same high principles apply to those who are pro-BJP or pro-Narendra Modi?

 

Incidentally, these are the same sort of people who happily point fingers at mistakes and transgressions by other news organisations but are silent when it comes to similar problems by their own. And no one is error-free – if I really even have to point that out. As I have mentioned in earlier columns, this sort of behaviour is cowardice and unprofessionalism.

 

There is also some irony in such journalists calling whoever disagrees with their political views “paid agents” of the other party. I mean, if that shoe fits…

 

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